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The Chris Black Starter Pack: 25 of Our Columnist’s Favorite Basics

Photo: Courtesy Retailers

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.

White T-shirt

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.”

Long-sleeve T-shirt

Chris calls this long-sleeve tee, also by Gildan, one of his “wardrobe staples.” He adds: “A simple navy long-sleeved T-shirt looks good with almost anything.”


Chris famously loathes backpacks, writing an emphatic “hell no” when asked if an adult should ever carry one. Instead, he says “the simple canvas tote bag is the answer,” and “no one can top the LL Bean Boat and Tote.”

Black jeans

“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.

Non-denim pants

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.”

Button-down shirt

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 colors like light blue, black, and navy.

Fancier button-down shirt

“If you want to go a step up from Uniqlo, you cannot go wrong with Brooks Brothers,” writes Chris. He goes for the brand’s Regent fit, which is “heavy-duty and cut a little slimmer.”


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.” [Editor’s note: Amazon has one pair of these in size 16 for $69; smaller sizes start at $110.]

Gym shirt

When it comes to workout clothes, Chris’s motto is “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.

Gym shorts

Chris notes that his favorite workout shorts — and shirt — are made from “basic sweat-wicking materials.”

iPhone case

“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.

White sneakers

“The only all-white sneakers I genuinely stand behind,” writes Chris.

Nonwhite sneakers

Chris’s other go-to sneakers are appropriate to wear for pretty much anything, he tells us, from date night to “sashaying through the Delta terminal at JFK.”

Dress shoe

If an occasion calls for footwear more formal than the above, Chris says to “pull out the Bass Weejuns (make sure they are polished).”

Hair product

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.”

Rain jacket

Like moisturizers, Chris has a collection of rain jackets but calls this Patagonia style a “hard-wearing classic.”

Baseball hat

Chris puts his affinity for Nike’s “super-breathable” baseball cap this way: “Honestly, it’s the perfect hat for all seasons.”


“As a prescription-glasses wearer,” Chris writes, “my desire to switch out eyewear like my hero Elton John is limited by my poor vision and budget.” His go-to pair of sunglasses is a classic style from 104-year-old maker Moscot. They’re not cheap, but they are timeless, so you won’t need to switch them out like other, trendier shades.

Dopp kit

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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The Chris Black Starter Pack: 25 of His Favorite Basics