After a bitter winter, who wouldn't welcome some warmer weather?
The time has come to store away the chunky wool sweaters, hang up the heavy coats, and bring out the springtime clothing arsenal as we thaw out from the chilly winter. This brief guide aims to help you construct a basic, yet versatile spring wardrobe in preparation for the warmer months. I must note, however, 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.
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 fits. 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.
Though spring brings warmth and general happiness (if you don't have allergies), it my 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. I briefly touched up on the different materials in my cold-weather wardrobe guide, so I'll re-purpose the information below. I also chose to include long sleeve, non-button shirts since I think they fit into the same category.
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. I've had very good experience with chambray shirts from J Crew, Banana Republic, and Levi's.
Linen: Made from the fibers of the flax plant and laborious (and therefore expensive) to manufacture, 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. Since linen is usually associated with the warmer months, it's advisable to buy linen shirts in more vibrant colors like light blue, lime green, and orange; however, you can never go wrong with neutrals either. For a truly versatile wardrobe, a man 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.
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.
Oxford: A basketweave cloth 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: light blue, white (can never have too many white button downs), and light green - aim for neutral, plain colors as they're easiest to wear with other clothes and busier patterns.
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. These look best in neutral colors, but feel free to experiment with some brighter colors. I'm personally a fan of the American Apparel henleys, though note that they're a cotton/poly blend.
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 French Connection and J Crew. These look awesome with a pair of dark denim.
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. Personally, I think short-sleeve button downs are a spring outfit staple. 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 your personal style, you may enjoy the offerings of Polo by Ralph Lauren.
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 superior quality denim jacket, 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 amazing jacket, make sure to size down as they run large.
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. A lower budget (yet also effective) option with a broader color selection is the Charles River (great for wind and light rain). I'd recommend an anorak/parka in a bright, nautical-inspired color like blue, orange, or green to reinforce that classic look.
Bomber: This is a style of jacket that not every guy can get behind or in (heh), but terrible jokes aside I think it's a great-looking category of jacket suitable for tons of different looks. Bomber jackets, named for their use by WWI bomber pilots (old planes didn't have closed cockpits, so pilots wore then to stay warm), are available in plenty 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 and have gained considerable popularity in the streetwear community. This is definitely optional and should fit into your own personal style.
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 linen fabrics.
Even though this is a wardrobe guide intended for the warmer months, I'm going to focus mainly on pants as they seem most appropriate for the climate where I live. I will, however, include a couple different types of shorts along with a brief note on selecting and wearing the best type.
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 pull them off). I'd suggest Levi's 511 Slim Fit Chinos and Dockers Alpha Khakis - both are great quality-per-dollar and offer plenty of colors. Other notable, yet more expensive, brands include Bonobos, J Crew, Outlier, Club Monaco, and Banana Republic. H&M also offers chinos, though I've had several pairs rip through moderate wear, so be wary.
Shorts: hope you didn't skip leg day. In the US, warmer temperatures mean shorts – so if you took a “one week break” from squats all winter, well, now might be time restart. 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 sects of 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 agree with a fair amount of it, it's honestly become more of a meme than legitimate fashion advice. Slim fit cargos can offer an interesting silhouette and a lot of practicality. Would I recommend you to wear baggy cargo shorts? Absolutely not; however, if you like them and they make you feel confident, then go for it. Remember the reasons you choose to dress well. Back to the topic at hand, I'd endorse chino shorts because when paired with a nice button down, they're a perfect look for the warm weather. Like chinos, they come in tons of different colors.
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" or 9" inseam, but height and weight definitely play a factor in this. Just like regular chinos, practically every brand carries their own variant of chino shorts, and a lot of them fit differently than each other. My top picks include J Crew, Bonobos, and Levi's.
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 I'm certain these won't fit for everyone. 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 coincide 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. Otherwise, check out Sebago, Timberland, and Rancourt. 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 Kent Wang 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 definitely recommend lighter colors like Oakwood, Amber Gold, Beeswax, and 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. Do note that Timex Weekender are loud as hell. I actually have to stuff mine in a 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!
Sunglasses: Honestly, any basic sunglasses will get the job done, so don't feel as though you have to spend the big bucks on designer sunglasses (totally fine if you do). If you're most concerned about sunglasses as eye protection as opposed to a fashion statement, I'd recommend looking into polarized lenses. I do, however, really like the look of the classic Ray-Ban Wayfarers. Something to note is that Luxottica, the brand's owner, has an actual (debatable I suppose) monopoly in the sunglasses industry. They've been accused of questionable business practices in the past but also own Ray-Ban, Oakley, Persol, Lenscrafters and Sunglass Hut. In addition, Luxottica is licensed to make sunglasses for essentially every big-name designer. If you want a nice pair, I'd consider doing your own research on the brand before you buy. I'm not gonna go much deeper on the subject, but you can read more about it here (Forbes).
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 shoes, buy these. Do it. Just... do it. This might be the only item I've ever explicitly said is needed. 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.