The Ultimate Guide to Spring Style for Men

The Ultimate Guide to Spring Style for Men

When it comes to spring clothes, it’s crucial you don’t make the mistake that many of my private clients make: thinking you can wear your fall wardrobe come March.

Sure, you might be able to get away with a few pieces during those cold transitional weeks.

But before you know it, full Spring has snuck up on you, and you’ll be sweating bullets during that important meeting for all the wrong reasons.

Don’t worry. Today I got your back.

In this style guide for Spring, I’m going to show you:

  • The 3 big style rules you need to follow this season
  • How to pick out your perfect Spring cologne
  • The secret to wearing colors, prints, and patterns without looking like an easter egg And more!

Head’s up!


I put together a mini 8 piece capsule wardrobe of my favorite Spring trends for you in a bonus guide! I also include ideas on how to wear them, and a shopping list of recommendations for all budgets.

The guide is completely complimentary! Just enter your info below to let me know where to send it.

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    PART 1:

    Here are my 3 big style rules to get you Spring ready

    Switch from flannel shirt to light breathable shirts


    Despite the occasional chilly night, those heavy wool blazers, cable knit sweaters, and thick cotton tees are gonna be overkill. It’s time to make a switch to spring fabrics.

    To help you out, here’s a list of terms to look out for when you’re shopping this season:

    Fabrics: Cotton, linen, silk
    Terms: Summer weight, Tech (a catch-all term for garments made of synthetic, breathable fabrics), Unlined/partially lined (lightening up on lining allows jackets and coats to be more breathable in hot weather), Moisture wicking

    Dark blue jeans vs light blue jeans


    Bright colors aren’t a thing for many of my private clients. For them, I recommend they go “Lighter, not brighter.”

    You don’t need to wear school bus yellow or leperchaun green in Spring to look colorful. A shade or two lighter in your neutrals can do wonders for your Spring color palette.

    Switch from dark indigo to a washed blue, or a dark grey to a lighter grey for an instant color hack.

    Spring layering outfit for men


    Spring weather can be unpredictable, so focus on layering pieces to keep you warm on those chilly days.

    Along with warmth, layering also gives your looks added depth, helping you stand out from the basic t-shirt and jeans look.

    If you need some help figuring out how to layer your pieces, I put together a post with outfit layering formulas, which you can check out here.

    While the post focuses on layering for the winter, you can use the same formulas for spring. Just swap in spring-appropriate pieces using Tips #1 and #2 above and you’ll be good to go!

    PART 2:


    We know what fabrics to look out for.

    We learned we don’t need to wear yellow to make our outfits look “colorful”

    It’s time to talk spring style swaps – because the last thing I want you wearing is a fur-lined parka and a flannel button-up when it’s 70 degrees outside!

    Parka coat vs mac coat

    Parkas and Wool Coats -> Mac 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 its actual 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.”

    The Mac is my spring style swap option for parkas, but they’re also great alternatives to wool topcoats when you want to look a bit dressed up or tailored.

    They’re light enough for the season, but retain a lot of the tailored details like the collar that overcoats have. Throw it over a button-down shirt and dress pants, and you’re ready for work.

    Khaki is a classic color, but you can find them in an array of swatches – from navy, black, and dark green, to even camo. I personally picked up one this spring in black and khaki.

    Entry Level:
    Uniqlo, $69
    Bonobos, $228
    Mackintosh, $1,045

    Fall sports coat to spring sports coat

    The Flannel Sports Coat -> The Unlined Sport Coat

    For your daily sports coat, a few things to consider.

    First, go with either a partial lining for some structure, or unlined entirely for a breathable, relaxed, more casual look. (I prefer unlined).

    Save the tweeds, flannels, and herringbones for Fall. Stick to lighter weight wools, linen, or cotton in solid colors.

    As a starting color, I recommend ditching turning up the lightness on navy. It’s an extremely versatile color option that’ll give your wardrobe a shot of color without going overboard.

    Entry Level:
    Uniqlo, $69
    Bonobos, $400
    The Ring Jacket, $1,100

    bomber jacket to harrington jacket

    Bomber Jackets -> Harrington Jacket

    The bomber has been having a moment for the last few years.

