After a bitter winter, who wouldn't welcome some spring warmth?
The time has come to store away the chunky wool sweaters, hang up the heavy coats, and bring out the springtime clothing arsenal as our winter layers peel away. This guide aims to help you construct a basic, yet versatile spring wardrobe in preparation for the warmer months. I must note that I intend for this post to serve as an informational reference only. By no means am I claiming that this is an authoritative wardrobe of what every man must have to be fashionable. I encourage you to build upon this guide and augment it to create a truly personal spring wardrobe for yourself. This blog post contains affiliate links.
There's something about this season that's particularly alluring; the warm sunshine on your skin, the colorful plants, or simply the fact that the piercingly-cold wind no longer hurts your face. For those of us who like to dress well, it's also a time of creativity and self expression via retail therapy.
The typically-neutral color palettes of winter are instead replaced by the vivid colors and patterns of spring. A wider array of colors to use creates a much more dynamic range of possible combinations and styles. Don't get me wrong; I love layers. More articles of clothing means more ways to customize your look, right? Especially for men, fall and winter styles just brim with opportunity. However, it's also important to consider that spring/summer allow for more "statement" pieces, which essentially allow you to say more in as few words as possible. Now, pour yourself a nice glass of lemonade (or whiskey) and let's begin.
Long Sleeve Shirts
Though spring brings warmth and general happiness (if you don't have allergies), it may certainly still get cold depending on where you live. Because of this, the long sleeve button down is the most versatile shirt for spring in my opinion, especially with the cuffed sleeve look. Though many button down shirts may look identical, they are far from so. The most substantial difference between shirts is definitely what fabric they're made of. Here are a few popular fabrics and patterns that comprise a lot of spring apparel.
Chambray: This is a type of plain weave cotton cloth with a colored warp and white weft, giving it a speckled-like appearance. Chambray comes in a bunch of colors, but the most common for men are light blue, dark blue, and gray. The best way to think of it is like a light and clothy denim. Any color chambray should look great paired with some fitted chinos or shorts, but I'd definitely recommend a light or medium blue if it's your first sample of the fabric. I've had very good experience with chambray shirts from Uniqlo, J Crew, and ASOS.
Linen: Made from laboriously intensive flax plant fibers, linen is the ideal fabric for hot weather. In fact, mummies were usually wrapped in linen as a sign of purity and wealth (and do you know how hot it is in Egypt?). Linen constitutes a large portion of Spring/Summer clothes, including shirts, blazers, pants, bags, etc. After buying my first linen button down last Spring, I definitely have plans to have more as the fabric is substantially more breathable than my OCBDs. For a truly versatile wardrobe, a guy must be prepared for whatever elements nature can throw at him, so linen is a key fabric to combat the spring and summer heat. For starters, I'd recommend white and blue. Do note that linen is a lighter, thinner fabric so it wrinkles pretty easily. A recent purchase of mine was this handy dandy n̶o̶t̶e̶b̶o̶o̶k̶ handheld steamer, which doesn't take up a lot of space and is much easier than ironing.
Gingham: This is a mid-weight pattern woven from cotton or blended yarn, and is always checkered in white plus another bold color. Usually worn in S/S, gingham is often mistaken with plaid, though the patterns differ; gingham is white with another color and has equidistant lines, while plaid can be any combination of colors any varying line spacing. Gingham is a very "busy" pattern, so it's not the easiest to pair into fits. I'd recommend either a blue or red one. Don't go overboard with distracting patterns like this as the key to a solid basic wardrobe is simplicity and cohesion. Match gingham shirts with a more neutral bottom to ensure your look isn't too eye-catching. I'm personally a fan of Charles Tyrwhitt shirts, especially when you catch them on one of their sales.
