Fashion

10 Style Essentials That'll Last Through Life

From the fundamental white dress shirt to the bullet-proof sport coat, we present 10 wardrobe pieces that will define your style.
IMAGE Paul del Rosario
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Every morning, you are faced with the same dilemma: What do I wear today? Then you start putting things together. Shirt + pants + shoes + what else? There are times when it works. There are times when it doesn’t. To tip the balance in your favor, we’ve picked 10 definitive essentials—fool-proof, mix-and-match must-haves that will cover you on most occasions in your life. Problem solved.

1| The fundamental white shirt


Jacket (P186,500) by Ralph Lauren Black Label, Greenbelt 3; shirt (P9,500) by Facconable, Rustan’s Makati; pants (P13,500) by Hackett, Rustan’s Makati.

Start at the very beginning. Imagine you lost all your clothes and now you are rebuilding your wardrobe. The first thing to pick up? The white dress shirt. It is the beginning. It is the foundation. Put on a perfectly fitted white shirt and it feels like you're invincible. It feels like everything will be alright because you look right. And when worn with other pieces, the shirt offers a steady frame upon which other essentials can do their work.  

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2| The bullet-proof sport coat


Sport coat (P138,000) by Ermenegildo Zegna, Rustan’s Makati.

We fully acknowledge the power of the sport coat. Wear a T-shirt or a polo shirt and then top it off with a sport coat—and hey, you instantly look better. The wondrous garment lends you a sense of propriety any time you wear it. Bonus: Most sport coats are unlined or partially lined (like this one) and will breathe in warm weather. Translation: No excuse not to wear it.

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Suit jacket (P86,500, part of suit) by Hackett, Rustan’s Makati; T-shirt (P17,998) by Lanvin at Univers; chinos (P9,500) by Hackett, Rustan’s Makati; sunglasses by Super at Ronnie & Joe, Power Plant Mall.

No sport coat? Break up a set. Wear the suit jacket and go. Suits with no shine and a bit of texture work best. 

3| The case of two blues


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Shirt (P31,000) by Ralph Lauren Purple Label.

Ralph Lauren, the purveyor of American style, presents two takes on the blue shirt: from its Polo line, a powder blue oxford, comfortable and breathable, and from its Purple Label (above), a shirt in a fabric so soft that it settles like a pool of blue. Though different in feel, they convey the same idea: a sense of comfort, a clean look, and a good weekend ahead.

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Shirt by Polo Ralph Lauren, Rustan’s Makati; jeans (P12,000) by The Flat Head at Signet.

With the natural rumple it acquires upon use, the jaunty roll of its collar, and a soothing shade of blue, the oxford button-down gives you an easygoing character.

4| Re-consider the chino


Chinos (P14,500) by Facconable, Rustan’s Makati.

No other garment has experienced a dramatic rise than the chino. Worn to death as the uniform of Casual Fridays in the '90s and then shunned once people figured out that Casual Fridays were not cool, it inched its way back as a garment in good standing when it was a given a trim makeover. It’s more than okay to wear one nowadays (the chino goes with everything, really). Look for one in a substantial fabric, like cotton twill, which will feel better and give your legs shape.

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Sweater (P4,450) by Brooks Brothers, Rustan’s Makati; chinos (P6,950) by Ralph Lauren, Greenbelt 3.

Observe: In this story, we use all the essentials (plus a few extras) to complete an easy, fuss-free wardrobe. 

5| The extra 10 percent: wrist edition


Transocean Day & Date watch by Brietling, Greenbelt 5.

Notice the theme of all our essentials? Everything is simple, this accessory included. It offers, in fact, the most basic information required from a watch: the time. And then, two more bits of important data—the day and the date. That’s it, and that’s just fine.

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Cardigan (P12,500) by Ralph Lauren Black Label, Greenbelt 3; T-shirt (P8,950) by Ralph Lauren Purple Label, Greenbelt 3; Bulgari Bulgari Classic watch by Bulgari, Greenbelt 4.

