In the era of fast fashion and consumerism, it’s easy to amass an over-flowing closet full of clothes, accessories, and knick-knacks you hardly ever look at, much less use. This isn’t a judgment – we’re in the same boat.
So, every now and then, it’s worth considering what is genuinely essential. What are the things you need. There are of course personal, sentimental objects that can’t be enumerated in an internet article. We all have the things we can’t live without. But there are also the basics, the things everyone should own. The things that demonstrate care and attention — stylish and functional objects that are well-used.
In this list of 50 things everyone should own, we’ve included essential menswear as well as homegoods, accessories, and gear that we think are necessary for everyday life. Even if you aren’t using each item every single day, they contribute to your gestalt.
So, these are the 50 things that everyone should own.
1. A Plain White T-Shirt
In addition to the button-downs, graphic tees, or whatever garment you choose to adorn your torse, your wardrobe needs a plain white t-shirt. Versatile, clean, and universally stylish, a classic plain white tee is one of the few essential pieces of clothing everyone should have. We even put together a list of some of our favorite plain white tees here. Whether you like your shirts boxy or slim fit, find a white shirt that fits your body size and integrate it into your outfits.
2. A Suit
If you happen to work in a professional environment that requires this type of attire, obviously you need a suit. But, we’d suggest that everyone should really invest in at least one suit. Between weddings, job interviews, and general formal events, a suit that fits you well is a worthwhile investment. There’s no need to go custom (unless you have the means to in which case we’d say it’s worth it), but pro-tip: buy off the rack and find a good tailor. Your suit will fit beautifully and last longer.
3. A Navy Blazer
There’s a big difference between re-using the jacket from your suit and having a dedicated blazer. Blazers are a distinct piece of attire and are worn in less formal occasions. Still, a versatile blazer is a handy garment. Pair it with jeans and sneakers for a smart casual look or with a pair of slacks or linen pants for a handsome semi-formal style.
4. A Tie
You might not use it very much, but a handsome tie — or bow tie, if you can pull it off — is a necessity. You can opt for the more versatile and very popular knit tee or you can go with something more traditional. Unless it fits into your personal aesthetic, avoid anything overtly preppy or Ivy League and go for something simple: solid colors, stripes, or patterns that aren’t too busy.
5. A Bathrobe
Bathrobes are a luxury but if you enjoy leisure wear as much as I do, you need a good bathrobe. Cozy, plush, and comfortable, a bathrobe adds a touch of dignity to your boxers and gym shorts morning routine. And on weekends, wearing a bathrobe is a great way to unwind in the early hours.
Slippers or house shoes are not just frivolous footwear. They offer a bit of distance between your feet and your dusty floors. Plus, they can keep you warm and cozy in the winter months. You don’t need to go full fuzzy moccasin – a pair of decent slides are perfectly fine. But, comfortable house shoes or slippers are a gamechanger.
7. Dress Shoes
For the same reason you’ll want a good suit, no matter your profession, a pair of dress shoes is an essential investment. Even if it’s just to add a touch of flair to date night. If you’re limiting yourself to just one pair of dress shoes, something simple and traditional like an Oxford or a Loafer is a great choice.
Rounding out your collection of footwear should be a trusty pair of sneakers. We’d recommend something clean and versatile that can go with an array of outfits. Classics like Converse Chuck 70, Adidas Samba, or a pair of Vans are great options. Or if you’d rather embrace the newer sensibilities, New Balances and Nike SB are always solid picks.
9. A Watch
At this point, thanks to the progression of smartphones, everyone has a very reliable timekeeping device in their pockets. But, we think owning at least one wristwatch is a necessity. It can be a vintage watch – something that you scored on eBay or that was passed down through your family. It can be an expensive watch. It can be an affordable watch that you simply enjoy. Just own a watch you care about.
10. A Grey Hoodie
A simple athletic hoodie is excellent not only for workouts in the brisker months of the year but also as a refined style item. While menswear tends to obsess over “basics,” we think the grey hoodie is a genuinely versatile and handsome garment that deserves a spot in your wardrobe.
11. Denim Jeans
The timeless look of a good pair of jeans has meant that denim is always in style. What started as workwear has become an indelible element of modern menswear. While you can go down the denim rabbit hole and fill your closet with the finest Japanese raw denim jeans, at the very least you should invest in a solid pair of Levi’s.