Oxford: Oxford cloth is a basketweave material that's not too light yet not too heavy. It's a reliable fabric that finds its way into all sorts of styles. The oxford cloth button down (or OCBDs as us hip, young people call them) are made by countless manufacturers and come in all sorts of colors and patterns. There's a reason this type of shirt is an MFA favorite. Colors you should consider having at your disposal include: navy, white (can never have too many white button downs, especially if you're like me and have an average white shirt lifespan of 22 minutes), tan, and olive - aim for neutral, plain colors as they're easiest to wear with other clothes and busier patterns. If you're seeking an oxford that's a bit different from the pack, this Canadian-made Naked & Famous button down is made of Japanese cloth and colored with dye made from real blueberries. Yessir.
Henley: henleys are generally form-fitting, cotton shirts with 3 or 4 buttons stemming from the collar. They're a great, casual choice for layering under a jacket but also function standalone. Effortless and simple, the henley is a great component of any wardrobe and look best when they fit closer to the body (show dem gains, brofessor). I'm personally a fan of the American Apparel henleys, though note that they're a cotton/poly blend (not necessarily terrible, but some folks aren't huge fans of polyester).
Breton stripes: Stemming its roots from French sailors in the 1850s, the original breton shirts had 21 stripes (one for each of Napoleon's victories). Nowadays, many militaries use similar shirts, so its possible to find surplus shirts all over the place for cheap, like these Russian telnyashkas. I picked one up at HM for roughly $20, but other options include GAP, HM, and J Crew. These look awesome with a pair of dark denim, but they're really not hard to work into an outfit.
Short Sleeve Shirts
Honestly, there isn't too much to mention about short sleeve shirts as they're likely the most basic staple of any wardrobe. I'd recommend shirts made from cotton as they're the best for breathability and moisture-wicking in my experience.
Uniqlo Supima tees: I started this section with Uniqlo's Supima cotton t-shirts because I'm a huge fan of the fabric's breathability. They're also pretty inexpensive - each tee retails for only $12.90 and often goes on sale. Another solid contender is American Apparel's poly-cotton (50/50 mix with polyester) t-shirt. These also have an insane variety of colors and are actually even cheaper than Uniqlo's shirts at ~$11 with free shipping. I'd grab a couple of these in white, black, and navy.
Short Sleeve Button Downs: Some people prefer to roll the cuffs of a long-sleeve button down rather than buy another shirt, but it entirely comes down to personal preference. They look great in solid colors, wear patterns well, and make great statement pieces. However, when considering any patterned shirt, be sure the design isn't too obnoxious or flashy.
Depending on where you live and its seasonal climate, you may or may not have a need for outerwear. I live in the Northeastern United States, so our springtime can vary from '"Damn, I lost another finger to frostbite" to "I've shaved every inch of my body and I'm still sweating". Regardless, I'm going to list a few types of jackets and styles that will look great this season.
Denim trucker: Without a doubt, the denim trucker is one of the most classic displays of Americana outerwear. The simple jacket has not only been around for a century, but is here to stay. It's a reliable, mid-weight choice for a nice breezy day. My go-to would be the Levi's variant, which comes in several different denim washes. For those seeking a higher quality version, I'd recommend the Canadian-made Naked & Famous selvedge jacket.
Field Jacket/M-65: Most modern field jackets stem from the M-1965 jackets worn by American soldiers in the Vietnam War. Fortunately, you won't have to fight in the jungles of Southeast Asia to obtain one; many different variants are available and most large brands have their own take on the classic coat (like all of them - check out J Crew, Banana Republic, Gap, Old Navy etc.). My personal favorite: the Alpha Industries M-65. If you decide to pick up this sweet coat, make sure to size down as they run large. Though I don't own one myself, I've heard nothing but good things about the J Crew field mechanic jacket, however the green is a much more medium green as opposed to olive.
Anorak/Parka: Before May flowers come April heavy downpour, so it's always a wise choice to have some functional, yet fashionable weather-resistant outerwear. Compact and packable, carrying an anorak in a backpack or car is easy and can come in handy for sudden rain clouds (not to mention they look great). If you're looking for an authentic Scandinavian anorak, check out the Fjallraven High Coast. For better rain resistance, either look into a more technical material or a treated waxed shell like this Nifty Genius parka.
