Whether you’re a hard-boiled fashion enthusiast or a total menswear noob, basics are the necessary building blocks for every great wardrobe. These days, the best men’s clothing brands are pumping out adrenaline-soaked collections that send the hype machine into overdrive. But before you rush out the door chasing hot new designers or hopping on every trend you see on your FYP, you gotta set a firm foundation for your closet. Put another way—do you think style gods like Shai Gilgous-Alexander’s closet is full of bad underwear and zero plain white tees?
Hoodies, button-down shirts, socks, chinos—these are the building blocks of any great outfit. With the right styling, those foundational pieces can even play a starring role and take your looks to the even greater heights. But just because a plain white T-shirt boasts designer origins doesn’t mean it’s worth the money. That’s why we gathered the best men’s clothing brands to stock up on basics and beyond. If you’re looking for unbeatable value, quality, and versatility, the 12 labels listed here deliver all of that in spades.
The Not-So-Basic Wardrobe Hit List
- The Only Jeans You’ll Ever Need: Levi’s 501 ’54 jeans, $120
- The Legendary Work Jacket: Dickies insulated “Eisenhower” jacket, $70
- The Genre-Defining Sweats: Champion reverse weave sweatpants, $55
- The Bulk-Buy Tees: Gildan SoftStyle T-shirt (2-Pack), $12
- The De-Fussed Striped Shirt: Alex Mill “Mill” shirt, $125
- The Dad-Approved Sweater: L.L.Bean fisherman sweater, $100
- The Giant Chinos: J.Crew Giant-fit chino pants, $98
- The Do-Anything Shorts: Patagonia Baggies shorts, $65
- The Fun Socks (That Aren’t “Fun Socks”): Uniqlo colorful 50 socks, $5
- The Leveled-Up Undies: Sunspel cotton boxer shorts, $55
- The Classic Watch: Todd Snyder x Timex Liquor Store watch, $279
- The Definitive Polo: Polo Ralph Lauren rugby shirt, $110
From boxy striped tees to drawstring chinos to rumpled Oxford shirts, everything at Alex Mill has a relaxed ease that’s built for 2023. You’ll feel less stressed upon contact.
Champion got it very right when it invented its durable, and shrink-proof, reverse weave fabric in the ‘30s. We’ve been wearing their hoodies since high school and don’t intend to stop now.
Dickies might not be the first name in burly affordable workwear (that title probably goes to Carhartt), but it clinches the top spot here off the strength of its fashion-crowd-favorite chinos and just-as-legendary work jackets alone.
What other T-shirt brand boasts a Frank Ocean name check and ultra-durable tees that cost less than $10 a pop? Gildan is beloved by screen-printers and streetwear dudes in equal measure for its consistent quality and affordability.
J.Crew is well past its early-2010s heyday of Italian blazers, selvedge jeans, and loafers, but under the direction of streetwear royalty Brendon Babenzien it remains the best place to find quintessential preppy staples at prices that belie the quality involved.
Levi’s isn’t just the best-known jeans brand on the planet—it literally invented the damn things. After all these years, it’s still the yardstick by which all other denim brands are measured.
Dads love a deal, and dads love L.L.Bean. That affection is largely due to the unbeatable value proposition the brand offers on the build-blocks gear your old man wears on the daily. Be more like your dad.
The house that kind-vibed outdoorsman Yvon Chouinard built still makes plenty of the fleece jackets it’s famous for. But if you’re an eco-minded fella with a hankering for adventure, don’t sleep on its juicy assortment of trail-ready basics, either.
Ralph Lauren makes a whole lot of clothes that are just the opposite of basic—think: exploded patchwork jumpsuits—but, c’mon, no one makes a better Oxford, rugby, or polo shirt.
Sunspel has been around since 1860, so it’s basically the basics king. Treat yourself—and your Tinder dates—to the vaunted English brand’s minimal-leaning tees and undies and you’ll feel a bit like royalty, too.
Todd Snyder’s basics are so sophisticated, even his weekend clothes and Champion sweats are nice enough to wear to dinner. (Oh, and he makes some killer suiting, too.)
Come for the Christophe Lemaire-designed pants or the ridiculously warm puffers, but don’t leave without a stack of ribbed socks and soft cotton boxers—a.k.a. the real prize of shopping at Uniqlo.
The Mall Brand Mainstays
With the Bananassaince in full swing, there’s never been a better time to load up on BR’s rustic, archive-indebted hits. Stuff your cart with plush cashmere knits, slinky trousers, and luscious suede jackets. (The jeans are a standout, too.)
Abercrombie & Fitch
Swaggering knit polos? Impossibly airy linen shirts? Sweaters so nice they should be triple the price? The new-and-improved Abercrombie boasts all that and more, plus plenty of the Y2K-era classics that made it a household name.
