With just a few weeks left until spring officially, well, springs, it’s time to get your seasonal upgrades sorted. You may be dreaming of shorts and sockless slides, but the trick to nailing the change in seasons is a slow and steady approach that changes incrementally (and also accounts for the occasional shower.)
Sowing the seeds of a warm-weather wardrobe early ensures a look that’s already bloomed come summer, while everyone else scrambles for the last pair of sunglasses. We spoke to the experts about the menswear pieces to invest in to keep cool, whatever the weather.
The vagaries of British weather mean that when it comes to wearing a suit between the months of March and May, you’re left either sweltering or shivering. Luckily, all it requires to beat the heat (or indeed, cheat the chill) is a masterclass in materials.
Thomas Mahon, ex-Savile Row tailor and founder of bespoke tailors English Cut, suggests opting for a lighter fabric as a comfortable way to transition between seasons. “For spring, I recommend softer, deconstructed tailoring pieces, coupled with the obvious choice of lighter, natural fabrics. Lightweight shapes plus natural fabrics equals cool and comfortable style.”
Of course, all of this can be undone if due attention isn’t paid to the shirt underneath. Acclaimed New York-based designer Michael Bastian keeps his shirting simple: “In spring I like to go old-school when it comes to the shirts I put with suits – solid white or blue, or classic stripes in a cotton and linen blend.” Siding with breathable fabrics in lighter hues ensures you stay fresh in more than one way.
Spring arguably provides a much greater opportunity to experiment with colour. While leaving garish suits to Willy Wonka is a year-round suggestion, brightening up when it comes to selecting socks, ties and pocket squares is a move straight out of the sartorial playbook that’ll set any formal look apart. It’s always advised to stick to a single colour palette, and this season you can’t go wrong with shades of green.
Fashion week runways were awash with knuckle-skimming oversized knitwear this January. But that’s not the most practical way to wear wool in spring.
Despite the weather flip-flopping, the style world is still blowing permanently hot on the athleisure look. The trend, which has been a firm fixture for several seasons, has now infiltrated knitwear, resulting in perfect layering pieces for transeasonal outfits.
“A key item this season is the knitted track top,” says Topman design director Gordon Richardson. “The zip detailing adds a unique sportswear edge to an otherwise classic jumper. Try mixing it with tailoring for a contemporary take on smart-casual.”
Lightweight, sports-influenced knits in simple monochrome or neutral shades and premium fabrics will ensure maximum cost-per-wear, or seek out brighter primary colour versions to nail this and the nineties trend in one look.
Jeans are a year-round wardrobe classic that don’t necessarily require seasonal upgrades, especially as the key is to find the fit that suits you best. However, there are subtle tweaks that can keep your look on-trend without coming across like a dedicated follower of fashion.
Mr Porter denim buyer Robyn Ferris says that for spring, the trick is to go for a “more relaxed, straight or tapered fit”. Look for slightly more vivid shades – think smart selvedge rather than worn and faded. A straight, crisp pair will combine better with navy and cinnamon shades, both of which should be added to your rotation this season.
Urban Outfitters menswear buyer Daniel Lewis agrees that a blue, mid-wash is the denim of choice for SS17. “Go for a cropped fit to show off your trainer game. Try to avoid the damaged look, instead go with a nice clean wash. At the moment, the trend is moving towards a looser fit on a straight leg, which works perfectly in the transition into summer.”
Earning your stripes may take its time in the boardroom, but they’re an instant addition that can be made to your wardrobe. The iconic Breton shirt is the ultimate springtime piece – combining timeless nautical cool with a laid-back contemporary edge, the classic staple is simultaneously athletic and classic.
Marco Petrucci from French Breton stripe experts Armor Lux recommends using a long-sleeved version as a layering tool until the weather is warm enough to go it alone. “For a casual look, men should wear it under a denim or Oxford shirt. Leave the top few buttons open, so it’s almost like an undershirt.”
Paired with crisp denim and white sneakers, French Breton adds some je ne sais quoi to a relaxed weekend look, or finish with chinos and a pair of desert boots for something with more weekday clout.
Swapping items of clothing in your wardrobe seems like a no-brainer for the new season, but the details need some attention too. Winter accessories tend to be harder, leather-clad and in various shades of black or dark brown. When coupled with spring’s livelier colour palette and less bulky fabrics, these extras can jar just as much as wearing a winter coat to the beach.
