Definitive Touch – Men's Contemporary Style.

15 Staple Pieces Every Man Should Own

Posted by definitive touch, January 2nd, 2010


Such an integral part of being a man, is dressing the part.

So you can grow a mustache, shave with a straight-razor, and kill your own bull for dinner. It’s not nearly as impressive if you’re doing it wearing ratty sneakers and a hoodie you got on clearance at Old Navy.

Though men are given advice by the truck once we graduate from school, once we get our first jobs, and once we get married, not a scrap of it has to do with how to dress. A constant media blitz telling us to buy anything and everything means that men don’t know even where to start when it comes to building a closet.

You need a wardrobe that matches your personality and your lifestyle. You’re twenty-three and starting your first job trying to look like you deserve the chance you’ve been given. You’re the twenty-nine year-old-entrepreneur in a meeting, impressing the investors. You’re thirty-six and on top of the world, eying the lady next to you in first class. You’re the Definitive Touch man, and this is what should be in your closet.


A Leather Jacket

The great equalizer, everybody from the loftiest Ivy grad to the most humble mechanic owns a leather jacket, and you should too. The right leather jacket never looks out of place and will keep you warm well into mid-autumn. Pick one that fits you just right.

Nothing too tight, but find something that feels fitted while you’re wearing a sweater underneath. This will ensure it won’t be too big when you wear it with a t-shirt and jeans, or too small during the colder seasons.

Something that lasts as short as a season, or as long as a lifetime, buying a leather jacket can be difficult. Prices range from Forever 21’s Heritage 1981 line with faux-leather at $50, to undeniably amazing leather motorcycle jackets by Polo Ralph Lauren at $1295.


A Charcoal Suit

The most universal of menswear, the charcoal suit should never be absent from your closet. The neutral nature of the charcoal suit means with just a simple change of necktie, you can go straight from work, to a funeral, to a wedding, to the club – a claim no other suit can make.

A wide range of options are available, but the staff at Definitive Touch finds that a simple, single-breasted, two-or-three button suit will do fine for the majority of men out there.

Perhaps the single most varied item on this list, a suit can range from a simple H&M slim cut suit from $150, to $3000 for something from the Brooks Brothers Golden Fleece line.


A Plaid Casual Shirt

A good casual plaid shirt will last you many years, and be tough enough to ride with you in the back of a truck, out with you for hours at the club, or just lay buried at the bottom of your closet.

Most of all, the pattern is refined and subdued enough to stand up to repeated wearings. You wouldn’t want to catch flack for being repetitive.

Those of you on a budget should be able to snag a red-and-black lumberjack from The Gap from under $50, while those living a little better might be more comfortable in something by Burkman Brothers, whose 1920s-inspired offerings hit the $200 range.


A Multi-Tool

A real man should never be caught off guard. This means being able to assemble a chair, rewire a lamp, and cut a rope – even if you only work in an office. Don’t believe us? See the looks you get around the office the next time you say you don’t know how to change a sparkplug.

A multi-tool is an absolutely essential addition to your backpack or desk drawer, turning an ordinary man into the irresistible, un-fire-able office handyman. Multi-tools range from Switzerland’s Victorinox to Gerber Legendary Blades of Portland, Oregon.

No matter who you go with, you can expect to spend at least $100 on one of these. Don’t cheap out on the price, either – multi-tool enthusiasts blog passionately about keeping theirs for years.


Dress Shirts

Children’s author Richard Scarry spent his formative years skipping class to visit strip clubs, where he would draw women. His father was despondent, and Richard’s uncle Arthur offered the young man this advice: “Buy a natural linen suit at Brooks Brothers, with a pale blue shirt to go under it. This is the only thing you need to learn in life”.

When Scarry was hired and subsequently fired from Vogue’s art department (a job he was grossly unqualified for) after just three weeks, he was told that the hiring officer had been impressed by his linen suit and blue shirt.

While this won’t happen to every man, it’s hard to overestimate the importance of the shirt that goes with your suit.

Build a nice closet of shirts, with a good variety of brands and styles. Don’t let yourself get bogged down in details, and buy shirts that fit, that look good on you, and match them with your neckties.

