Spring is a magical time for style: You get the best of Fall and the best of Summer. Warm enough where you don’t have to be bundled in 30 layers of clothes, yet breezy enough to enjoy all the great outerwear pieces men’s fashion has to offer.
In this ultimate guide, I’m going to show you
- Fall to Spring style swaps you need to make now
- My 3 favorite spring shoes you need to add to your wardrobe
- The secret to wearing colors like pink without looking like an easter egg
- And more! (Including my personal wardrobe this spring)
THE ESSENTIAL MAN RULES OF SPRING STYLE
Seasonal changes can sneak up on you.
As I write this right now, it’s early April, 35 degrees, and raining. On the day I post this, I’ll most likely wake up to a 70 degree sunny day.
In my younger years, I never distinguished the difference between Fall and Spring style. Growing up in California, it just meant not wearing a jacket on occasion.
Spring occupies that middle ground where it’s not cold enough to wear your fall stuff, but not hot enough to lounge around in a t-shirt and shorts.
To get you started, here are my 3 rules for amazing spring style:
1. GET LIGHTER
I’m not talking losing some weight (though summer is just around the corner. Better start on that summer bod now).
Despite the moderate days and occasionally chilly nights, those fall weight wool blazers, cable knit sweaters, and heavyweight cotton tees need to be put away.
It’s time for unlined blazers and suit, summer weight denims, and cotton. (Don’t worry, I’ll be talking about specific fall to spring swaps you should be making next.) It might be too chilly right now for linen, but you can prepare for summer heat waves by picking up some linen shirts and layering t-shirts underneath them.
2. GET BRIGHTER
Look, I’m not a huge color guy either. Even I know that unless you’ve dedicated your life to the goth ninja aesthetic, it’s time to brighten up your look now that the sun’s out. Turn up the brightness of your blues, add some colorful prints and graphics, and dip your toes in pastels. (Don’t worry, I’ll show you how a bit later)
3. GET LAYERED
Spring style is the perfect time to have the best style of fall (layers and outerwear) without the downsides of summer (gross humid heat where you’re regulated to just t-shirt and shorts)
If you follow rule 1, go lighter, on chilly days and most nights you can create amazing stylish, layered outfits, without turning into a walking sauna.
THIS FOR THAT: 7 STYLE FALL TO SPRING STYLE SWAPS YOU SHOULD MAKE
The Fall Suits -> The Lighter (And Brighter) Suit
Cotton is often the fabric of choice for suits when the weather starts warming up as it’s extremely breathable. But spring is still a great time to wear crisp wool suits, but when it comes to fabric and color choice, it’s time to lighten up.
Save the tweeds, flannels, and herringbones for next Fall. Stick to lighter weight wools with light (or no) lining. The sun’s out too, it’s time to ditch muddy browns and dark palettes – turning up the brightness on navy – like J.Crew’s “Blue Atlantic”, will give your wardrobe a shot of color without going overboard.
When it comes to cotton suits, khaki is a seasonal favorite colorway. If that’s not your thing (and it totally isn’t for me), you won’t have trouble finding a classic navy option.
Parkas -> MacKintosh Coats
Mackintosh coats get their names from Charles Macintosh, a Scottish chemist who created a waterproof fabric by fusing two fabrics together with natural rubber. While you might not be familiar with it’s true name, there’s no doubt you’ve seen this classic raincoat trench before.
Since “Mackintosh” is also the name of the brand that still makes the iconic coats since its creation in the mid 1800s, you’ll often find other designers creating similar styles and calling them “Macs”.
Khaki is a classic color, but you can find them in an array of swatches – from navy, black, and dark green, to even camo.
Dark Selvedge Denim -> Lighter Washed Denim
I love the concept of breaking in a raw pair of selvedge denim and creating a 100% unique pair of jeans you’ll keep forever. But if you ever went through the process, you know the first few months can be the toughest.
When it’s lunch time beers/table outside kind of weather, I want a bit more comfort. This is where lighter wash denim comes in.
Light wash denims don’t actually get their color by dying them lighter. They all, in fact, start as raw denim and then are treated with chemicals, hand sanding, and drying techniques like rolling them stones, for a worn in look and feel. Think of this like speed aging. These extra steps is why treated denim costs more. (More work to create = more money).