    It’s become the go-to casual jacket for a good reason. It’s easy to throw on, and thanks to high-end designers giving their spin on it, it’s been elevated to be appropriate for business casual looks.

    This season I offer you another option: The Harrington Jacket.

    Made famous by James Dean, it’s the perfect versatile spring jacket.

    It occupies that sweet spot in-between formal and casual. It’s more casual than a sports coat, and a bit more formal than a denim jacket. You can comfortably wear this to work or out to grab a drink with friends.

    As for what color to get, I’d stay away from Mr. Dean’s famous red and go for navy or black.

    Entry Level:
    Uniqlo, $49
    Bonobos, $168
    Salle Privée, $620

    flannel shirt to linen shirt

    Flannel Shirts -> Breathable Button-downs

    Flannel actually describes the material, a brushed fabric that’s soft and warm (the pattern is called plaid).

    While it’s perfect for those cold winter days, it feels and looks out of place in the warmer months.

    This is the perfect time to switch to more breathable fabrics like cotton and linen when it comes to your button-downs.

    I recommend getting a good set of solids in white, grey, and light blue before you venture out into stripes or patterns.

    Entry Level:
    Uniqlo, $29
    Bonobos, $88
    Officine Generale, $290

    Difference between button-up and button-down shirt


    You might have seen shirts labeled “Button-ups” and “Button-downs” and paid no mind, but they’re actually two different styles of shirts.

    The term “button-down” is used to describe the collar – which buttons down to the body.

    Button-down shirts are generally considered the casual option now, often cut shorter to be styled untucked and made with more casual fabrics.

    Button-ups will be made with crisper fabrics to maintain a professional look, with longer cuts designed to be tucked in.

    While you can wear button-downs with suits and button-ups with, say, a Harrington jacket, I generally recommend pairing button-ups with formal looks like suits, and button-downs with your casual outfits.

    Button-down I recommend: Bonobos Button-Down Shirts, $88

    The Essential Man Trick #23: If you want to instantly figure out if something is “casual” or “formal,” follow this rule: The more details an item has, the more likely it’s more casual. In this case, the added buttons on the collars mean it’s more casual.

    fall wool sweater vs cotton sweater

    Chunky wool sweaters -> Cotton sweaters

    A fine 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 fine thin merino wool could also do the trick, but expect to pay a premium for fine spring merino.

    Be careful with pure cashmere, as its thinness can be deceptively insulating.

    You can find cashmere blended with fibers like cotton, which will tone down the warmth while retaining the airy, ultra-soft properties of cashmere.

    For colors, start with a classic grey before branching out to another neutral like camel, or if you’re feeling trendy, a soft pink.

    Entry Level:
    Uniqlo, $19
    Bonobos, $98
    Margaret Howell, $415

    dark wash jean to light wash jeans

    Dark Selvedge Denim -> Lighter Washed Denim

    I love the concept of breaking in a raw pair of selvedge denim, 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 are brutal.

    When it’s lunchtime beers, table outside kind of weather, I want a bit more comfort. This is where washed denim comes in.

    Light wash denims don’t actually get their color by dying them lighter. All denim start raw. They’re then treated with chemicals, hand sanding, rolling them in big drums with stones. (Hence, stone washed denim!)

    Think of this like speed aging. These extra steps are why treated denim costs more. (More work to create = more money). But what you get in exchange for that premium is that perfect worn-in feel of jeans you’ve owned for years.

    Entry Level:
    Uniqlo, $39
    Polo Ralph Lauren, $90
    Mr. P, $280

    wool trousers to cotton trousers


    What’s the difference between a formal cotton trouser and, say, a cotton chino?

    Chinos come off a bit more casual, particularly in the choice of fabrics and details – like the cut of the side pockets. (Chinos will usually have more angled pockets, while formal trousers are closer to the side seam.)

    A formal cotton trouser is simply a suit trouser made in cotton instead of wool.

    You get that crispness and cut you want for a pant you’d wear to an important meeting, complete with that pressed seam down the front, but in breathable, comfortable cotton.

    My favorite formal cotton trouser for the past year is the Weekday warrior’s from Bonobos, which have added stretch for an incredibly flattering, comfortable cut.

    Start with the usually neutral colors like navy, black, olive, and grey before you venture out.