A quality pair of leather boots can tie together just about any cold weather outfit. Particularly when paired with the aforementioned denim jeans. When well-maintained, a pair of boots can last you years and, depending on your style preferences, can handle both the city lifestyle and frequent rugged trails.
13. A Leather Belt
Another menswear essential is a simple, versatile leather belt. Pair with a suit or with your go-to chinos. Traditional wisdom suggests that a belt should match your shoes though today’s style preferences have thrown caution to the wind and said wear whatever belt you enjoy.
14. Good Sunglasses
Emphasis on the good. Those cheap, gas station sunglasses just won’t cut it. Sure they might be a tad expensive, but a quality pair of sunglasses is a worthwhile investment. Not only will they protect your eyes on the sunniest of days, they’ll contribute to your overall sense of style and demonstrate you’ve taken some care in how you present yourself.
15. A Pair of Cufflinks
There’s a good chance you won’t need a pair of cufflinks on a daily basis. In fact, if they get used once a year, that might be impressive. But, these small menswear accessories can make a big impact in your sense of style. While menswear has started to embrace more elements of fun, even in formal wear, a charming set of cufflinks was always fertile ground for personal expression in suiting. If you happen to have family heirloom cufflinks, even better. Or, you can track down some unique vintage cufflinks for your next formal occasion. Otherwise, go with a simple set that speaks to you.
16. A Pair of Work Gloves
This might depend on your own level of yard work, but as someone with a small garden and backyard to maintain, having a set of work gloves is essential. Keep your hands protected and add some grip and grit to your work. Plus, a well-made pair of work gloves can last a lifetime so you can buy a pair once and use them for years of backyard work.
17. A Backpack
A versatile backpack can get you through any number of activities from toting your workout gear to the gym to hitting the trail for a weekend of camping. We’d recommend picking one that not only has ample storage space and distinct pockets/compartments, but also feels comfortable on your back and shoulders. Plus, it should be durable enough to handle years of travel.
18. Tote Bags
Are tote bags essential for daily life? Probably not. But, they are a handy bag in a pinch whether you need a reusable bag for groceries or don’t feel like lugging your large backpack on a quick trip to the park. Plus, tote bags are a great way to rep your favorite restaurant, musician, or brand.
19. Suitcases and/or Carry-On
A solid backpack and duffel bag might be able to get you through a weekend away in a car, but if you have to travel by plane, we think it’s essential you invest in some quality luggage. You don’t need to go all out on a complete suitcase set, but we think a sizable carry-on is a bare minimum for the frequent jet setter.
If you value a good audio experience, we recommend getting yourself a quality pair of headphones. These can be as luxe as a pair of hi-fi, over-ear headphones or relatively simple earbuds. Either way, we think it’s worth investing in a pair of headphones. Consider your listening habits for specific use cases but active noise canceling and Bluetooth capabilities are good places to start.
21. A Refillable Water Bottle
Stop buying plastic water bottles. They’re unnecessary expenses and of course, they are damaging to the environment. Instead, get yourself a washable, refillable water bottle. Keep yourself hydrated at home and on the go.
22. A Deck of Cards
You never know when you could use a little diversion. So having a deck of cards is always worth it whether you have guests over or happen to be traveling. Set up a quick poker game or play some Solitaire to pass the time.
23. An EDC Pocket Knife
Between opening packages to slicing some food on a camping trip, an EDC knife can come in handy when you need it most. There’s no need to go all out on a tactical, impractical knife. Instead find a stylish, discreet pocket knife that is durable, long-lasting, and easy to use.
24. A Lighter
Unless you’re a smoker, you won’t need to carry a lighter on your person at all times. But, in a pinch, it can be convenient to have a lighter within reach. On camping trips to light a fire or just setting the mood with a scented candle at home, you’ll want to pick up a good lighter. Skip the plastic Bic ones and go for something with a little more personality.
25. A Leather Wallet
When toting around cash and credit cards, keep it classy with a clean leather wallet. Only carry the essentials, clear out the clutter of coupons that you’ll never use or post-it notes. We don’t want to look like George Costanza out there. A slim leather wallet is the way to go. Or, if you really prefer the minimalist look, you can opt for a card case.