Bomber: Bomber jackets, named for their use by WWI bomber pilots (old planes didn't have closed cockpits, so pilots wore them to stay warm), are available in many different materials, from cotton "varsity" to nylon versions. Though originally made from sheepskin leather, most modern flight jackets are now made from cotton or nylon. They're insanely popular in pretty much all sects of male fashion, likely due to their simple look and versatility.
Navy Blazer: Few articles of clothing are more iconic than the classic navy blazer. Versatile, clean, and outright manly, the blazer is a garment that's stood the test of time. It was originally worn by British royalty in the 1800s and has been adopted as a fundamental key in the menswear community. Though considerably less casual than the previous outerwear choices, the blazer has a place in nearly every man's wardrobe as the perfect jacket for more formal events or a classy night in the city. Fit is absolutely essential to nail with jackets like these and chances are that no suit/blazer/sports jacket will fit you right off the rack. I'd recommend putting forth a bit of extra money to get it tailored to your own body. The difference will feel unreal. If you really want to nail the look, look for a jacket with gold buttons or buy them separately. Blazers are typically made of wool, which may be too warm for certain climates; however, they're also made in more breathable cotton or linen fabrics.
Denim: To put it simply, there really aren't many situations where jeans fall out of place. As always, I recommend a slimmer cut of pant. Levi's 511 slim fit is my denim of choice. Lightwash is going to be very fashionable this season, especially if you're a fan of the cuffed look, perhaps the iconic style of spring/summer style. Of course, if you're not a fan of the lighter denim, darker wash variants will also work well. I recommend Levi's Rigid Dragon for a deep, true indigo. Regardless of wash or model, cuffing your denim is also a great way to flex some selvedge.
Chinos: Chinos (AKA khakis, though not always beige) are without a doubt the most versatile pants for the warmer weather. Not only do they come in every color on the visible spectrum, but chinos can be worn in nearly every context imaginable. I'd definitely recommend picking up several pairs in some brighter colors (khaki, blue, olive, gray, red, and white if you can rock 'em). I'd suggest Levi's 511 Slim Fit Chinos and Dockers Alpha Khakis - both offer solid quality-per-dollar and boast plenty of colors. Other notable, yet more expensive, brands include Bonobos, J Crew, Outlier (slim dungarees will change your life), Club Monaco, and Banana Republic. H&M also offers chinos, though I've had more than one pair rip through moderate wear, so be wary.
Shorts: Astoundingly, warmer weather encourages wearing shorts – so if you took a “one week break” from squats all winter, well now might be time jump back in. Now, there are many, many types of shorts, though I'll only be showcasing and recommending a single type as I think it's the most fashionable: the chino short. Simple, yet reliable, the chino shorts are the go-to short for menswear and most other areas of male fashion. Reserve your athletic shorts for lifting or running and your cargo shorts for never. There's a ton of hate for cargo shorts and although I'm personally not a fan, it's honestly become more of a meme than legitimate fashion advice. Slim fit cargoes can offer an interesting silhouette and a lot of pockets for storing snacks. Would I recommend you to wear baggy cargo shorts? No, but if you like them and they make you feel confident, then go for it.
One thing I'd like to clear up is the actual appropriate length for these types of shorts as the length (like the fit) can make or break your look. I'd recommend shooting for a 7", 8", 9" inseam, but height and weight definitely play a factor in this. I personally aim to have the bottom of my shorts rest at or just above my knee. Don't be afraid to show a little leg, but also don't be that guy, Brad.
Footwear is the category where personal preference plays the biggest part. I tried my best to choose simple, "universal" shoes for the spring season, but everyone has different tastes, especially in footwear. I chose shoes in neutral colorways because I believe that they're easiest to pair with other clothing articles, but feel free to modify this to better align with your personal style.
Boat shoes: Arguably the most iconic American footwear for warmer weather, boat shoes are typically constructed of canvas or leather, though you should always choose the latter. My personal preference is Sperry Topsider - they're the original manufacturer of boat shoes, and their 2-Eye Authentic Original in Sahara Leather is as spring a sit gets. I'd aim for a brown/tan leather model and steer clear of the tacky two-tone versions.
