8 Enduringly Classic Wardrobe Essentials for Men

Fashion trends may come and go, but some clothing enjoys timeless status, often being used for purposes that may not have been quite the intention of their innovators. Enjoy the back-stories of these eight classic wardrobe essentials for men.

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Image Source: Unsplash.com -- Photography: Mariya Georgieva

Men’s fashion—indeed all fashion—is in a constant state of flux and development, as new technology makes clothing more comfortable and functional, making it difficult for the untrained eye to pick out the wardrobe essentials for men and other items that will endure.

Fashion responds to and shapes the shifting of tastes, driving and being driven by demands that are in turn prompted either by practical considerations, or aspirations to the style of the rich and famous.

For all of the changes, there are accessories and clothing that have started life as practical garments, but which have experienced ‘tipping point’ moments and morphed into classic styling when made globally famous through movies or fashion modelling.

There have also been sudden landmark developments, when a new design or a change in values has irreversibly transformed menswear. Here are eight wardrobe essentials for men that have endured decades of shifting fashion trends to become classic menswear, most of them either still available for purchase in their original form, or still being mass-produced to meet demand.

 

 

1. Salvatore Ferragamo Shoes

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Shoes are a staple among wardrobe essentials for men, and Italy has long been regarded as a maker of the finest leather shoes in the world. Operating since 1919, Salvatore Ferragamo is no exception, creating beautiful dress shoes in Florence. The brand changed the face of menswear by bringing the sleek, Italian shoe to America in 1928, adding a distinctive touch of elegance to Western business attire.

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2. Burberry Trenchcoat

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Burberry is an iconic British clothing brand founded in 1856 and the inception of its most enduring and classic menswear product came shortly afterwards. The trenchcoat, a belted raincoat made of heavy cotton gabardine drill, was originally designed for British Army Officers. Today, it’s one of the genuine wardrobe essentials for men and women, perhaps the only waterproof jacket that doesn’t sacrifice style for functionality.

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3. Versace Patterned Shirts

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The vivid designs of Versace shirts are not to everyone’s taste, but they had a profound effect on the course of menswear. The brand was established in 1979, although the loud patterned silk shirts became a trend only in the late 80s and early 90s. Initially featuring plenty of gold and Versace’s signature baroque-inspired designs, the shirts soon became more abstract, marking a more expressive, sensual turn in menswear, with a level of embellishment previously confined to women’s clothes.

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4. Barbour Wax Jackets

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In the mass-produced, commercial climate of today’s clothing industry, it’s impressive when a family retains control over its business for as long as J Barbour & Sons. Margaret Barbour has been at the helm of the company since 1972, and she played a significant part in the reinvention of the firm as a provider of trendy music festival clothing. Their famous waxed jackets, long a practical essential for farmers, equestrian riders, motorcyclists and competitive shooters, are now firmly established as a stylish accessory of classic menswear, particularly in rainy climates, with their endearingly rugged rural look.

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5. Armani Suits

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Founded in 1975, Armani is one of the more recently established design houses featured on this list, but during his 40 year career, Giorgio Armani has had an immense impact on men’s tailoring and business attire, creating a number of suits that are regarded as classic menswear. He’s credited with relaxing the fit of the blazer for men and women, creating a softer, more natural shape that follows the body rather than distorting it with shoulder padding or stiff fabrics. Today, Armanis are regarded as the ultimate suit among the wardrobe essentials for men, wedding understated elegance with perfect fit for an impossibly sharp professional appearance.

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6. Bowler Hat

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The bowler hat is an iconic image, thanks to its status as a mainstay of classic cinema figures such as Charlie Chaplin, Wild West law men and urban gangsters alike. The famous hat was actually originally called the Coke, and was conceived by British hatmakers Lock & Co in 1849. Although the bowler was designed as a more practical alternative to the angular top hat, which was easily knocked off, it is now an edgy fashion statement.

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7. Blue Jeans – Levi Strauss

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Jeans are so iconic that it’s an understatement to describe them as wardrobe essentials for men. Invented by Levi Strauss in 1873, the blue jean changed work and casual wear forever, and is now more widely worn than ever, with business casual dress codes making jeans appropriate office leg-wear for most. The iconic 501 style, first introduced in 1890 but most popular in the 1950s and 80s, has recently made a huge comeback due to its relaxed vintage style. They are so ubiquitous as to be almost invisible at this stage, but they truly are perhaps the ultimate classic menswear item.

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8. Dr Martens Boots

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Classic menswear with an edge, it is difficult to imagine how this sturdy black leather lace-up boot became such a universal symbol of rebellion and counter-culture. Dr Klaus Märtens invented a boot with a cushioned sole to help the recovery of his ankle following a skiing accident during the Second World War. This was initially sold in Germany, and the boot we know now was first sold in 1960 after British shoe manufacturer R Griggs Group Ltd bought patent rights to manufacture them in the UK, reshaping the sole, adding the signature yellow stitching, and trademarking the soles as AirWair. The boot was a sturdy workboot, and soon became a proud symbol of working-class culture. It evolved into a significant part of the ‘uniform’ of skinhead and other youth subcultures. Pete Townsend of The Who famously wore them as a symbol of his working-class background. ‘Docs’ became a staple of subcultural self-expression, playing a pivotal role in the aesthetic of punk, hardcore, grunge and goth. Today, the boots allow wearers a subtle anti-authoritarian nod while retaining their practicality.

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