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Get the basics right and work up from there. A core wardrobe of versatile mainstays can be dressed up or down as required.
Oxford shirts work well with anything less formal than a suit. Oxford cloth has more texture and better opacity than poplin. Stick with the basics of white, blue and pink, and make sure they fit well. Pay particular attention to the sleeve length and cuff width. Off-the-peg shirts tend to err on the side of generosity in this respect, so you'll often need to move the cuff button.
Brown brogues are extremely versatile. A lot of men gravitate to black shoes, which is a mistake with anything other than dark suiting or black tie. Avoid anything remotely trendy, you'll look like a mobile phone salesman or a lower-league footballer. I'd recommend against DMs, they're bulky and inelegant. If you're looking for a casual shoe option to dress down an outfit, I'd suggest loafers or Converse-type basketball shoes.
Having a range of trousers gives you scope in terms of formality. Chinos, cords and woolen trousers all have their place in the smart/casual wardrobe. When choosing fabric, look for texture and opt for medium shades of grey, blue and brown. Again, pay close attention to fit - always buy trousers with surplus length and have them tailored to fit. If you're going for a very slim fit, be wary of bunching in the seat and crotch. Match the leg width to your physique and avoid skinny fits unless you yourself are skinny. If you can stand to wear them, braces are vastly superior to belts, as you get finer control of where the trouser breaks and without bunching at the waistband.
Break (how the hem of a trouser leg rests on the shoe) is something of a fine art. Most men wear overly long trousers with a traditional full break, with fabric pooling on top of the shoe. This looks slouchy and makes your legs look shorter. The easiest break to pull off is the shallow break, where the hem just barely rests on top of the shoe. Very skinny trousers work best with zero break, where the hem is well clear of the shoe.
Cardigans are brilliant garments. They allow for versatile layering during spring and autumn and look much smarter than sweaters. The buttons and deep v of a cardigan lengthen the torso.
Blazers are fairly easy to balls up, avoid anything too dark or too shiny. Look for textured fabrics like tweed and corduroy and again pay very close attention to fit. A very traditional garment can look very modern if the cut is right. With your arms by your side, you should have about half an inch of shirt sleeve showing under a blazer. Harrington jackets are excellent if you're looking for something more casual - opt for paler colours and buy quality (Baracuta or Merc).