White sneakers: Offering a clean, minimalist look and great contrast for most outfits, a solid white sneaker is a men's wardrobe staple without a doubt. They're a perfect shoe choice for shorts, chinos, streaking, becoming an internet meme, and just about anything else. Adidas Stan Smiths are insanely popular right now as are Vans. Both these choices are relatively affordable at <$100. If your budget is a bit higher, you may be interested in white sneakers by GREATS or Common Projects.
Boots: Boots? In SPRING!? Actually, yeah. One boot specifically. The boots I'm choosing to include are Clarks Desert Boots because they were designed for hot and dry climates (hence desert) featuring a crepe sole and lightweight/breathable construction. Not to mention, they're an excellent choice to wear with chinos. CDB's also come in a 75+ colorways, so there's bound to be one that catches your eye. For spring, I'd recommend lighter colors like Oakwood, Amber Gold, Beeswax, and the ever popular Purple Camo Suede.
Oxford: Similarly to the navy blazer, this is yet another piece that will only be worth it if you actually wear it and it fits your wardrobe. This Bass Oxford (though resembling more of a Derby) is a sturdy, inexpensive casual shoe for nights out. I personally like the look of rolled-up pants with shoes like this.
Misc. sneakers: I included this category of shoe for more comfortable, casual looks and perhaps walking-intensive days. Despite its reputation as a "dad sneaker", New Balance actually makes some pretty fashionable sneakers; here's an inspiration album. If that's not your style, pretty much any padded sneaker will do. Some other quality choices are the Nike Air Pegasus and Nike Internationalists. Check out Reddit user asrakestraw’s guide to retro-style running shoes here if you want to learn more/be the cool dad at Little League.
The final category of this guide is an overview of springtime accessories. Chances are, you already own the majority of these things, but perhaps there are a couple things here that you may not have thought of.
Rucksack: This is essentially just a handsome backpack. I go in-depth on all sorts of bags and briefcases in my guide to men's bags. I personally love the look of this rucksack and it's a perfect bag for a day trip to the beach. Fjallraven also makes them in a ton of vibrant colors that are perfect for spring.
Belts: Okay, so this is a very simple category, yet it often doesn't receive the attention it deserves. Depending on your work, you wear a belt probably 300 days out of the year. So why not invest in a good one? I included two belts in the visual: a US-made, sturdy leather belt and a more preppy one. They obviously have different purposes, but I think both fit very well in a spring wardrobe.
Watch: I can't stress enough the importance of a man owning a watch. It absolutely doesn't need to be expensive whatsoever, but the look of a clean watch adds tons of style factor to any guy's look. Some inexpensive options include Timex and Daniel Wellington. Be warned that Timex Weekender are loud as hell. I actually have to stuff mine in a Spongebob sock in my drawer at night to mute the .308 caliber ticking. In the visual, I included some NATO straps, which I think are fantastic because you can totally change the look of your watch for only a few bucks. I swap out the strap on my watch whenever I get bored of it and it's like having a new watch altogether. They come in some nice color options as well - perfect for spring!
Bracelets: Bracelets are love 'em or hate 'em. I think there's definitely a place for certain bracelets in a man's wardrobe. They look great next to a watch and really help to pull off that slightly-preppy spring look, which some guys are all about.
No-show socks: If you have a pair of boat or other low-cut shoes, buy these. Trust me. Boat shoes are traditionally worn barefoot and lots of people do wear them this way. That's totally fine. Some may argue that it's never acceptable to wear socks with boat shoes; however, I think socks are acceptable if you're wearing pants and not short. Not wearing socks at all can lead to foot odor, and no one wants their shoes to smell like wet dog. No-show socks then are the best of both worlds. There low-cut socks will be your best friend if you love wearing your boat shoes often. Look at this photo, and you can see why it's important to have socks that are completely invisible under the actual boat shoe.