Flannel Shirts -> Breathable Button-ups
Flannel actually describes the fabric, a brushed fabric that’s soft and warm (the pattern is called plaid). While it’s perfect for those cold winter days, it’s can feel and look out of place come spring. This is the perfect time to switch to more breathable fabrics like cotton and linen when it comes to your button-ups. I recommend getting a good set of solids before you venture out into prints like madras.
Chunky wool sweaters -> Cotton sweaters
A cotton sweater is a perfect item for layering on chilly days without ending up in a pool of sweat. It’s breathable and stays cool. A thin merino wool could also do the trick, but spring definitely isn’t time for that thick lambswool piece you wore to cozy up with your snow day date. That’s also a no for cashmere too, which is deceptively warm and insulating despite its thinness. For colors, you can go for a classic grey, a neutral like the mushroom, or if you’re feeling trendy, a soft pink.
Bomber Jackets -> Denim Jackets
The bomber has been having a moment for the last few years. It’s become the go-to casual jacket for good reason. It’s easy to throw on and wear, and thanks to high end designers giving their spin on it, has elevated it, taking it beyond it’s military origins.
This season though, I’m pushing for a denim jacket comeback. To put it simply, I’m sick of seeing so many bomber jackets on guys. It’s like the undercut of jackets. While a blazer might be too dressed up for a lot of guys, if you’re looking for another classic casual jacket to take the place of your bomber, grab a denim jacket.
Darker shades (black or raw indigo) are great when you want to look a bit more serious (like on a dinner date), while washed and distressed ones give off a more casual vibe in the spirit of spring.
Fall Colognes ->Fresh Colognes
There’s a mental shift your mind goes through when you start a new season. Suddenly, the thought of hot toddy’s, scarves, and beanies repulse you.
Some things just don’t fit in spring, and that includes your cologne. It’s time to put away that cologne that makes you smell like you’ve been locked in a cabin for the last 3 months and get fresh.
I reached out to Rachel Beider. She’s a certified aromatherapist and owner of Massage Williamsburg and Massage Greenpoint. She’s studied scent at Cinquieme Sens at Pratt, NY Institute of Aromatherapy, and in Botanical Perfumery. And she’s here to help you pick the perfect scent and drop some cologne 101 on you.
Q. Most guys I’ve talked to haven’t considered wearing different scents for different seasons. They just find a scent and wear it all the time. Can you give us a quick primer on what makes a scent “Fall/Winter” vs “Spring/Summer”
Rachel: I prefer warmer scents for cooler weather, and more uplifting or refreshing scents during warmer seasons.
For Winter, [you’ll find] lots of dry wood, spicy vetiver, and peppery notes, like elemi. (Editors note: Vetiver can be describe as smelling like earth/soil/dry grass)
In summer, I like notes of lime and bergamot, clean cotton and linen, and sexier woods like Brazilian Copaiba or even light florals like linden blossom. These can round out any scent.
(Editor’s note: bergamot smells like earl grey tea: sweet with a hint of citrus)
Q. What do you get when you buy less expensive cologne vs investing in high quality cologne? Is there a notable difference?
Rachel: Very inexpensive scents should be avoided because they tend to have overpowering projection (too strong) and annoying silage (the trail that scent leaves behind you). Cheap stuff also wears off quickly so people tend to over apply.
Q. What do guys absolutely do wrong when it comes to their cologne?
Rachel: The over application of scent is my biggest no no. Scent should draw you in, not repel you. It should have a very nuzzling and embracing quality.
Some do’s and don’ts:
- Don’t use too much! Your neighbors shouldn’t be able to smell you.
- Don’t spray it on your wrists. The idea about spraying fragrance on your wrists was started by department stores. Every time you grab a new item of clothing and check it out, the motion wafts the wrist scent toward your direction. They want you to keep smelling it as you shopped and entice you into buying.
- Spraying in the air and walking through is a bit of a waste.
To start, I’d suggest ONE spray onto your shirtless chest, or ONE spray between the shoulder blades. (Just reach over your head and spray towards your shoulder blades.)