    You can also find these pants in cotton blends (like cotton-linen), which create unique textures, drapes, and add to the breathability. For now, I recommend sticking to pure cotton.

    Entry Level:
    Bonobos, $98
    Salle Privée, $330
    Dries Van Note, $475

    Man dressed in spring outfit
    Photo by Asia Typek for Highsnobiety


    So you’ve made your Spring swaps. Awesome. It’s time to arm you with some styling tips for your bag of tricks. Here are some essential articles from the archives…


    3 shoes for every mans wardrobe. Loafer, grey sneaker, brown chukka


    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).
    Buy: Thursday Boots Loafers, $170

    The Gray Sneaker
    Everything you love about a minimalist white sneaker with a touch more warmth and color. What does this mean? You’ll stand out from all the guys still on the minimalist white sneaker trend.
    Buy: Vans, $65

    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 lets people know you’re a guy with good style.
    Buy: Thursday Boots Chukka, $149

    Steve McQueen riding a motorcycle with white socks
    Steve McQueen. Motorcycle. White socks. How can you get any cooler?


    Despite what many fashion blogs or youtube channels preach about avoiding trends, I don’t think that’s any way to live.

    Trends exist in all areas of our lives. Sticking to classic style rules is kinda like never going to the movies ever again because Bela Lugosi’s Dracula is enough for you as a horror fan. (I’m personally excited about Somer)

    This brings me to my recent change of heart when it comes to white socks.

    Yes, white socks have come back into fashion thanks to the rise of 90s trends the last couple years, but I prefer to see it as a throwback to men’s style of the 50s. You know, cool pomped haired guys wearing loafers with white socks.

    Are you missing anything out if you decide you still can’t jump on the white sock train this season? No.

    But if you do decide to try it out and find it’s not for you, at least you’ll have something to wear to the gym while you work on that summer six pack.

    Buy: White socks by Uniqlo, $2.90

    Fall cologne to spring cologne


    There’s a mental shift your mind goes through when you start a new season.

    Some things just don’t fit in spring. Hot Toddy’s. Thick wool socks. And probably the cologne you’ve been wearing for the past 6 months.

    It’s time to put away that cologne that makes you smell like you’ve been locked in a cabin and get something fresh.

    I reached out to Rachel Beider, 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.

    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.

    (Editor’s note: Vetiver can be described 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: Cheap stuff also wears off quickly, so people tend to over apply.

    They should be avoided because they tend to have an overpowering projection (too strong) and annoying silage (the trail that scent leaves behind you).

    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 nuzzling and embracing quality.

    Some cologne 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 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. 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 ray@raymondmatts.com)
    • Escentric Molecules: Molecule 1
      Sandalwood, cedar, fresh. $135, Barneys.com
    • Comme Des Garcons: Hinoki
      Incense, moss, dry fresh wood. $120, Needsupply.com
    • Scotch and Soda: Barfly
      Citrus-herb, lavender, sandalwood. $55, Scotch-soda.com
    • DS & Durga: Burning Barbershop
      Lime, spruce, lavender, hay. $175, Todd Snyder
    Men on a beach wedding


    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, Semi-Formal, 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.

    Buy: Jetsetter Stretch Suit in Grey by Bonobos, $550

    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 reservations, anniversary gifts, 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. If you want to go cummerbundless, make sure your tuxedo trousers have a higher rise to cover up any shirt peekage.

    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.”

    Buy: Washington Tuxedo by Suit Supply, $799

    If the invite says: Beach, Casual

    Wear: A light colored summer-weight (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 cool, light shade of blue.

    Keep it crisp with a classic cotton oxford shirt (linen could work too for a particularly warm day), but lose the tie.

    Brown plays particularly well with blue, add a bit of visual texture by choosing a suede lace up or loafer.

    And remember the rule when going “sockless”: make sure your invisible socks match your shoes.

    Buy: Ludlow Suit by J.Crew, $270

    Don’t forget to get your bonus!


    I put together a mini 8 piece capsule wardrobe of my favorite Spring trends for you in a bonus guide! I also include ideas on how to wear them, and a shopping list of recommendations for all budgets.

    The guide is completely complimentary! Just enter your info below to let me know where to send it.

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