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Building A Classic Wardrobe: A Gentleman’s Guide

The famous writer and raconteur, Mark Twain said “Clothes make the man. Naked people have little to no influence on society”. A witty, yet valid truism. It is logical that beyond covering their anatomies, men also express individual style, while impacting others.

A well-curated wardrobe enhances masculine appeal and presence. Men need to make an effort! In doing so, there is however, a method to the seeming madness of developing a signature look. Here’s working guide (not a rule book) on how a gentleman can build a timeless wardrobe and classic style.

The Suit

To start off, a man needs three suits:

  • Navy: arguably the default business wear choice. Versatile enough for dressing up and down
  • Mid-Grey: not too dark like charcoal or light like dove; this is standard alternate to the Navy.
  • Brown / tan: despite its root in country or sporting wear, brown suits are part of many discerning modern men’s wardrobe. It allows a man straddle the smart casual and business divide easily.

Basic colours:

  • Black – preferably for formal & evening wear
  • Blues – Navy, Midnight, Royal, Sky blue
  • Greys; – charcoal, mid-grey, dove-grey
  • Browns – chocolate, tobacco, tan 

Building A Classic Wardrobe: A Gentleman’s Guide

Contrary to conventional wisdom, black is not ideal for standard business wear; rather, best reserved for evening wear – think tuxedo / dinner jacket. Incidentally, this is an occasional garment a gentleman should invest in. He may not attend many black-tie events, but when he does get invited, he should not be wearing his black business suit; rather, be well turned out in a proper tux. 


  • Wools (worsted, flannel, fresco, tweed, etc) is default for men suiting. The numbers found on the inside jacket label – 120s, 140s, 150s, etc. are indicator – the higher the number, the finer and lighter the yarn, making it more breathable for warmer climates). Wools come in plains and patterns like stripes, checks, tartans, etc. Fabrics like cotton, linens, are reserved for casual apparels.

The Jacket

  • Navy sport coat or blazer: Every self-respecting man should have at least one in his wardrobe. This is by far the most versatile article of clothing a man will ever own. Dressing it up with formal trousers and a crisp shirt with or sans tie or even more casual with jeans and a t-shirt. You can effortlessly move from the office to the lounge to the club – all in one day! Start with a single breasted 2-button.
  • Patterned sport coat: You can explore this option if your job or lifestyle permits. Add texture and color with a plaid or tartan jacket, which can be worn as smart casual or out to the bar.

In closing, here are a few tips: 

Know the context

We dress up for different purposes and occasions in our lives e.g. work, leisure, celebrations, sporting and formal events. Dressing then spans from casual / comfort to formal where particular attention are paid to certain ‘rules’. Hence, context is the first pointer to appropriateness of garment choices.

Stick with the basics

Unlike women, men’s wardrobes don’t fundamentally change with trends. The basic construct of Western-Influenced menswear comprises bottoms: trousers;  uppers – shirts, jackets and coats. All other established pieces such as shoes, hats, accessories are more open to individual interpretations. Rather than following trends, stick with the tried and tested. 

It’s about fit!

You get what you pay for. So invest a bit in quality possibly off-the-rack but find a good tailor for alterations. A skilled tailor can transform an ill-fitting garment into a splendid one.

Keep upping the style ante!

Segun Obagbemi has a keen and studied interest in classic menswear and personal style.  He runs an image consulting company, The Sensebox Nigeria.You can view his Instagram page, @metamorphostyle

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