I like scents on the back for a man, because when I go to give them a hug, I get a whiff of their scent from over their shoulder. It’s not too overwhelming.
Be cautious about the neck (especially if you’re on a potentially amorous date – no one wants a mouthful of scent).
Q. What colognes / cologne traits do you absolutely HATE and think men should stop wearing?
Rachel: I’m not a fan of scents containing dihydromyrcenol, which is a lemony, sharp, bleachy smell found in many “sport” colognes.
(Some colognes that have dihydromyrcenol: Davidoff Cool Water, Acqua di Gio, Ralph Lauren Polo Sport.)
Q. Ok, one of the things I like to do at The Essential Man is bust stupid style myths, like using the color wheel to learn how to mix colors. One I’ve never quite believed was the idea that colognes can smell different on you based on your body chemistry. I’m not sure if I believe it. I mean, Acqua Di Gio smells the same on every dude on his way to a club in the Meatpacking. Is there any truth to this?
Rachel: Not true.
Scents will last longer if your skin is more oily than dry, so that may have something to do with it.
Another myth is that you should smell coffee beans between testing fragrances – but that actually only adds one more confusing scent to process. Better to smell the clean sleeve of your shirt to reset your palate.
Rachel’s Favorite Spring Colognes for Men
From top, left to right:
- Raymond Matts: Tulile (fresh, green, citrus, polywood). $200 (contact Raymond Matts at firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Escentric Molecules: Molecule 1 (sandalwood, cedar, fresh), $60, Barneys.com
- Comme Des Garcons: Hinoki (incense, moss, dry fresh wood), $120, Nordstroms.com
- Scotch and Soda: Barfly (citrus-herb, lavender, sandalwood), $55, Scotch-soda.com
- DS & Durga: Burning Barbershop (lime, spruce, lavender, hay) $155, dsanddurga.com
WHAT I’M GETTING THIS SPRING (AND HOW I’M WEARING IT)
This spring, I’m stepping out of my own comfort zones and adding new, challenging pieces to my look, including lighter washed jeans, printed button-ups, and pink t-shirts!
But if looking at the layout above intimidates you, don’t worry. Here’s how you can seamlessly incorporate these spring pieces into your style and still look amazing.
LOOK 1: The Suede Leather Jacket
A classic black leather jacket is a true essential for a man’s wardrobe, but sometimes it can come off a little too strong. (Translation: You look like you’re trying too hard to look cool.)
There’s nothing wrong with that, but something can be said for going for a more effortless, subdued vibe. A suede leather jacket is the perfect choice in this case, it gives your look some much needed texture, shows people you’re a guy with some taste, and, if you choose one like the gentleman above in a light brown, gives your look some much needed color.
I know what you’re thinking, white socks with loafers? But that’s actually a classic way to wear them, think James Dean and the 50s. (Jelly roll hairstyle completely optional.)
LOOK 2: The Short Sleeve Print Shirt
Even if you think you can pull off a print shirt, all guys get a bit of a pass when the weather heats up. As long as you style make it the star of your outfit and keep the rest of your look minimal. Don’t pair it up with a graphic t-shirt and a bold colorful sneaker.
You can do Bobby Cannavale does above and rock it with a tank top (plain white t-shirt is fine too), and go with lighter pants to keep your look in line with spring’s bright vibes. And if you decide to bare some ankle, make sure you save your feet and wear some matching invisible socks.
LOOK 3: Tone on Tone
Here’s an interesting, more serious take on spring style. The key to doing a dark outfit in spring is to make sure your pieces and fabrics are spring appropriate: unlined blazer, cotton pique polo, lightweight chino. This outfit could easily work in any other single color, like black, but the blue adds a spring touch without going cliché spring pastel.
As much as I admire Nami Man’s boldness with his patterned loafers, I’m going to play it a bit more classic and safe with a pair of black ones.
LOOK 4: My Secret to Wearing Pink (Without Looking Like an Easter Egg)
Pink is making a comeback this season, especially for men. It’s not as tricky as it seems to incorporate it into a look.
