I love a well-dressed man, and it only takes a few key pieces to create a sharp wardrobe. Once you invest in the basics, you should be able to walk into your closet and mix-and-match an outfit in minutes. Update your look by adding color and pattern: If you love the way your white button-down fits, buy the same shirt in different colors. If you like the look of your pinstripe suit, try a windowpane pattern next time. Two more pieces of advice: First, read each garment's care instructions and follow them--it's a lot cheaper to pay for dry cleaning than a whole new suit. Second, find a tailor and use him--a good tailor can change your life.
1. Classic white button-down: If you are only going to own one dress shirt, make it a crisp white button-down. You'll get more use out of this than almost any other item in your wardrobe, save jeans. The white button-down goes everywhere. Oh, and iron it, please.
2. A suit: Go for a neutral like black or navy for your first suit, but for the second add a brown or a gray pinstripe. Trust me, ladies love a man in a well-cut suit.
3. Jeans: Most guys own more than one pair of jeans, but one pair of dark blue jeans in a cut that suits your body-type will be your wardrobe's workhorse. Faded, ripped, torn, and/or baggy jeans are fine for yard work, not date night.
4. A blazer or sports coat: Your suit coat won't do here; it doesn't double as a sports coat. A sports coat will go anywhere, and in Houston it makes suitable outerwear in cooler temps. Add your blazer to #1 and #3 on this list and you have got yourself one hell of an outfit, pal. Like the suit, my pick for a blazer is navy or black, but gray also looks sharp.
5. Black dress shoes and leather belt: Black goes with everything, so if you're only going to own one pair of dress shoes, make them black. And while the belt/shoe matching rule isn't always the case for women, it is for men, so coordinate. I found a great black/brown reversible belt for my husband at Banana Republic last year--a nice feature for business travel.
6. Silk tie: Every well-dressed guy should have one beautiful silk tie. Solid or diagonal stripe is preferable, but a small print or pattern will be versatile as well.
7. Khakis: Please do not buy cargo pants and call them khakis. Khakis should be well-cut and hemmed by a tailor to prevent the unraveling at the heel that some men think completes the broken-in look. Hint: if your pants are unraveling where your heel meets your shoe, it's time for new pants. I'll repeat: TAILOR.
8. Casual trainers: Save your running shoes for running, but invest in a nice pair of rubber-soled sneakers to wear with jeans or khakis.
9. Cotton polo shirt: A polo shirt with jeans or khakis is the fastest, easiest way to look great for any casual situation. Plus they are easy to care for: Wash, dry, hang.
10. A trench or a pea coat: In Houston, buying a wool pea coat seems ridiculous, but if you live in a colder climate or travel frequently to one I think it's an essential--it's timeless and it goes with everything. A lightweight trench is a good alternative for men who live on the Gulf Coast.
Optional accessories: A good watch; cufflinks; a leather wallet; aviator glasses; a black umbrella; a well-cut, solid or striped, t-shirt sans beer/concert/national park logo.