Versatility is one of the most important considerations in the early days of building a classic wardrobe. Quality, well-made clothes aren’t cheap (though always work out to be cheaper, in the long run) so as you build your collection over time, it’s important that, early on, you select clothes which can be applied to a wide range of situations, giving you the best return.
It’s often tempting to want to buy something which is particularly unique and eye-catching. That’s fine, if it suits your personality and you feel confident in it, but for most men who don’t have an abundance of disposable income, it pays to be more strategic with any investment, so that you can make the most of it as your wardrobe builds.
The 2 most versatile colours in a man’s wardrobe are navy and grey, preferably mid-grey. They’re the most complimentary to the widest range of skin tones and they’ll always be deemed classic and timeless. The additional benefit of these 2 colours is that they harmonise with each other as well as numerous other colours, allowing an assortment of combinations to be created in the different hues. Think of how well navy pairs with brown, crème, white, red, pale blue or pink.
Pairing navy coat and grey trousers (or vice-versa) is widely seen as being the classic Italian uniform and for good reason. Elegantly understated, either combination is applicable in countless situations, able to be dressed up or down, depending on your shirt, shoes, tie and accessories.
If your wardrobe is building, then your shoe collection probably is, too. If you only own 2 pairs of quality shoes, most probably one black and one brown, then navy and grey trousers will work well with both of them, adding further versatility to trousers which may, in other colours, only work with one or the other pair.
All of the above is not to say that other colours aren’t worthwhile in their own right. I’m one of the biggest advocates for more colour in the male wardrobe, but the purpose here is to help give an understanding of the best options in establishing a classic wardrobe, as a springboard for further exploring colours once your basics are covered.
When it comes time to decide about acquiring a new item for your wardrobe, whatever item that may be, it’s worth asking if you already have that item in navy or grey, before making the jump to another colour straight away.
With the colder months setting in (in the Southern Hemisphere), think about something as versatile as a light knitted wool sweater. If you already own one in navy and grey, then it would be a good idea to look at other options which you’d like as an alternative, like camel or forest green. Until you have those staples established, investing your money in navy or grey will work out to be the most rewarding decision. I’m fortunate enough to now own wool knits in most other colours, but it’s surprising how much I still come back to my navy and grey knits, for their timeless appeal and understated simplicity.
I’ve applied this decision making process across most areas of my wardrobe and it’s been incredibly helpful. It’s almost universally applicable to any male garment category – ties, scarves, overcoats, odd jackets and trousers, knits and casual coats.
This line of thought can then be applied within individual categories. In relation to odd trousers, for versatility, you could own a mid-weight wool in navy and grey, then, as the seasons change, move on to the same approach in linen and cotton, then flannel and heavier wools. On paper, it may give the impression of a lack of creativity, but the simply classic nature of the colours allows you to get dressed for any situation and then use accessories such as ties, scarves and pocket squares to add colour, until you have the additional funds to invest in pieces in other colours.