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The Essentials: Basic Foundation Pieces

So at The Approach, we talk a lot about creativity and standing out. And I support those beliefs 100%. Being noticed and expressing your passion through fashion, adventure and interactions with people is the food my soul craves.

But none of that can happen without a respect for the core foundations of fashion: the basics.

Before you set out to have a wardrobe filled with every color of the rainbow and clothes for every occasion, you have to have a basic foundation. That foundation should be about the same for everyone, regardless of what look you’re aiming for.

White button up dress shirts– The most basic of basics.

Are they boring? Yes. Are they utterly devoid of creativity? Yes.

Does a well fitted, clean white shirt look slick as hell? Yes.

The thing about a white dress shirt is, that it becomes your blank canvas. Any tie looks great on white. Any colored tee looks great layered underneath. Every sweater works. Any suit will do. Every complexion stands up fine in white.

Get something with a stiff sharp collar. Make sure its fitted perfectly. Try and get a slimmer cut to avoid all the bunching fabric and baggy arms.

At the moment, I’m liking H&M’s dress shirt. Fits great. Ridiculously affordable. Does it suffer from H&M’s typical sub par construction? Totally. But at about 15 dollars a shirt, with a fantastic cut mind you, that’s fine by me.

Dark Denim OR Solid Black Slacks– Two ways to go with basic pants. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t own both of these, but you can go heavier on one or the other depending on need and preference. I go heavier on the dress pants, but that’s just my style.

With dress pants, just remember these few tips:
1. Never get pleats
2. For the basics, just get solid black. No Tone-on-Tone or pin stripes
3. Make sure the break is reasonable and not hitting the floor. I like almost no break

For basic jeans, there really is no excuse not to have dark denim. Patrick and I have disagreed on this before, but I’ve never seen lighter denim that I thought fit a situation better than dark would have.

But either way, tuck in that shirt and keep it neat. Roll the sleeves if you want, as long as you keep that shirt tucked into those pants. Doing so helps define the shape of your body. The dress pants above ran for about $40 from JC Penny. The denim was about the same, except from Macy’s.

The Shoes– I can’t possibly talk about brown shoes any more. Casual without the sloppy. Goes with almost everything. Shows details better.

With my outfits above, there are other shoes that could have worked. I can think of a few off the top of my head, but for the sake of our focus on basics, just go brown. Here, you’ll see my Too Boot wingtips paired casually with the jeans for one outfit. In the other, I wore boat shoes with my black pants, effectively toning down the dressiness of the slacks.

The Too Boot wingtips were bought at Nordstrom Rack for about $170. The boat shoes by Sperry were from Macy’s for about $65.

The Accessories- This is where you can tweak the basics and still get creative. The watches are both from Target. Their in-house brand, Merona, is only about $10 and looks so classic.

The red and blue one is also from target. It’s from Timex’s Weekender line. These are super casual watches with interchangeable bands. A watch and one band is about $35.

The sunglasses are just simple Wayfarers from H&M. In a situation like this, it doesn’t hurt to have two pairs: black and tortoise shell.

The belt with the metal buckle is from Penny’s Ferrar line and runs only about $20. It’s reversible for those situations when you want a black belt too. The belt with the contrast stitching is from Nordstrom and runs the same amount.

For socks Nordstrom and Macy’s have about the best options you’ll find for the price. They run between $5 and $8 a pair, and both outlets have great options for basic, as well as creative styles.

The Coat– That’s a double trench coat from Macy’s Tasso Elba line. Simple, super light on the construction, and worked perfectly for the spring day on which that photo was taken. It’s another example of a basic piece: single color with nothing extreme as far as the style goes. It’s basic and it looks really smart with the rest of that outfit. It’s starts around $99, but buying anything from Macy’s when there isn’t a sale going on is silly. I got mine for 75% off. Be cautious on the size, as I feel this coat can run big.

Another reason the basics are beneficial, is simply because they are super affordable. Assuming everything on the high end, with no sales involved this, this costs about $390, with most of that coming from shoes. Remember that your shoes should work with almost every outfit. Take the shoes out, and we are at only $217. About half of that is the coat, but that coat should not be costing that much. So always remember to shop smart.

So that’s how I threw the basics together into a simple, effective and great looking outfit. Of course, that’s just my approach to the basics. I’d love to hear yours.