Foundation Wardrobe (Part 2 Of 3): Intermediate Level

Congratulations, you’ve amassed all the necessary pieces of garments for your basic level. And I’m assuming that you’ve also recovered financially from the major purchases of your basic level too. Now’s the time to up your game, and advance to the intermediate level. This time, it won’t be as heart wrenching as before, but your journey’s not over yet. So get your credit card ready for the next round of upgrade.

Author pointing to the right, indicating the title card of Foundation Wardrobe - Intermediate Level
Yup, it’s me again. Let’s move on to the intermediate level.
Image by Author

Intermediate Level – The Next Ten Pieces

The previous ten pieces will serve you well for your professional life. And perhaps sufficient for a limited social life too. Hence, this intermediate level will help you expand on what you already have, to widen your scope further.

(1) Your First Blazer

Yes, we’re starting with another big ticket item again. It’s always best to get the big ticket item out of the way as early as possible. You’ll only suffer the heartache once, quickly recover, and move on from there.

Navy blue, 3-roll-2 gold buttoned, single breasted, hopsack weave blazer.
3-roll-2, gold buttoned, single breasted, navy blue blazer in hopsack weave.
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Most people would consider getting a second, less formal suit now. But since you already have your foundation suit, the need for a second suit isn’t really all that urgent. Instead, you’re better off buying a blazer next, for your business informal attire. And just like your foundation suit, resist the urge to fall for all fancy colour, pattern, or other features. Stick to the single breasted design, and in the traditional solid navy blue colour. Consider your budget, can you afford a tailored blazer? If not, just grab one ready to wear. It may not fit you perfectly, but it’s still very early in your sartorial journey. There’ll be plenty of opportunities to get the perfect blazer later.

(2) And (3) Expand Your Shirts Range

Your first three shirts covered all your bases already. So now it’s time to nudge your shirts range a little farther. It’s time to add a little more sophistication to your shirt game. Below are two examples of intermediate level shirts.

Two dress shirts, pastel yellow and narrow striped white and lavender. These are the two intermediate level shirts.
Left and right – Solid pastel beige dress shirt, and mini-stripe, white and lavender dress shirt.
Image by Author

If followed the basic level recommendation, you’d have chosen pastel blue as one of your second basic dress shirts. So now it’s time to add another pastel colour to the stable. For my case, I went with a solid pastel beige dress shirt. And for the next shirt, it’s time to introduce patterns, but keep it subtle. I went for a white and lavender mini-stripe dress shirt. This will allow you more items to rotate for your daily attire. Remember, you still have an OCBD shirt from the previous round for the less dressy attire.

(4) And (5) Expand Your Dress Trousers Range

With the introduction of a blazer, you’re gonna need more dress trousers to go with it. So it’s time to add two more trousers to the stable.

Two dress trousers, navy blue and beige. An intermediate addition to the basics.
Left and right – A pair of navy blue trousers to bulk up your dressy wardrobe choice. And a pair of beige trousers for the less dressy occasions.
Image by Author

In the basic level, I recommended to go for grey and brown trousers. If you remembered, I also recommended a pair of navy blue trousers too. So take this opportunity to complete all three staple neutral colours for your dress trousers. Once you have all the three staple neutral colours covered, it’s time to play a wild card. And for this, I went with a pair of beige trousers. The beige trousers will go well with the navy blazer to give you a preppy look.

(6) Expand Your Chinos Range

So far, you’ve covered all your bases for your formal, office wear attire. It’s time to also expand on your informal attire too. So let’s expand your chinos game now.

A pair of medium grey chinos. An intermediate alternate to the classic khaki chinos.
A pair of solid medium grey, cotton chinos. Dressy enough to match with your navy blazer, yet soft and comfortable for leisure wear.
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Make no mistake about it, your first pair of chinos should always be in the quintessential khaki colour. For your next pair, feel free to expand your palette. Just make sure not to wander off too far from the neutral palette. A medium grey as in the example above is a great second pair of chinos.

(7) Expand Your Intermediate Neckwear

Again, for the sake of simplicity, I’ll count all the neckwear pieces as one item. So to move up to the intermediate level, it’s time to introduce bolder colours, patterns and textures. And again, whilst you’re free to expand your tie range, keep every tie interchangeable for every existing outfit combination.

