The ultimate shopping guide for back-to-school clothes

Kami Phillips, CNN Underscored
Updated Sat August 10, 2019

As much as we wish summer would last forever, back-to-school season is slowly, but surely, creeping up on us. We know starting the school year off on the best foot requires new books and supplies, but it also means refreshing your wardrobe with essentials that will take you through the year in major style.

No matter your style vibe, stocking up on basics that will take you from now through next season and beyond is essential. From everyday denim to classic kicks, cool backpacks and accessories, we've got everything you need to ace your back-to-school style. Scroll down to check out our ultimate back-to-school fashion guide, including 12 of our top picks for men and women, and start your year off with confidence and ease.

Women's back-to-school essentials

MOTHER denim is known for its flattering fits, comfortable fabrics and stylish silhouettes (even Meghan Markle is a huge fan of the brand). Which is why we love The Fly Cut Stunner High Waist Fray Ankle Skinny Jeans ($238; nordstrom.com). A classic skinny jean is stylish year-round and an essential basic for any woman's wardrobe, especially with a flattering high waist. Wear these jeans with everything from T-shirts and sneakers to sweaters and boots.

A back-to-school wardrobe isn't complete without a cool, new backpack, and this STATE Kane Backpack ($85; statebags.com) is sure to jazz up any outfit. This ultra-stylish metallic silver option will help you stand out (in the best way possible) and is sure to help you earn the compliments from your fellow classmates. Plus, it's complete with interior pockets for your laptop and accessories.

When it comes to a fresh pair of sneakers, you can't go wrong with a classic all-white pair, like the Superga 2750 Cotu Sneaker (starting at $32.24; amazon.com). With over 700 customer reviews, this classic sneaker boasts a 4 out of 5-star rating, so it's no wonder why the 2750 Cotu sneaker has become iconic for men and women every where. Even the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, has been spotted wearing Superga sneakers with everything from culottes to dresses to jeans.

Hoop earrings have been in style forever, and they're showing no signs of slowing down. Add a pair to your wardrobe, like these Gorjana Taner Hoop Earrings ($53.99; walmart.com), and pair them with everything. Dress up jeans and a T-shirt or wear them for a special occasion. No matter how you style them, they'll be sure to go with everything in your wardrobe.

There isn't a wardrobe essential more important to refresh each season than your basic T-shirt. We especially love a classic striped tee, like this J.Crew Slim Perfect T-Shirt ($18, originally $32.50; jcrew.com). Wear it with jeans, trousers, skirts and joggers, or layered under sweaters, an anorak jacket or a chic tailored blazer for a classic presentation. And since it's on sale for under $20, you may want to do yourself a favor and stock up on a few colors while you can score them for less!

Blazers are quintessential for any back-to-school wardrobe. Not to mention, they're majorly on trend this upcoming season. Whether you style this classic Halogen Single Breasted Blazer ($129; nordstrom.com) with jeans or trousers, or wear it layered over a dress with boots, you'll always look polished, professional and stylish. Plus, it comes in a variety of colors, so you can opt for classic black or add a fun pop of color to your fall collection.

Men's back-to-school essentials

Levi's jeans are known for its classic cuts, affordable prices and flattering fits, and these Levi's Men's 511 Slim Fit-Advanced Performance Stretch Jeans (starting at $17.74; amazon.com) are no exception. The 511 slim fit is perfect if you're looking for a jean that's not super baggy, but not too tight, either. These performance stretch jeans even come with just the right amount of give, making them comfortable and easy enough to wear during a full day of classes.

Kick the school year off with a fresh pair of retro-inspired Nike Men's Cortez Leather Low-Top Sneakers ($75; bloomingdales.com). The Nike Cortez sneakers have been a fashion staple for men and women since 1972, and in this classic black and white color combo, they'll easily go with everything in your wardrobe.

This lightweight Patagonia 28 Liter Refugio Nylon Backpack ($89; nordstrom.com) is not only stylish, but it's spacious enough to fit all of your school supplies, laptop and more in an organized fashion. It's also water-repellent so you can keep your tech devices safe and protected.

Fall is the perfect time to invest in a cool bomber jacket like this Club Monaco Bomber Jacket ($129, originally $229; clubmonaco.com), especially when you can snag it on major sale. Wear it with a sweater and jeans as the temperature drops in the fall, and in the winter, layer it under a tailored coat for added warmth and style.

A sporty new watch is the ultimate back-to-school accessory. This Citizen Men's Watch ($89.99, originally $175; amazon.com) is not only perfectly stylish enough to wear every day, but for under $90, it's basically a steal. Plus, if your phone battery dies, you'll still be able to make it to class on time.

We can't stress enough to refresh your T-shirt collection. Inevitable sweat marks, accidental spills and unsightly spots happen to the best of us. So scoop up this Gap Vintage Wash Pocket Tee (starting at $9.99, originally $19.95; gap.com) in every color and you'll be good to go for the rest of the school year.

Note: The prices above reflects the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.