They secret is to first make sure you choose a softer shade of pink, no hot pink allowed.
Then think of it as a replacement for white pieces in your wardrobe. Wherever you would wear something that’s white, you can swap in a pink piece.
The gentleman’s look above is a perfect example. His look could easily work (but look a bit boring) with a white oxford shirt. The sample look I created is the same: would work perfect with a plain white t-shirt, but looks a bit more interesting with a soft pink one instead.
Last, make the pink piece the highlight and stick to a mostly neutral outfit. If you start mixing a soft pink shirt with pastel yellow, you’ve gone full easter egg. There’s no helping you.
So if you’re looking to add pink to your style this spring, just think: if you wouldn’t wear white pants, don’t reach for those pink chinos.
3 SHOES YOU NEED FOR SPRING
The Penny Loafer: The grown-up alternative to Van slip-ons that work just as well with jeans as they do suits. Go with either black or brown (I’m personally going with black this season). Shown here: J.Crew Penny Loafer, $288
The Gray Sneaker: Everything you love about a minimalist white sneaker with a touch more warmth and color. What this means? You’ll stand out from all the guys still on the minimalist white sneaker trend. Shown here: Vans, $75
The Chukka boot: Once you put on your first pair of suede shoes, you wonder how you went so long without it. It’s a little hard to explain, but it’s almost like magic. Suede draws your eyes in with its texture, almost inviting people to touch it. It’s that final 10% that let’s people know you’re a guy with good style. Shown here: J.Crew, $198
HOW TO SURVIVE A SPRING WEDDING IN STYLE
Ah, the spring wedding. You know it’s coming, and yet every year you get overwhelmed about what to wear. But it’s not as tough as it seems, chances are you already have the perfect look in your closet.
Here are 3 spring wedding outfits that’ll cover 99% of your dress code conundrums this season.
If the invite says: Dressy, Semiformal, Not specified
Wear: Your best grey suit with spring colors
Chances are you have a grey suit in your closet that’s perfect for most weddings. Here, we brighten up the look a bit with a blue shirt and take a bit of a risk by going with a lighter tie. A white pocket square can work here, but don’t be afraid to use this small space to add a bit more spring color to your look. A pair of derbys with invisible socks freshen up this look and add a bit more detail. If you don’t have derby’s, your oxfords will work perfectly fine here.
If the invite says: Black tie, Black tie optional
Wear: A proper tuxedo
Life pro-tip: Whenever something is listed as “optional”, it’s not optional. That includes gifts, reservations, and tuxedos.
When it comes to tuxedos, I’m a traditionalist. I lean more towards peak lapel just because I love them more than shawl collars. Covered buttons, tuxedo shirt with french cuffs, bow tie, knee high socks, patent leather oxfords, and yes, a cummerbund. Sure, some magazines might suggest a cummerbund is old fashioned, but I think it’s a bad look when you have a bit of white shirt peeking out from under your jacket. To learn more about wearing a proper tuxedo, I highly recommend this hilarious and spot on piece on Bloomberg “The 10 Commandments of the Tuxedo”
If the invite says: Beach, Casual
Wear: A light colored summerweight (cotton or linen) suit
The hallmark of spring weddings: the beach wedding. To avoid marinating the entire ceremony in your own sweat, go with an unlined or partially lined suit in a breathable fabric. My fabric of choice? Linen in a nice, light shade of blue. Keep it crisp with a classic cotton oxford shirt (linen could work too if you want to stay extra cool), but lose the tie. Brown plays particularly well with blue, add a bit of visual interest by choosing a suede lace up. And remember the rule when going “sockless”: make sure your invisible socks match your shoes.
WHAT TO DO NEXT: SURVIVE HOT WEATHER IN STYLE AND DOWNLOAD MY FREE SUMMER STYLE GUIDE
Just like spring, summer can creep up on you fast. Get a headstart and download my FREE summer style guide. You’ll learn:
- How wearing LESS clothes can make you FEEL HOTTER! (And what to do instead)
- 13 MUST HAVE ESSENTIALS every man needs in his summer wardrobe
- THE ONE SIMPLE TRICK to wearing more color (even if you’re “not a color guy”)