Three ties - red with small repeating patterns, medium green with lime green and white regimental stripes, and solid charcoal brown knit tie.
Left to right – A red tie with small repeating pattern for when you want to project “power”. A green tie, but with bolder regimental stripes, and your first knit tie.
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Every man needs a “power tie”. But going for a solid bright red tie may come on a little too strong. Not a good sign if you wanna maintain good relationship with your co-workers. Hence, a less in-your-face, but equally red tie with small repeating pattern will be a great addition to your wardrobe. Then add an “earthy” green tie, but with bold regimental stripes for variation. And finally, play another wild card, a knit tie. Knit ties are all about textures, not colour or pattern. It’ll dress you down for the days when you don’t want to look too uptight.

(8) Pocket Squares – Another Wild Card

You already have all the basic foundation pieces. It’s now time to separate the boys from the men, and the men from the gentlemen. And nothing says you pay attention to your image projection than sporting a pocket square in your jacket breast pocket. Again, I’ll count all three pieces as a single item.

Three pocket squares - four quadrant printed pattern, solid white, and printed pattern. Pocket squares will elevate you from basics to intermediate.
Left to right – A four-quadrant printed pocket square, a solid white pocket square, and a typical printed pocket square.
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The first pocket square every gentleman needs is the solid white piece. It’s the understated, yet universal pocket square. It’ll literally match with any and every outfit you could ever wear. For the next two, choose those with colours that will pick up the overall palette of your outfit. This shouldn’t be difficult, since you don’t have a large wardrobe… yet. To save on your expenses further, consider a four-quadrant print, as you’re getting four patterns for the price of one.

(9) And (10) Expand Your Intermediate Footwear

You’ve already got a pair each of black Oxfords and brown loafers. That’s sufficient to cover the two extreme ends of the formality spectrum. And now you have to fill in the blanks between the two extreme ends of formality. It’s time to get creative, but remember to stay well within the realm of dress shoes.

Ox blood, whole cut shoes, with a slight wingtip patterned brogue.
A pair of ox blood whole cuts, with an ever so slight, wingtip patterned brogue. Equally dressy as Oxfords, but way classier.
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Keep the first of the two pairs a little on the formal side. So your best choice are Oxfords (or Derby shoes if you must), but in a colour other than black. In the example above, I went for a pair of whole cuts. It’s basically as dressy as Oxfords, though some may say that it’s actually dressier than Oxfords. It’s literally a single piece of unblemished leather. As for the colour, I went for ox blood, which technically still falls under the brown family. Anyway, as long as it’s not black, it’ll fit the formality level just below your black Oxfords.

Brown, double monk-strap shoes.
A pair of brown, double monk-straps. More “playful” than the businesslike Oxfords and derbies, yet still dressier than loafers.
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For the final pair of intermediate level shoes, go for something more “fun”. But do be careful, and stay well within the dress shoes realm. Now’s not time for you to go crazy with your footwear just yet. For me, I went for the double monk-strap shoes in brown. Monk-straps are generally a little less common, so it’ll definitely call attention to itself. Nevertheless, it’s still very much considered dress shoes. And it’ll go well with your less formal suits and business informal ensemble.

Foundation Intermediate Level – Completed

There you go, not as nail-biting suspenseful as your basic level, right? No doubt, you’ve probably spent similar amount of money as before. But now your foundation wardrobe spans exponentially wider and deeper. Are you already wondering which direction the final part of your foundation wardrobe will bring you? Well, don’t think too much about it now. It’s time to recover financially again. Start rebuilding your budget from scratch. Then get ready for another wild ride in the concluding episode of the foundation wardrobe.

And no, this still isn’t a sponsored article. So every little bit of financial support will go a long way. It’ll help motivate me to come up with more exciting articles like this. So if you like this article, do consider buying me a coffee.

This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.

About CHOW Wei Ming

Brand consultant, photographer, creative director, storyteller, and a true believer of the power of visual communications. Outwardly expresses a friendly disposition, but hides a perfectionist nature deep inside him.

One Reply to “Foundation Wardrobe (Part 2 Of 3): Intermediate Level”

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