Two fashion principles apply to make an outfit VIP-worthy.
1. Own the basics. 2. Dress around them.
Here, we outline 11 sartorial essentials for every show-stopping wardrobe. We also call in NBA rookie fashion consultant Michelle Ten and style maven Rachel Johnson, who’s worked with LeBron James, LaDainian Tomlinson and Chris Paul, to explain why your closet needs each item and to share tips on wearing them well.
One key to a refined and versatile wardrobe is a dark blazer. Johnson suggests grey or blue—the new black—as both colors look good on any skin tone. Throw it on over a graphic T and denim, or pair it with khakis and a crisp button-down. Buy flat-front khakis, since pleats are dated [back to the ’80s when they were in style for about a minute]. Anyway, flat-fronts are more slimming for bigger dudes, Johnson notes, adding that a flat-front style is definitely a younger, fresher look. “The shade of the khaki is totally based on personal preference. I always like darker [colors].”
No doubt, you own an array of denim. And why wouldn’t you? Jeans are an easy staple, good for almost any occasion. “You can never have enough pairs of jeans,” says Philadelphia Phillies 2B Chase Utley. Right on, Chase. Johnson suggests a dark rinse with little detail. Fit-wise, “jeans that sag, droop, hang off your bottom are inappropriate,” she says. Length-wise, “your pants should stop at the top of your heel.”
Both aforementioned bottoms can pair with white kicks, so long as they follow the two c’s: clean and complementary, advises Johnson. Though they don’t necessarily have to perfectly match your belt, Johnson opines the two should be in the same color family. Ten says, “a belt should always be a size larger than your pant size. You should be able to go in at least two notches for a proper fit. Don’t wear a belt on the last notch.”
Question: Why does LeBron James always look polished? The King of the Cavs says, “Once I look good, I already know the rest is going to take care of itself.” Okay, we admit, he’s referring to his on-court style, but that credo carries over off the court. Check out the next page to see how he casually sports a clean-cut V neck sweater. “A V-neck sweater is great as opposed to a crew, because you can put a button-up shirt underneath and layer [on] a tie,” Johnson says.
Likely you have one [or 10], but just in case, keep a well-fitting, solid-colored cotton polo in stock. Johnson touts the versatility of this basic item. Whether you sport it for a campus visit over a long-sleeved T with a pair of cords, or rock it with a blazer and denim, a polo is a never-fail piece.
The last two necessary items: a pair of cool loafers and a solid color or subtly patterned tie—both of which you can wear with brown or black, suit or denim, blazer or sweater.
With these basic wardrobe requirements in mind, flip the page to check out a great option for each.
1. Tony Hawk Jeans, $48, kohls.com Ten affirms jeans are essential because they can be dressed up or down.
2. Button-down, $38, kohls.com
3. Nike Men’s Blazer Hi, $78, nike.com A classic pair will always be in style, notes Ten
4. Sweater, $69.50, express.com “V-neck sweaters are great as opposed to crew, because you can put a button-up shirt underneath and accent that with a tie, giving your look an added 2 layer,” Johnson says
5. Khakis, $50, kohls.com
6. Tie, $39.50, express.com Johnson recommends going with a dark color. “Colors are great, but they’re not essential,” she says. “If you can afford to buy one tie, it needs to be a dark tie, because it’s safe and it’s clean.”
7. asics Tsunahiki Lo, $85, asicsamerica.com
8. Belt, $39.50, gap.com
9. Long-sleeved T, $19.50, ae.com
10. Short-sleeved polo, $30, hollisterco.com Always wear a crew-neck T under your polo. Johnson says the combo is good for either morning or afternoon activity, adding you can dress it up by putting on a blazer.
11. Blazer, $70, hm.com/us Ten suggests a single-breasted with one to three buttons. Always leave the bottom button undone