Don’t forget that pale blue shirt, however.


Dress Shoes

Dress shoes are something that every man simply must have. Forget the office environment for one moment, and think about how much a woman obsesses about shoes. Now just imagine how much she must think about her date’s shoes.

Get one pair in black and one pair in brown, as your shoes must always match your belt. Though there are a wide variety of options available, a combination that could never go awry are a pair of plain black cap-toes and a pair of brown loafers. Both are incredibly universal, basic shoe patterns, available from Ben Sherman and Berluti alike.

Best of all, whether you get a pair for $80 from Sears, or $800 from Saks, careful care will mean you get shoes that last years.


Casual Sneakers

Your Adidas may not walk through concert doors, or roam all over coliseum floors, but they should still be able to hold up against a long walk, and still look like a grown man’s pair of shoes.

Remember when you were a kid and you used get your parents to take you to Foot Locker so you could check out the new Air Jordans then beg them to buy you the first pair you tried on?

That’s the opposite of what we’re going for.

Head to a few places and try on anything that catches your eye, but make your choice carefully to suit your lifestyle. The Definitive Touch staff sports a wide variety of casual shoes, ranging from the Webmaster’s Mark Ronson Guccis, to our Publisher’s Maison Martin Margielas. The crazy part though, is that the most comfortable, best looking pair, are the web intern’s $25 black and white All-Stars.

Whether this speaks poorly for Gucci or highly for Converse is up to you, but just be aware that it’s not about price, it’s about how well the shoe fits, looks, and feels.


Denim Jeans

These aren’t the same old jeans you ran ragged back in high school, we’re talking top quality designer denim here. We’re talking APC, we’re talking Comme des Garcons, we’re talking Evisu.

What we’re saying is you’re going to have to drop anywhere between $100 and $800 on a good pair of hard-living, long-lasting honest-to-god rock star jeans.

A great pair of jeans will last you years and make you look good whether you’re running for a cab in the streets of Manhattan, rolling the dice in Monte Carlo or skipping the bill at the Burj Al Arab in Dubai.

Now really, can you put a price on that?


A Wallet

When you’re sitting in the VIP section of that hot new club and reaching for your wallet to pay for that bottle, you don’t want to pull out the LL Bean children’s wallet your mom bought you in 1994.

It’s about time to move on up to a grown man’s wallet. As far as wallets go, leather is the only real choice, though for the socially-conscious man, a faux leather finish is also acceptable.

If you’re keeping things casual, go with the classic billfold, but if you’re rocking the suit and tie, consider the breast wallet. Some of us at the Definitive Touch office keep two wallets for this very reason.

Prices range from $50 for the humblest of Gap and Topman wallets, to a Louis Vuitton billfold which will run as high as $700.


A Wristwatch

Just checking your phone for the time is utterly unacceptable to the Definitive Touch man.

The wristwatch is an essential part of your complete look, so don’t neglect it. The Definitive Touch webmaster adds that his vintage Cartier once sealed the deal for him when stepping out with one particularly petty date. Leather watch straps versus metal links is a personal choice, but whatever the material, it should fit snug over your off-hand wrist.

While we can’t all afford something as decadent as a Cartier, there’s a wide variety of options available from the minimalist Skagen to the truly decadent Patek Philippe which offers watches that average in the ten-thousand dollar range.

Get something that is consistent with the entire outfit that you’re wearing, so nothing clashes.



There is actually some merit to the advertising claim that smell is one of the senses most closely tied to memory.

Consider the case of one Definitive Touch writer’s ex-fiancée who moved out, taking his coffee maker, his camera, and his cologne. Imagine his surprise when he met her new boyfriend years later, and they discovered that the two wore the same cologne.

Make your mark by wearing something remarkable.

The frat boy favorite of Axe sprayed liberally all over your body is not acceptable. Think of the impression you want to leave – clean and floral, or rugged with wood and leather notes?

Keep this in mind and talk to the staff at Barneys or Harrods about finding something that’s not too offensive. Most of all, please keep the sprays to a minimum – nothing above the neck, and if you can smell your own cologne, you’ve overdone it.


