The Best Black and White Basics for a Transitional Wardrobe

Simple, yes, but never boring

By Faye Fearon

Please note: If you buy through the links in this article, we may earn a small share of the profits.

Crafting a transitional wardrobe for a new season can be tricky especially in the fall when the temperatures start to dip. Wear too much in the morning and you’re sweating by the afternoon. Or you wear too little and you’re cold by the time the sunsets. Will I be too hot? Or will I be too cold? It’s likely that one of those questions has surfaced in your mind during recent days, but fortunately, we have a solution for both: black and white basics. 

While a monochromatic color palette isn’t exactly a new discovery. The appeal of black and white basics remains as powerful today as it did fifty years ago and that will continue to be true for decades to come. It can elevate the look of any given texture – be it something light like a cotton t-shirt or heavy like denim – the two contrasting shades have long been a go-to for many stylish guys. If your wardrobe falls short of a few key black and white style staples we suggest investing in some key pieces. This is the foundation, the building blocks of any wardrobe and will last you through multiple seasons. We’re not saying you should go outside looking like Beetlejuice but use some of these basic items as an anchor for your wardrobe.

We have gathered a selection of 14 stylish black and white staples to see you through the seasons ahead.

A white t-shirt

A white t-shirt is the perfect base for any fit. Since mastered by Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, the crew neck staple has proven itself to be the easiest signifier of style, lending itself to any season and pretty much any social scenario. When it comes to sourcing a flattering fit, Uniqlo’s HEATTECH design is a failsafe port of call: crafted from a soft and stretchable material blend to avoid losing its shape over time. Shaped with a wider neckline to accommodate layering, it also boasts bio-warming, anti-microbial and moisture-wicking features. We suggest stocking up on a few to have on hand. You can also pick up a splurge-worthy two pack of Lady White Co. t-shirts which is made from a 6 oz. mid-weight cotton for a more rugged feel.

Uniqlo White T-Shirt
Uniqlo

Uniqlo Heattech T-Shirt

Lady White Co. T-Shirt
Lady White Co

Lady White Co. 2-Pack T-Shirt

A pair of black trousers

Head to toe tailoring might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but a simple pair of black trousers always serves up a solid style score. A loose shape flatters every body type, especially if belted at the top to draw attention to the slimmest region of your silhouette. French brand Lemaire is a new favorite amongst the fashion-conscious thanks to its relaxed approach to elegant essentials like these pleated poly wool pants. Woven into a mélange twill with a supple hand, they’re based with cuffed hems, sit with a high-rise waistline and come with a removable belt to enhance the pleats underneath. The perfect piece to dress up or down depending on your outing for the day.

If you need something a bit more rigid we suggest you take a look at the Japanese brand, Orslow. They’re dedicated to recreating classic American garments through traditional methods. They take inspiration from Americana and vintage but denim is one of the stand out garments. It’s woven on a vintage loom in Japan from a sturdy denim that softens with wear over time.

Lemaire Loose Pleated Pants
Mr Porter

Lemaire Loose Pleated Pants

Orslow 107 Slim Black Jeans
Mr Porter

Orslow 107 Slim-Fit Jeans

A pair of white sneakers

While sneakers may be a core ingredient of streetwear, they still lend themselves to other sense of dress. When looking for a casual white trainer two brands stand out as must have basics: Adidas and Converse. The Adidas Samba has the classic serrated three stripe detail and they’re crafted from a leather upper and gum sole. They’re comfortable, inexpensive and have risen in popularity recently thanks to a collaboration with the London based brand, Wales Bonner. Converse are also a major staple, made of a premium canvas upper that molds to almost anyone’s foot. We also highly recommend you pick up the Converse 70’s for a padded sole. It’s a small detail but the shoes will feel 10x more comfortable, trust us. And thanks to their cultural significance, you can rest assured that they’ll be just as relevant in thirty years as they are today. 