The latest phoenix to emerge from the ashes of your local mall? Madewell, which recently appointed Luke Linder, an ex-Gap honcho, to revamp its menswear, with a little help from design whiz Aaron Levine, formerly of Club Monaco and Abercrombie, and erstwhile GQ deputy fashion director Jon Tietz. The silhouettes are spot-on, the styling is perfectly executed, and the whole overhaul has us buzzing about what the brand will do next.
Many tech bros have made uniforms out of Everlane’s streamlined basics. Whether or not you want a closet full of gray hoodies is up to you, but there’s enough solid, building-block stuff here for everyone.
The Sweats Specialists
The Canadian label makes one of our favorite heavy-duty hoodies of all time, but all of their sweats are worthy of your time—whether you’re spending it in the gym, on the couch, or anywhere between.
Camber isn’t a high-flying lifestyle brand; they just make sweats using the heaviest, beefiest cotton jersey on the planet. They’re also made-to-order, which means you might have to wait a few weeks to receive them—but trust us, they’re worth it.
You can’t put together a list of the best basics without Russell Athletic, the literal inventor of the sweatshirt. Its crewnecks and hoodies are as popular—and comfy!—today as they were a century ago.
Fear of God Essentials
Jerry Lorenzo might have his hands full reinventing American fashion with Fear of God, but his sub-label is just as big a hit with celebs like Justin Bieber and LeBron James. It’s easy to see why: Cozy, well-designed sweats at an accessible price is always a winning combination.
The All-American Upstarts
Premium fabrics and grade-A construction are standard at Knickerbocker, which trades in classic designs inspired by vintage workwear. Don’t miss their impeccable knits and camp shirts.
Plenty of brands claim to make hardy menswear designed to “take a beating”. Taylor Stitch actually delivers on the promise, turning out beefy flannels, stellar chore jackets, and dialed-in riffs on classic Americana with just the right amount of rough-around-the-edges appeal.
Los Angeles brand Buck Mason made our Best White T-Shirts, Best Black T-Shirts, and Best Colorful T-Shirts lists. There’s a cut, weight, and price point trifecta happening here that is simply magic—and ever since the label expanded its remit to include a full line of menswear, its tees might be the least exciting thing it has going on.
The eco-minded SoCal brand founded by surf legend Kelly Slater turns out blanket-soft flannel shirts, killer swim trunks, insanely breathable tees, and so much more.
Flint & Tinder
Flint and Tinder’s extra-beefy knits might’ve endeared Huckberry’s in-house label to the masses, but its now-viral waxed trucker jacket really catapulted the brand into the stratosphere. If it’s good enough for Joe Miller, it’s good enough for you.
Adsum excels at making easy-wearing menswear staples stripped of extraneous details. Its pieces skew outdoors-y but steer clear gorp cosplay—think shorts that can handle a grueling hike just as easily as a Sunday morning coffee run, or swishy rain jackets that don’t scream “last chance at REI”.
The Tee Whisperers
Lady White Co.
A GQ staffer favorite, Lady White Co.’s tees are made in LA from high-quality ring-spun cotton and come in strangely-hard-to-find colors like sand and rose. FWIW, the sweats and socks also kill.
Comfort Colors is part of the extended Gildan family, so it’s no surprise its tees are another best-seller. They’re softer than a Drake ballad and come in a Crayola’s box worth of faded hues, like mint green, cranberry red, and sun-drenched purple.
If you love fresh-outta-the-box tees but want to indulge consciously, Everybody.World makes deeply excellent T-shirts using 100% recycled fabrics and ethical labor practices.
Velva Sheen’s signature tubular-knit tees are cut from a soft cotton (with single-stitch hems) that fits trim and hits high on the bicep, a flattering silhouette that looks A-1 on everyone.
The Euro Upgrades
Arket’s clean, Nordic designs make it a great place for a one-stop wardrobe overhaul. If your budget skews J.Crew but you dig the stylings of Jil Sander, stock up on its pared-down polos, overshirts, and trousers.
There are basics you want to lay on the couch in, and then there’s the stuff from COS. In its modern, sophisticated clothes, you’ll be motivated to do way more than binge bad TV.
Prefer your burly American workwear with a sprinkle of European flavor? WIP, Carhartt’s designer-y sub-label, updates the brand’s legendary chore coats, carpenter pants, and ultra-beefy tees with freakier cuts and premium fabrics.
Copenhagen-based Another Aspect makes thoughtfully-designed menswear with a minimalist bent. From their merino wool knits to their selvedge denim to their organic cotton sweats, the cheerful Danes brand takes special care to imbue their wares with plenty of timeless appeal.