A Sportcoat

The sportcoat is an indispensable addition to any man’s closet. There’s some confusion going out there about what makes a sportcoat different from any other suit jacket. Let’s keep it simple.

The sportcoat is a casual piece of outerwear, made of tough fabric like tweed or houndstooth. A jacket is paired with pants to make a suit, and a blazer is a jacket faced with polished brass buttons and is usually associated with yacht-ownership.

The sportcoat is a great early-winter/late-fall alternative to a jacket, and gives every man that academic sort of quality. Like a leather jacket, you should pick something just a bit roomier than you’re used to, so you’ll have room for a sweater or vest if it gets too cold out.

It’s hard to get a sportcoat wrong, but just be sure to avoid anything with elbow patches – you’re not teaching an English class.



So simple, yet so easy to get wrong, the necktie is the unofficial uniform of both the office drone and the well-dressed man.

The necktie is the modern evolution of the cravat, a scarf tied around the neck of Croatian soldiers in the 1600s. The French dandies picked it up, and it moved to Italy, Britain, then America. Today it’s everywhere from Albania to Zimbabwe, and a good stock of neckties is essential to life as a man.

Simple patterns and colors are best, with stripes and small dots never going out of style. As you gain confidence and learn to match colors and patterns, you can introduce paisley and more intricate patterns into your wardrobe, but keep it simple if you’re in doubt. Neckties rarely reach above $100 in price, and every major men’s designer in the world offers a wide variety of silk ties.


A Briefcase

We were all teens at one point, swearing we’d never turn into those mindless office drones carrying their briefcases every day.

How would we know that once we hit our twenties, we’d realize that these men are carrying on the Don Draper tradition? They’re doing those jobs that other people can’t or won’t, and looking good while doing it.

Nothing is more essential to the office worker than the briefcase, whether you’re using it to carry legal briefs, or just your lunch for the day. Put a little more cash into this investment, and buy a hard-sided case (properly called an attaché case).

Originally used by diplomats, the professionalism and classic aesthetic of an attaché is universally appealing, and affords some protection to any gadgets on the inside.

Every luggage company, from Kenneth Cole to Louis Vuitton offers briefcases, and you can expect to pay as little as $80 or as much as $2000 on a case. For those of you balking at the price – this is something you’ll be carrying every business day – don’t skimp out.


A Set of Gloves, Scarf & Hat

In the 1930s, it was considered absolutely unthinkable for the refined gentleman to even think of stepping outdoors without a hat and gloves.

The notion verged on social faux-pas, and while today’s social conventions have changed, a man should at the very least, own all three.

Keep the colors and patterns neutral, matching them to your shoes and belt, and you’ll be channeling the style and elegance of a better dressed era.

Accessories from companies like Burberry and Ede & Ravenscroft will bump a basic outfit into a new class of elegance, but it will cost you – a scarf alone will cost you $150.

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Comments (10)

  1. B.Fleetwood says:

    the image used for the Briefcase section of this article? Any more info on that? Just that little corner is tease enough to make me want to see the whole thing.

  2. James says:

    I tried finding someone to contact but there seems to be no email anywhere, but first sentence in the dress shoes part has a typo

    Dress shoes are something that every MANY simply must have.

    I imagine that should be man. Just pointing it out because you can’t fix it if you don’t know it’s broken

  3. James says:

    Also another thing. Can we have detail on how exactly to use cologne. I have read many things on how to spray it and it all varies. This article is very vague when it says nothing above the neck. I have even read places that say behind the ears. I think there should a be a brief lesson on how to wear cologne. Just for the record of DT

    • We’re actually going to be launching a site called styleguyed in which we deal with topics just like this. Please check it out when it goes up, and I’m sure you’ll find all the answers you’re looking for.

  4. Alex says:

    How about that watch?

  5. mark says:

    The watch comment is spot on but if his date was petty rather than pretty he’s better off without her!

  6. Dennis says:

    The watch is from Tsovet.

  7. El Nino says:

    What a load of jack.

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