Adidas Sambas Sneakers
Adidas

Adidas Sambas Sneakers

Converse

Converse All Star 70s

A black turtleneck sweater

As the season starts to shift, it’s essential that you have some heavier layers at the ready. Most importantly: a black roll neck sweater. Simple, sophisticated and requiring zero styling effort (because it literally works with anything), the power of this pullover is not to be underestimated. Take a look at the wardrobe of any notable artist from the past century (from those in film and fashion to music and literature) and you can bet that the roll neck is often on display. John Smedley serves up the style with the greatest quality: crafting his most permanent piece with a blend of kolton recycled cashmere and merino wool.  If you’re looking for a less-expensive option and you’re taking some style cues from Steve Jobs, try a 90’s inspired mockneck sweater from Uniqlo.

John Smedley Rollneck Sweater
Mr Porter

John Smedley Rollneck Sweater

Uniqlo Mockneck Sweater
Uniqlo

Uniqlo Mockneck Sweater

A pair of white jeans

To those who dare to venture into bolder monochrome territory, we point you in the direction of white jeans. Many reserve this style solely for the summer season, but in fact, it’s a sharp staple all year round because denim is the most practical texture come rain or shine. When paired with a formal blazer or casual jacket – the white jean is the most understated statement of a monochrome wardrobe. This pair from Drake’s is the best way to embrace it. Mainly, due to the denim of choice: a Japanese selvedge needlecord. Detailed with a classic five-pocket feature and copper rivets, they’re bound to age with wear and get a little dirty, but don’t worry about that because patina adds extra style points.

You can also pick up a classic Levi’s 501 Original Fit pair of white denim for a less-expensive option. If you’re really in the mood to dig for gold we highly recommend you scour the internet for a vintage pair.

Drakes Ecru Jeans
Drakes

Drakes Ecru Jeans

Levis 501 White Jeans
Levis

Levis 501 White Jeans

A white oxford shirt

Turning to the formal side of our black and white guide with a classic white oxford shirt. Making waves in menswear since the dawn of Ivy League style, the button down design compliments both formal and casual base layers. It can also be worn in multiple ways. On a warm day, you can leave it semi-unbuttoned and tuck it into a good pair of jeans. And when the temperature drops, you can fasten its sharp little collar and center it with a knitted tie. Given his ties with America and collegiate style, Ralph Lauren’s seasonless offering of the shirt is a smart investment. Cut with a relaxed fit and embroidered with his signature Pony logo. You can also snag one of J.Crew’s more affordable broken in oxford shirts, which also sports a classic 90’s roomier cut in the body and sleeves.

Polo Ralph Lauren Oxford Shirt
Ralph Lauren

Polo Ralph Lauren Oxford Shirt

Jcrew Broken In Oxford Shirt
Jcrew

J.Crew Broken-In Oxford

A black leather jacket

Last (but certainly not least), the finishing touch: a jacket. Outerwear can be approached in a multitude of manners, but one style in particular stands out for the current seasonal shift: a leather jacket. For a safe approach that works with any figure, a simple denim jacket inspired style is the route to take. showing you mean business when fully buttoned and injecting some insouciance when left open (to highlight your layer underneath). This kind of style can certainly be thrifted, but if you want to invest in a luxury option to last a lifetime, Saint Laurent is the source. Fitted with flap pockets, logo-engraved buttons and adjustable tabs at the waist, it’s a sharp and simple beauty.

Another option is this leather racer jacket from Schott. A brand that has been making top of the line leather jackets for over 100 years. If we’re talking about products that will last multiple seasons, hell even lifetimes then, Schott is a worthy investment.

Saint Laurent Lambskin Denim Jacket
Saint Laurent

Saint Laurent Lambskin Denim Jacket

Schott Waxed Natural Pebbled Cowhide Cafe Leather Jacket
Schott

Schott Waxed Natural Pebbled Cowhide Cafe Leather Jacket