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

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.

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.  

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.

The bullet-proof sport coat. 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.

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

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

The case of two blues. 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, 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.


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.

Shirt (P31,000) by Ralph Lauren Purple Label, Greenbelt 3.

Re-consider the chino. 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.

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

The extra 10 percent: wrist edition. 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.

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

Transocean Day & Date watch by Brietling, Greenbelt 5.

During your downtime, a polo shirt. 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.


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

Polo shirt by Hermès, Greenbelt 3.

Round one: black versus blue. 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.

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

Jeans (P18,500) by Ralph Lauren, Greenbelt 3.

The extra 10 percent: cool edition. 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.

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

Sunglasses by Louis Vuitton, Greenbelt 4. 

Round two: blue versus black. 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.

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.


Suit by Pedro del Hierro, Rustan’s Makati.

And now, what to put on your feet. 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.

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.

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

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About The Author
Clifford Olanday
Senior Fashion Editor, Esquire Philippines
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