26. An Umbrella
An umbrella is obviously one of those items where you don’t need it until you really need it. But, it’s worth keeping an umbrella handy at all times. Go for something travel-sized rather than a bulky behemoth. Though make sure it’s durable enough to handle significant winds and a downpour.
27. A Dopp Kit
A dedicated Dopp kit or toiletry bag is necessary for long-term travel. There’s no dignity in lugging a ziplock bag with your dinky toothbrush and travel-sized toothpaste. Opt for a water-proof, easy-to-clean toiletry kit to keep your grooming essentials organized and tidy.
28. A Bottle Opener/Wine Key
Forget those cheap keychain bottle openers you got at the bachelor party. Your kitchen isn’t complete without a proper wine key or bottle opener. Wine keys are versatile and adept at prying open just about any bottle topper. Plus, their portability is key for picnics in the park with a bottle of beer or wine.
29. Kitchen Knives
You really only need three knives in your kitchen: a bread knife, a chef’s knife, and a pairing knife. While the all-in-one knife blocks might seem nice, they’re ultimately unnecessary. Instead, pick out the essential kitchen knives and keep them in good shape.
30. Proper Glassware
Ditch the hodgepodge collection of glasses in your cupboard and nail the essentials. You’ll want a semi-decent set of wine glasses: stemmed or stemless are fine. For beer, a good pint glass and the extremely stylish teku glass are great options. And in the cocktail department get the basics: a Collins glass, a rocks glass, and a coupe are great all-rounders.
31. Your Favorite Coffee Mug
If you’re looking to impress a guest, a handsome set of coffee mugs might be a nice touch. But, we think a coffee mug is a great place to add a bit of personality to your kitchen gear. Find your favorite novelty mug or support your local restaurant with a great coffee cup. Whatever it is, make sure you enjoy the feel and it isn’t too cumbersome to clean.
32. A Dedicated Coffee Maker
Folks who don’t drink coffee on a regular basis might just skip right over this one but we still think this applies to you. Whether or not your enjoy a morning cup of coffee, it’s worth investing in a simple coffee setup. There are few nicer gestures than brewing a fresh cup of coffee for a guest. We’d just recommend steering clear from anything with pods: bad for the environment, doesn’t brew great coffee. And, while you’re at it, learn how to make a few different coffee drinks.
33. A Secret Ingredient You Use in Dishes to Impress Guests
Bear with us here; we know this pick is a little nebulous. But, if you really want to step up your game in the kitchen, having some trademark garnish, ingredient, or cooking style can genuinely impress any and all guests. Now this can be something along the lines of sourcing some really high quality sea salt. Or, like us, you can throw some scallions in a mason jar with water and chop off a bit every now and then for a final addition to a variety of dishes.
34. Your Favorite Bottle of Whiskey
Embrace the nightcap and always keep a bottle of your favorite whiskey on hand. After a really excellent meal or a night of hanging with friends, there are few better punctuation than a dram of some fine beverage. We think it’s worth keeping a very well-stocked bar cart in general but having a particular bottle of whiskey or bourbon is a very classy touch. Bonus points for storing in a dedicated decanter.
35. A Cast Iron Skillet
While you might not be able to cook everything in a handsome cast iron skillet, it’s a supremely versatile piece of cookware. Take good care of your pre-seasoned skillet and it can last you a generation.
36. A Versatile Cookbook
At a certain point you shouldn’t need to consult a cookbook or recipe website for your basic dishes. But, it’s a good idea to have at least one cookbook on hand that you enjoy for those special occasions where a dedicated recipe is called for. Consider the style of food you enjoy making or the type of chef that’s written the cookbook. There’s also a good chance your local library has cookbooks you can try out before making a final purchase.
37. A Grill
Not everyone has access to an outdoor area in their living situation, so we understand that you might not be able to invest in a large backyard grill. But even a small, portable grill is a worthwhile purchase. Organize a group outing to a local park and grill up some burgers and veggies. Or head to the beach for an afternoon of grilling and chilling. Cooking on a grill – whether it’s gas, charcoal, woodfired, or whatever – is a whole different style of making food so familiarize yourself with the basics and master your grill.
