Advice

Wardrobe Essentials for the West Coast Gentleman

Photo: Everett Collection

Warren Beatty nails the basics.

What are the basics a West Coast gentleman would need for his closet when it’s 70+ degrees year round?
-Jack Archer, Newport Coast, CA

As a born-and-raised Southern Californian, I feel your pain. As much as one may like cashmere, down, or tweed, it’s just not going to get much usage south of Point Conception unless you’re really into inappropriate sweating or on a high-school wrestling squad. That said, the area is far from a sweltering tropical heat lodge. In other words, your left coast essentials should span more territory than flip-flops, board shorts, and Beach Boys records (no offense to Pet Sounds). With that in mind, here are the basics that the West Coast gentleman absolutely needs. Note, not everything—just the basics.

Sunglasses
The majority of people in L.A., Orange, and San Diego counties still wear awful, gaudy, plastic wraparound shades. Thus making cemented classics like Ray-Ban Aviators or Wayfarers pertinently cool. Quick rule of thumb: If it was worn poolside at the Beverly Hills Hotel from 1959 to 1969 you’re in the clear.

Chinos
In SoCal, cotton chinos make way more sense than heavy denim. It’s a breathable fabric that immediately notches you two pegs up the unpretentious formality chart in a land full of pretense (and lacking in formality). Keep ‘em flat-fronted and slim-fitting. Khaki, olive, and navy are a must—then go play with a variety of colors.

Plain T-Shirts
Lots of them. Navy, heather gray, and white. That’s it. Don’t get cute, don’t get graphics, and don’t get logos. Nothing worth expressing belongs anywhere on a T-shirt. Keep the V-necks north of “deep” territory.

Oxford Cotton Button Front Shirts
You could stop at the Classic Fit Basic Oxford in white from Polo Ralph Lauren and call it a day. I do.

Canvas Sneakers
There are plenty of great choices ranging from Chucks to Supergas, but I opt for the hometown Vans. Eras in red, white, and blue. Wear them to death. Machine wash them. And never, ever match them with anything else you’re wearing.

Cardigan/Jacket
A thick knit, shawl collar cardigan will do the trick. Or go Anglophile and jump on a Baracuta G9 or a Barbour Beaufort. Your biggest cold-weather investment won’t cost you more than four bills.

These pieces, a go-to Mexican spot, and knowing how to get to LAX without touching a freeway and you’re golden.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    What a great quick guide to dressing for So Cal. I’m trying to build up a nice wardrobe here in LA, but looking at most style blogs and sites is of no help when it’s always 77 and sunny. Not a lot of layering options. This list is a little bit of reassurance that being cool and classic works great, too. Thanks!

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