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The Chris Black Starter Pack: 20 of Our Columnist’s Favourite Basics

Photo: Courtesy Retailers

If you’re looking for the most powerful hair dryer or handiest chef’s knife, those things can be easy enough to find. Other objects of desire are a little more taste-based. What’s the next status water bottle or hand wash, for instance? Regular readers of the Strategist will know that we’ve turned to resident Cool Guy Chris Black (he’s a partner at brand consultancy Public Announcement) to help us answer such questions. (If you have a burning question about the next fanny pack or Noah rugby shirt, drop us an email with the subject line ‘Ask Chris’ at edit@thestrategist.co.uk.)

In fielding all the reader questions for our resident Cool Guy Chris Black week after week, we’ve noticed that a lot of folks continue to ask for his sage advice about basic but essential clothes (and other products) that will do the job while still flexing your sense of style. So instead of asking him to repeat himself, we combed his columns to date to compile this Chris-approved list of 25 basics he swears by, from white T-shirts to jeans to deodorant to socks to backpack (which, spoiler alert, is not a backpack). Read on for all of the basics that, according to him, will make you appear anything but.

White T-shirt

Gildan Men’s Crew T-Shirt Multipack

There’s no need to splurge on your classic white tee, according to Chris, who loves these five-packs from Gildan because they’re ‘so simple. I wear them without concern until they need to be disposed of and I just order more.’

Thick-neck white T-shirt

Pro Club Men’s Comfort Cotton Short Sleeve T-Shirt

A ‘THICC neck’, as Chris likes to call it, gives a white tee a bit of a sturdier, more put-together look. As for how to wear white tees, he says, ‘they look good under a hooded sweatshirt, a cardigan, or even a suit’.

Backpack

L.L. Bean Boat and Tote, Open-Top

Chris famously loathes backpacks, writing an emphatic “hell no” when asked if an adult should ever carry one. Instead, he says, ‘the simple canvas tote bag is the answer’, and ‘no one can top the LL Bean Boat and Tote’.

Black jeans

Levi’s Men’s 501 Original Fit Jeans

‘Levi’s basically invented jeans’, says Chris, who told us these mid-rise 501s, with a button fly and straight leg, are his go-to black pair.

Non-denim trousers

Dickies Men’s Original 874 Work Pant

When he’s not wearing jeans, ‘blue Dickies are my go-to pant’, writes Chris, adding that ‘even though they are made for actual work, they can be dressed up easily with a little tailoring’.

Socks

Hanes Ultimate Men’s 6-Pack FreshIQ Crew Socks

Chris swears by these ‘simple cotton socks’ that are ‘perfect for the gym or daily wear’.

Deodorant

Aesop Spray Deodorant

This spray-on deodorant is Chris’s ‘little secret’. He says it ‘smells incredible and mixes well with almost everything’.

Button-down shirt

Uniqlo Men Oxford Slim-Fit Long-Sleeve Shirt

The Oxford button-down shirt is another “wardrobe staple,” according to Chris, who told us he’s a longtime fan of Uniqlo’s, ‘which can’t be beat for the price.’ In addition to white, it comes in other colours like light blue, black, and navy.

When it comes to a basic suit, Chris again says that budget-friendly Uniqlo’s comfortable blazer and pants can’t be beat. ‘The ultralight Kando pants in navy are quite breathable and functional and look nice, too. The matching Kando blazer will dress the outfit up’, writes Chris, who notes that the jacket is equally lightweight, ‘so you won’t show up drenched in sweat’.

Moisturizer

Aesop Perfect Facial Hydrating Cream

Although he keeps three moisturizers in his bathroom at all times, Chris says this is the one he uses every day. ‘It is perfect for daily use after cleansing and toning’, he says.

Birkenstocks

Birkenstock Boston Suede

Chris has been wearing Bostons ever since he got a free pair while ‘working at an Atlanta footwear institution called Abbadabba’s’, way back when he was ‘19, smoking Parliament Lights, and living in a house with four dudes’. Of his preferred style, he says: ‘They are comfortable and sort of ugly, in the best way possible’.

Gym shirt

Nike Dri-FIT Version 2.0 T-Shirt

When it comes to workout clothes, Chris’s motto ‘PRO GEAR, PRO ATTITUDE’. He suggests hitting your local Nike outlet to pick up ‘well-priced simple shorts and shirts’, the latter of which Amazon sells at affordable prices, too.

Gym shorts

Nike Flex Stride 5” Running Short

Chris notes that his favorite workout shorts — and shirt — are made from ‘basic sweat-wicking materials’.

iPhone case

Peel Super Thin iPhone Xs Case

‘The iPhone, as an object, is beautiful and sleek, but when you add a bulky and unsightly case, it ruins the integrity of the design’, says Chris. That’s why Peel’s case — which is ‘so minimal that people don’t notice it but does the job well’ — is the only one he says he can possibly recommend.

White sneakers

Vans Authentic Sneaker

‘The only all-white sneakers I genuinely stand behind’, writes Chris.

Nonwhite sneakers

New Balance Men's 990v4

Chris’s other go-to sneakers are appropriate to wear for pretty much anything, he tells us, from date night to ‘sashaying through the Delta terminal at JFK’. [Editor’s note: Chris’s pick of all-silver 990v4 isn’t available, but we recommend the black-and-silver model.]

Dress shoe

G.H. Bass & Co. Men's Larson Weejuns Penny Loafer

If an occasion calls for footwear more formal than the above, Chris says to ‘pull out the Bass Weejuns (make sure they are polished)’.

Hair product

Sachajuan Ocean Mist

Normally a shampoo-and-conditioner-only type of guy, Chris told us his barber not long ago turned him on to salt spray, and that he ‘loves the effect it has’ on his hair. After shopping around, he started using this. ‘TBH, it doesn’t smell great, but the spray adds some volume and texture’.

Rain jacket

Patagonia Torrentshell Jacket

Like moisturisers, Chris has a collection of rain jackets but calls this Patagonia style a ‘hard-wearing classic’.

Baseball hat

Nike Featherlight Cap

Chris puts his affinity for Nike’s ‘super-breathable’ baseball cap this way: ‘Honestly, it’s the perfect hat for all seasons’.

Dopp kit

Filson Weatherproof Leather Travel Kit

For a simple Dopp kit, ‘you can’t go wrong with brown leather from Filson’, according to Chris. ‘The branding is understated, and the Dopp kit will age beautifully’.

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The Chris Black Starter Pack: 20 of His Favourite Basics