38. A Good Office Chair
This doesn’t have to be a dedicated computer chair for your home office. Really, we just think everyone should have a comfortable chair that they genuinely enjoy sitting in. Too often folks are willing to awkwardly sit in chairs that are uncomfortable and not conducive for reading, working, or even watching TV. Instead, find yourself a nice chair that speaks to you. Shop your local vintage furniture store or find something new.
Get into the habit of writing notes. Sure it might seem a bit outdated but it’s fairly common knowledge that a handwritten note goes a long way to impressing friends, families, and colleagues. As such, it’s worth investing in a simple set of stationery for thank you cards or just standard correspondence.
40. A Good Pen
Forget those cheap plastic pens, get yourself with some heft and writing power. Personally, I’ve enjoyed a compact EDC pen but a more serious office pen is just as worthwhile. Not only will you enjoy the process of writing, it will last you much longer.
41. A Notebook/Journal
Whether or not you keep a regular journal, having a notebook is an excellent idea. Sure, our phones are perfectly well-equipped with jotting down ideas. But, in the event that it dies or you simply aren’t near it, it’s nice to know there’s a physical alternative. So, get yourself a small, solid notebook and bring it with you on your travels.
42. A Camera
It may seem superfluous to invest in a camera when smartphones have revolutionized mobile photography. But, there’s something special about using a genuine camera. Digital or film, cameras connect you with the actual act of photography in a way that smartphones simply can’t. You’ll learn to cherish the act of using a real handheld camera.
43. A Toolbox
If something breaks, you should feel empowered to fix it. And an all-in-one tool box gives you the gear you need to tackle most home problems. From assembling that chair you ordered earlier to hanging some art on your walls, and everything in between, a toolbox is essential for every home.
44. Power Tools
Similarly, there are times when a screw driver just won’t cut it. For the bigger projects you’ll want to get yourself a set of power tools. Depending on what home projects you’re hoping to accomplish, a cordless drill will cut it for the simpler jobs. Otherwise, you might want to get a full set of power tools.
45. Exercise Equipment
You don’t need a full gym membership to stay in shape. Nor do you need to invest in bulky home gym equipment. Instead, get yourself a few pieces of simple exercise gear to help you stay trim and healthy. A basic pair of weights, a jump rope, and maybe a Yoga mat can take you pretty far.
46. A Piece of Art That Means Something to You
Sure there’s a minimalist cleaness to blank walls in an otherwise stylish home, but we think having some artwork adds to the full experience of a living space. And we’re not talking about the dingy posters you had in your dorm room. Some genuine art, whether it’s a classy print, some photography, or an original painting, is an essential addition to your life. It doesn’t need to be big or loud. But having a piece of art that actually means something to you will make your home that much more enjoyable.
47. A Copy of Your Favorite Book
Even if you don’t consider yourself a perennial reader, I’m sure you have a favorite book. While we’re not necessarily advocating you keep a well-stocked library, at the very least you should have a real, physical copy of your favorite book. Display it proudly on a bookshelf or coffee table. When you have a spare moment, read a few pages and remind yourself why you loved it in the first place. It doesn’t need to be a pristine, brand-new edition. In fact, a well-loved vintage copy is even more of a conversation starter.
48. A Quality Coffee Table Book
Speaking of conversation starters, an interesting coffee table book is not only a great piece of literature but adds a touch of decor to your living space. Find something that speaks to your interests and keep it in full view to spark some interesting discussion with your guests. Taschen is a great resource for finding unique art and coffee table books.
49. A Bike
Depending on where you live, owning a car might be even more essential. But, for most folks a solid commuter bike is an excellent way to get around over short distances. Not only does riding a bike help Mother Earth, it gives you a new perspective on your city or town. Unless you anticipate long rides or want to get serious about cycling, you can check Craigslist or local auctions/yard sales for perfectly functional cheap bikes.
50. A Passport
Last, but certainly not least, everyone should have a passport. We recognize that in today’s world it’s increasingly becoming a luxury to travel, let alone hop on an international flight. And plenty of folk won’t have the chance to travel abroad in their lifetime. But, assuming you have the means, owning a passport can be your gateway to new cultures and experiences.