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 email@example.com.)
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.
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
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’.
‘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.
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’.
This spray-on deodorant is Chris’s ‘little secret’. He says it ‘smells incredible and mixes well with almost everything’.
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’.
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.
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’.
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.
Chris notes that his favorite workout shorts — and shirt — are made from ‘basic sweat-wicking materials’.
‘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.
‘The only all-white sneakers I genuinely stand behind’, writes Chris.
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’.
Like moisturisers, Chris has a collection of rain jackets but calls this Patagonia style a ‘hard-wearing classic’.
Chris puts his affinity for Nike’s ‘super-breathable’ baseball cap this way: ‘Honestly, it’s the perfect hat for all seasons’.
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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