A timepiece with a black leather band is for all day and always.

6| During your downtime, a polo shirt


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Polo shirt by Hermès, Greenbelt 3.

On that do-nothing day, when you choose a polo shirt, it says that you care about the people around you. It says that, on this Sunday afternoon, when you could have just worn any old T-shirt, you care enough to present yourself in a more put-together manner. And when you wear it, you also know that proportion is paramount: so never baggy like a sack nor tight like chokehold and those ribbed arm bands should hit you at the mid-arm. Everything is in its right place.

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Polo shirt (P11,500) by The Armoury at Signet; chinos (P4,450) by Brooks Brothers, Rustan’s Makati.

To tuck or not to tuck? If the polo shirt is longer in the back, tuck. If not, hang out.

7| Round one: black versus blue


Jeans (P18,500) by Ralph Lauren.

Think of the mileage you’ll get out of beautifully constructed pair of black jeans. You can wear it day or night and with almost anything. In a solid wash, divorced of ornamentation (distressing, whiskers, extra pockets, tears, holes), black jeans take on a sleek and minimalist character. Yet, even if it transmits elegance, it still hints at an element of danger. In a sea of blue denim, you will stand out.

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T-shirt (P1,700) by Goodwear at Signet; jeans (P17,498) by Rick Owens at Univers; sneakers (P7,700) by Shoes Like Pottery at Signet. 

White shirt plus dark jeans—a timeless combo endorsed by Dean and Brando.

8| The extra 10 percent: cool edition


Sunglasses by Louis Vuitton, Greenbelt 4. 

Sunglasses? They are magic. Put it on a doughy face or an angry face or a woke-up-with-a-hangover face, and that doughy-angry-hung over face now looks okay... better than the one you woke up with. The magic of sunglasses is in its ability to conceal wonky-ness and create instant symmetry. Which translates to a good looking and cool vibe no matter what’s going on beneath the lens.

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Sweater (P19,998) by Christopher Raeburn at Univers; sunglasses by Moscot at Ronnie & Joe, Power Plant Mall.

Always consider your face. The round retro styling of this Moscot pair softens an angular mug.

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9| Round two: blue versus black

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Suit (P93,000) and shirt (P20,900) by Ermengildo Zegna, Rustan’s Makati.

The voice in your head will tell you to choose black because it is practical. Everything goes with a black suit, right? And while that’s not at all wrong, there is something severe, boring, and maybe old-fashioned about an all-black armor. And so we tell you to choose blue. It still fulfills the formalness that wearing a suit implies, but gives you more nuance and character.


Suit by Pedro del Hierro, Rustan’s Makati.

How about a bolder blue? Don’t be afraid to stand out—a little. This inky tone, which is just a touch brighter than navy, hits the spot.

10| And now, what to put on your feet


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Shoes (P23,000) by Carmina Shoemaker and socks (P1,400) by Pantherella at Signet.

How many pairs of shoes should you have? Some say the magic number is seven, others pare it down to five, a few proclaim more is better. We say just start with this one: a pair of black lace-up oxfords—a very clean pair of oxfords with no decorative holes and exposed stitches. Just smooth planes of glossy leather. It will never go out of style, and it’ll look good with a suit or jeans, giving you a solid foundation upon which to stand on.

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Shirt (P10,500) by Facconable, Rustan’s Makati; trousers (P86,500, part of suit) by Hackett, Rustan’s Makati; shoes (P44,900) and tie (P12,300) by Ermengildo Zegna, Rustan’s Makati.

Socks or no socks? It’s really up to you. It is proper to dress your leg and not flash your ankles, but it has also become acceptable (and cool) to bare a bit of skin.

In this story: Photographs by Paul del Rosario • Styling by Clifford Olanday assisted by Anton Miranda  • Art direction by Edric dela Rosa • Illustrations by Carina Santos • Grooming by Muriel Vega Perez • Model Clint Bondad at Reco Models

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About The Author
Clifford Olanday
Senior Fashion Editor, Esquire Philippines
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