Building a base men’s wardrobe on a budget can be a very hard task. There are basic principles to follow that will hold fast even as styles change, and many are in past guides. You should look to find your own personal interests in style, and build upon them. You will never feel comfortable wearing clothes that don’t appeal to you. Thus, this guide is aimed at taking you through the basic principles, giving you some recommendations on what to look at (and what not to look at), and some potential ideas for you to consider. Check out the following recommendations for building an excellent men’s closet on a budget.
Good Fitting Men’s Clothes
Good fitting men’s clothes is the most important thing out there when building a cheap men’s wardrobe. Ill-fitting items will always look bad, regardless of how interesting or good-looking the garment is. If it doesn’t fit you well, don’t buy it! Take your time to understand good fit, and you’re half way there. There are a number of principles you can follow – simple things like having the shoulder seam of clothing hitting the end of your shoulder, and having items that follow the form of your body, rather than be too restrictive or baggy. Finding an item you really like the fit of and taking its measurements will certainly be a useful tool.
Keeping it Simple When Shopping for Men’s Clothes
Don’t try to get too complicated with what you are wearing. This will lead to your clothes not matching, which can make any outfit jarring regardless of the fit, or buying busy items that are difficult to work with. Often, the simplest items combine together to make the best outfits. Focusing on simple items first, will make everything fit together better in the future.
When starting out, you want to play on the idea of subtlety and learning how to match basic things. You can pair navy, earthy greens and solid tans much more easily than you can stark reds and bright blues and yellows. That’s not to say bright colors can’t work, but again, it is worth really understanding matching before utilizing statement pieces. Similarly, using dark colors in a range of color tones – black-grey-white being a classic example – are also easy to pull together into an outfit, whilst maintaining this idea of contrast that you want to create.
As a general rule of thumb for beginners, it is useful to create a nice contrast between top and bottom. Darker trousers with a lighter shirt allows for a simple contrast that works well. This is a principle you can also look to for layering – slightly different tones of colour for tee and jacket make for a nice combination. Similar contrasts can be created with different textures as well – smooth cotton denim with a wool jacket for example, is a classic way of creating a subtle contrast even if the colors aren’t very different. Once understood, you can look into other colour palettes – greyscale monochrome looks are quite popular without being overly taxing to create
Building a Cheap and Basic Men’s Wadrobe
The next section seeks to demonstrate some basic men’s fashion. It splits the essentials of building a cheap men’s wardrobe into several sections.
Cheap Shirts for Men
Warm Weather Men’s Tops or Shirts
- When the the sun is out and it is hot outside, you want a good selection of light options. For example, you could get some solid plain crewneck tees in white, grey and natural colors. These items are a staple for layering and general wear. If you can find some with slight a slight texture of visual interest, that’s also a bonus, but notice that it is still a simple item. The same holds true for polo shits. For example, simple, well-fitting polos can work very well under a light jacket, and with a range of bottoms.
- You might want to grab a henley for something a little different to the standard tee. Henleys are great items for layering, especially under light jackets.
- For shirts, you can’t go wrong in warm weather with some casual oxford cloth button down shirts (OCBDs). Neutral co lours are perfect for pairing with anything from jeans to shorts. However, it’s worth looking at other options as well. Linen shirts offer a bit more visual interest, and are particularly good in high temperatures. These patterned items also work well as short sleeved shirts (though be aware that the fit of short-sleeve shirts needs to be spot on for it to work well). Notice that the patterns recommended are still subtle, and thus offer good versatility.
Cool Weather Men’s Tops or Shirts
- As it gets colder you will need to be wearing more cloth. This makes it easier to experiment with different textures. For shirts, try out flannels – soft and warm, these are inherently casual. They do come in solid colors, though are mostly seen in plaid patterns. These work best in casual settings.
- If you want something a little warmer, look for an overshirt. These tend to be thicker and made of heavy flannel or wool. The can be a alternative to a thick sweatshirt or jacket.
- For an extra layer, you simply can’t go wrong with a heather grey sweatshirt or zip-up hoody. Simple but extremely versatile, and will go with practically anything for when it’s blustery or a bit cooler in the evening. Just keep in mind the principles of contrast when starting out.
- For something more substantial, grab a thicker wool crew neck jumper. Also available in a variety of colors. Natural tones generally work well in cooler times (olives, browns, naturals, greys). These offer some interesting visual texture as well as extra warmth, but don’t overpower a simple fit.