When it comes to belts, Ricardo Valenti, chief executive of renowned beltmaker Anderson’s, suggests going for a cross-seasonal approach. “The most popular styles for winter are traditional leather belts, and for summer, stretch viscose woven belts. For the transitional period, you want something in-between. A woven leather belt will work best, as it mixes the leather material seen on the winter belts but introduces the woven style without straying too close to the summer stretch viscose styles.”
A dark, leather bag can weigh down a springtime look, so swap it for something lighter. “Go for a light-hued bag to reflect the change of season and (hopefully) the change in weather,” says Scott Simpson, head of product at the famed Cambridge Satchel Co. “The season has a particularly earthy, natural feel, which should be reflected in both colour palette and texture.” Warm, spicy shades have made the transition from autumn to spring, so season your carry-on accordingly.
As with accessories, topping off a look off with the wrong shoes can make even the best dressed man look like he got lost on the way to the front door. Grenson creative director Tim Little says it may be time to swap from boot to brogue. “Boots in spring only work if you live in Iceland. I’d start to look at lighter colours and materials. Go for tan leather or even suede and drop the black and dark browns.”
Unpredictable weather can make choosing footwear more difficult than it should be. It’s wise to hold off on sandals until we’re guaranteed no showers (you know, those two days in August), but that doesn’t mean there’s not chance for a change.
“Think about [switching to] lighter soles,” says Little. “Single leather is the most natural and breathable, but a lightweight rubber or wedge sole is also good. Just lighten everything up in proportion to your mood and the weather.”
If you can’t bear to part with your boots, Andrea Kengelbacher from outdoor brand Timberland suggests swapping to a slimmed-down version of your favourite style. Equally, if you rely on trainers to get across town, the team at Slovakian footwear company Novesta recommends going for a crisp trainer in a smooth fabric that will clean easily (think canvas or leather).
Jackets & Outerwear
Ditching the warmth of the wool can be painful, but there’s a whole range of lighter cover-ups that will keep you bright and breezy this spring.
The bomber jacket has been a menswear staple for the past few seasons, and for good reason. “It’s a great layering piece that can sit well over T-shirts, shirts and knitwear, plus it won’t be too heavy should the weather brighten up,” says Ash Kumar, chief executive of British brand Native Youth.
“The sports luxe influence means it effortlessly pairs with a variety of formal and casual looks, and layers to suit seasonal changes,” adds Marks & Spencer head of menswear James Doidge. “Ideally, look for a bomber jacket that combines both sports and tailoring design influences, perfect for transitional looks.”
Bored of the bomber? Fortunately, this season also has plenty of alternatives in the form of overshirts, shackets and coach jackets. Mitchel Galvin-Farnol, founder of streetwear brand Nicce, says: “These are perfect to throw over sweatshirts and T-shirts, an essential for every wardrobe especially when the weather is so changeable.”
Even if it’s still crisp outside, chances are the sun will be blazing, however weak the temperature. Keep your peepers safe and prevent premature ageing and wrinkles with a decent pair of sunglasses.
In addition to getting the right fit, protection should be the primary concern – so before you check the price tag, read the label. “Look for something that blocks 100 per cent of both UVA and UVB rays,” says Rachel Bishop, a member of the National Eye Institute.
Once the sensible stuff is out of the way, you can move on to picking a pair of frames that’ll carry you from the boardroom to the beach. “For spring especially, you need a style that will work with your clothes – you’re not always going to be in swimwear like the summer,” says eyewear brand Retrosuperfuture.
With all this attention paid to your second skin, don’t forget your actual skin. Your face needs some love too, particularly as the external factors that come with switching seasons – like changing temperatures, wind and humidity – can weaken the skin.
In addition to keeping it hydrated, Claire Balas, cosmetic trainer at French skincare brand Institut Esterderm, suggests laying the right foundations. “Spring is the perfect time to get rid of all the toxins accumulated during winter, and to reinforce the natural defence of the skin.”
Ensure your cleansing routine is up to date and invest in a deep moisturising cream to maintain hydration overnight while relying on an SPF moisturiser to protect against the sun’s UVA and UVB rays beginning to break through.
Joe Pomper, a senior barber at London-based Murdock, also suggests getting in the chair for a seasonal snip: “Refine winter growth with a shorter, textured style. A perfect example for spring would be a sharp crop with messy layers. This is a style that’s incredibly easy to maintain and adjust throughout the day and can take about a minute to dry and style every morning.”