Aside from athleisure and the occasional mankle, on the whole fashion portmanteaus represent the worst aspects of getting dressed – think ‘mewellery’ or ‘meggings’ and shudder.
Even worse, though, is ‘sprinter’ – the no man’s land between March and May when we regularly experience winter, spring and summer all in a single day. So really it should be called something like ‘wintringer’, but that just sounds weird.
Thankfully, there are a few staples that can help make heading out during this awkward period a cakewalk. As always, it’s the classic pieces that do it best, so here are 12 items from the menswear hall of fame to stock up on right now.
Having been around since the start of the 20th century and with countless cultural associations to its name, the denim jacket has more than earned the title of wardrobe staple.
Despite being an inherently cool all-season essential, former Topman creative director Gordon Richardson says there are three key washes to look out for in the months ahead. “Whether it’s acid wash, frayed, or overdyed, use the denim jacket to dress down or smarten up.” Just stay away from the Canadian tuxedo.
Few items give casual looks a rugged, outdoorsy vibe like an overshirt. Created for tough-as-nails men like railroad engineers, miners and lumberjacks, you can expect a hardwearing fabric that is just the right weight to be warm, without feeling bulky.
Tiger of Sweden’s menswear product manager, James Morgan-Jee, says the utilitarian piece is perfect for dealing with flip-flopping weather. “With the boundaries between the seasons becoming increasingly blurred, the overshirt is the perfect hybrid style. With boxier proportions and a generous cut, it is perfect for layering over the top of a T-shirt or lightweight knitwear.”
Desert boots. Chukka boots. Whatever you call them, this classic and versatile staple has walked all over time and trends for more than seven decades. Originally worn by British military troops, the style is typified by smart suede or leather uppers and a hardwearing but lightweight rubber-crepe sole, making them one of the most adaptable footwear options available.
“The perfect smart casual shoe, desert boots work harmoniously with a pair of jeans and a crisp white button-down,” says The Idle Man deputy editor Tom Courcey. “While working with chinos, desert boots can be transformed to more formal looks with ease.”
Nothing offers a face-based style upgrade quite like a pair of sunglasses. To nail the frame game, pick a classic pair that complements your face shape but also experiment with various materials and colours.
“Apart from the obvious practicalities of wearing sunglasses in the sunshine, they are the perfect accessory to update any outfit,” says ASOS head of menswear design James Lawrence, who adds that retro-inspired tortoiseshell frames and coloured lenses are a fresh choice for spring.
Hoodies may have been at the forefront of the sport and streetwear scene for decades, but thanks to options in premium fabrics, they can also be more luxe than layabout. Opt for a slim profile to keep it from looking too slouchy while retaining the same throw-on-and-go appeal.
For spring, Richardson suggests switching lanes when it comes to colour. “Brighter shades and soft pastel hues will keep you cool as the temperature rises. Pair with a denim jacket or longline coat for a casual but contemporary look.”
A power player of the cool-weather wardrobe, merino wool is prized for its soft and insulating handle that’s also more resistant to odour than synthetic fabrics, should things heat up beyond expectations. Put to work as a fine knit, a crew neck example is perfect for dressing down a suit or adding depth to a layered weekend look.
“Rather like a white T-shirt, a simple crew neck sweater is one of those wardrobe staples that just works hard whether you wear it on its own or layered over a mock-neck T-shirt, a small collared shirt or even a roll neck,” says MatchesFashion men’s style director Simon Chilvers.
Nothing says “Come at me, spring” quite like a lightweight raincoat that’s more robust than it looks. Ideal for staying sharp, even in a shower, a mac features a more streamlined profile, resulting in a stylish shell that’s less bulky than traditional overcoats.
Reiss head of menswear design Alex Field agrees: “Practical, lightweight and perfect for the spring, the mac is an essential piece that looks just as good paired with a formal outfit as it does with more casual looks – either way you can’t go wrong.”
An outfit is only as good as its weakest link, so get the basics right. A white T-shirt is unequivocally timeless (need we mention Messrs Dean and Brando?) and lays a solid foundation for any simple and stylish casual outfit.
“Nothing is more classic than the white T-shirt – it’s timeless and easy to layer,” says Field. “It’ll always look great with a jacket or a shirt – the staple that you can’t own enough of.”
When you’re looking to bring an air of cool comfort to a smart look, an unstructured blazer never fails to deliver. Cut from naturally breathable and lightweight fabrics like cotton and linen, and left unlined to contour to the body, it’s a piece that looks equally good thrown over an Oxford shirt or T-shirt.
“These jackets have less layers of construction and are softer in the shoulder, so in essence have a more relaxed fit,” says Mr Porter buying manager Sam Kershaw. “As a result, they lend themselves to layering and open up more wardrobe combinations for both in and outside of the office, making them an ideal smart casual option as we move into summer.”
There’s always a place for jeans in a man’s wardrobe, but as temperatures rise it pays to lighten up with a pair of breezy chinos. Opt for a timeless neutral shade such as stone or navy for an excellent everyday option.
“What makes chinos such a staple year in year out is their versatility,” says Giles Farnham, head of River Island’s Style Studio service. “It’s all in how you wear them and how you pair them. School colleagues by donning a white Oxford shirt, unstructured blazer and suede brogues, or leave the blazer in the office, roll up the trousers and presto – you’re pub-ready.”
Rain: completely unpredictable at this time of the year but you know it’s coming sooner or later. Luckily, dressing for showers doesn’t have to mean a dark cloud over your style. An umbrella, particularly a small folding example that’ll fit neatly into a backpack, is a sound choice until summer arrives.
The experts at Fulton suggest using an umbrella as an extension of a look. “You can’t go wrong when adding a classic black umbrella to a workwear wardrobe or if you fancy more colour, a stylish checked umbrella.”
One of the more recent entries to the menswear hall of fame, minimalist trainers will serve as a hard-working addition to any existing off-duty wardrobe. Look for a sleek, wipe-clean pair in white leather that will work equally well with slim-fit jeans or a tailored suit.
“Spotless white trainers are the footwear choice of the season,” says Lawrence. “They will make a summer wedding suit look effortless and go with both denim and chinos in all different shades of colour.”
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