Whether you like wearing a self-imposed uniform of the same basics everyday, or simply like to have an ample supply of tees, chinos, sweatshirts, button-front shirts, and sweaters on hand to wear in creative new combinations, cultivating a selection of basics is an important step in every guy’s wardrobe-building process.
While it might sound silly to think twice about where you’re going to buy a white tee shirt or whom you should go to for a basic pair of navy chinos, it’s actually pretty smart to carefully consider where you’ll purchase these basics. After all, you’ll be able to get a lot of mileage out of these simple pieces if they fit well and are constructed of quality materials. And that’s where things get difficult to figure out.
The problem with basics is that they’re available just about everywhere, and it’s hard to know which are worth the money and which aren’t if you haven’t tried and tested them yourself. But we’ve identified a handful of brands that are known for their solid, hard-wearing basics. It’s impossible to guarantee that everything by each of these brands is well-made, and in some cases, it’s the basics that are available in every season, not the seasonal styles that rotate in and out, that are really worth your money.
With that said, read on for a list of 10 of the top destinations for men’s basics. Whether you need to replenish your supply of tee shirts, need to refresh your arsenal of button-front shirts, or are looking to stock up on a few pairs of chinos, these are the places where you should start your search.
1. American Apparel
While some argue that the brand’s basics are over-priced, American Apparel is, nonetheless, a popular destination for what are widely known to be super-soft tees. Its 50/50 poly-cotton blend tees are a fan favorite thanks to their won-in feel and ability to stand up to tons of washings. Another advantage of American Apparel’s offerings is that the retailer offers tees, socks, and underwear in multi-packs, which can save you a significant amount of money.
Apolis describes itself as a “socially motivated lifestyle brand,” and has gained notoriety for its high-quality organic cotton tees and utility chinos. The brand also offers shorts, suits, jeans, and oxford cloth shirting in classic colors and modern cuts, plus a wide variety of stylish accessories. Apolis also offers bundles of tee shirts, shirting, and other products, which can save you some money if you need to stock up.
A.P.C. is a classic French brand that should be your go-to if you want to shop an impeccably curated selection of high-end basics. Shirting, sweaters, tees, chinos, and more regularly make up its seasonal collections. To some, A.P.C.’s signature styles of raw and selvedge denim are unmatched, and if you’re a denim guy, you know there’s nothing more versatile than the perfect, basic pair of jeans.
4. Club Monaco
Ralph Lauren-owned Club Monaco is a great place to check for basics, especially if you’re a slim or small guy looking for tees, shirting, and sweatshirts that you won’t be swimming in. Beautifully basic sweaters, muted tees, great shirting, and classic chinos are among the brand’s offerings, and Club Monaco even offers a selection of products made in the United States for guys who prioritize American-made clothes.
Web-based Everlane is a relative newcomer that’s distinguished itself by claiming to cut out the middleman in order to offer premium clothing at budget-friendly prices. The line focuses on basics, and is a solid choice for tees and polos in a practical but ever-changing color lineup, comfy sweatshirts, and sweaters in cotton, cashmere, and cotton-cashmere. If its cotton and linen shirts fit you, they can be a bargain, but the S/M/L sizing can make the fit hit or miss for some.
6. J. Crew
While J. Crew has plenty of seasonal styles, the retailer is a great destination for basics ranging from tees to shirts, chinos, underwear, and sleepwear. Because it’s relatively easy to find a J. Crew location in most cities, J. Crew is a good destination for chinos, which most guys need to try on to find a perfect fit. The Wallace and Barnes line is particularly well-regarded among menswear devotees, and is driven by a collection of archival workwear staples.
7. James Perse
James Perse offers a West-Coast-informed take on basics, with a laid-back line that puts an edgy spin on loungewear. Comfortable but still sleek tees, shirting, sweaters, and sweatshirts are among the brand’s fan favorites, and each piece seems designed to help you exude the sort of low-maintenance cool that you always wondered how the guys in street style photographs achieve.
Copenhagen-based NN07 is a relatively unknown destination for most American shoppers, but is well worth checking out. It describes itself as “the open-minded brand with no borders,” and the “NN” in its name stands for “no nationality.” Tees, shirting, sweaters, and twill chinos are among the brand’s stylish but relaxed offerings, and its shirting and knitwear collections offer plenty of neutral but unique pieces.
9. Ralph Lauren
Like J. Crew, Ralph Lauren is a great place to look if you need basics ranging from underwear to tees to sweaters to chinos. The Ralph Lauren company offers clothing in a number of different lines, and you can choose your favorite based on your budget and your preferred aesthetic. Polo Ralph Lauren is one of the best to shop for basics like chinos and oxford cloth shirts, while RRL should be your go-to if you’re shopping for a new pair of jeans.
Uniqlo is a Japan-based retailer that offers affordable basics from tees to oxford and linen shirts to cashmere sweaters. The brand’s basics are made in a contemporary, slim fit, and especially in its shirting line, each season’s designs are both well-cut and timeless. Uniqlo is another good store to visit in person, if you can, since some say that the brand’s clothing fits true to size, while others say that it fits small on guys of average builds.