Warm Weather Men’s Jackets
- There are plenty of good warm-weather jacket options. One of the best looks which pops up a lot are bomber jackets. These offer a classic silhouette that can be chucked on top of most things. These look fantastic in black and work very well in monochromatic outfits, but also look good in other colors.
- Similarly, a denim jacket is a solid choice. Now as a beginner, it can be easy to get this wrong – when starting out, getting a trucker style jacket that fits well, but is a different tone to your bottom half (contrasting). It may also help to avoid jeans when wearing one to begin with.
Cool Weather Jackets
- You will need a cold-weather jacket. One of the best casual options is a parka, which is a slightly long, hooded rain jacket, often with insulation. Earthy tones are you’re best choice for versatility. You can also grab thinner ones for the warmer months.
- I think another great and versatile option is a dark overcoat, which has the potential to look great. This item works well for a beginner because it can be very easily dressed up and down, offers interesting visual texture, and will introduce you to a slightly different silhouette to which you might not be used to.
Affordable Men’s Bottoms and Pants
- With the bottom half (pants) , there are a few staples that you really do have to have, especially when starting out. First are jeans. You should look for a dark indigo pair with no distressing, as it looks clean. Focus on fit. Your preference for fit is up to you. The best thing to do is try a bunch of different Levi’s cuts and find the one you find most flattering.
- After solid blue jeans, you might want to look into a black pair. They’ll be virtually just as versatile, and can allow lighter items such as white shoes or shirts an opportunity to contrast. Great and versatile set of clothing.
- Chinos – you’ll never go wrong with a couple of pairs of chinos, which are flat-fronted, cotton twill trousers. Navy and tan pairs work well in many situations.. These items will always come in handy casually, and are easy to dress up when the time comes.
- If you want to look into some more interesting items, lighter, stonewashed jeans can be really useful in providing contrast against a darker top half, and look great in the summer. However, a word of caution – fit and colour of these has to be considered carefully in order to avoid poorly distressed jeans. You want to look for a light pair with fairly uniform distressing all over.
- When the temperature skyrockets, you’ll want some shorts. Buy these like you’d buy your chinos – simple, flat-fronted and versatile colours. Generally, pairs that strike above the knee look far more flattering than those that sit at or below. Look for shorts with a 9” inseam or less, but make sure you try them on!
- Once you’ve nailed these, you can then start looking into options beyond a basic wardrobe, such as wool trousers, or slim-fitting cargo pants. Once you are ready, you’ll understand better what direction you want to go in.
Affordable and Stylish Men’s Shoes
- What’s on your feet is a very crucial part of your outfit. Get it wrong and it can really kill your look. It’s important to understand that with shoes, the idea of simplicity is of paramount importance. Overly busy shoes tend to look messy unless you know what you’re doing with them.
- Sneakers – It will become very apparent that a simple, clean white shoe is very easy to work into any outfit – it provides an attractive contrast on the bottom half. Grab some Vans, Converse, PF Flyers, Adidas Stan Smiths, or whatever takes your fancy – they’ll be really useful. Alternatively, another good choice are grey sneakers. Similarly easy to utilize in almost any outfit.
- Regarding leather shoes, again, it is very subjective. However, you can’t go wrong with a simple brown leather/suede derby. These literally go with anything, including shorts. You can find decent cheaper options from J. Crew and Bass, as well as many other fashion retailers.
Cheap Men’s Suits and Cheap Formal Clothes
Often, beginners come looking for advice on suiting for interviews etc. Suiting is a different and very complex world that requires a lot of knowledge to get very right. As a result, I’m going to keep this very short, as it is investigated in far better detail elsewhere.
The main principle you should understand when grabbing your first suit and wanting to look good is (as always) simplicity. Fit is imperative, and far more important than the quality of the patterns you utilize.
If you are looking to make a great impression, grab a dark navy or dark grey/charcoal suit. Wear a solid white or light blue dress shirt. Pair it with a simple patterned tie in a dark color, like a navy or forest green. Wear some simple black or dark brown cap toe oxfords..
Where to Buy Cheap Men’s Clothes?
- Target (specifically Merona stuff)
- Next (more UK-based)
- HE by Mango (UK)
- Levi’s (if in the US/Canada)
- Urban Outfitters
- LL Bean (good for winter)
(you get the idea…)
A little more
- Banana Republic
- J. Crew
- Club Monaco
- All Saints
And for when you start getting more interested in what you buy and what you like, you can ogle the options at
- Need Supply
- East Dane
- The Bureau Belfast
- Mr. Porter
- Many many other high-end retailers.