Your Spring Wardrobe Switch-Up
Gentlemen, it’s time to put away the cashmere – the essential updates you need for the new season
As the British theologian Mr Thomas Fuller noted in 1650: “The darkest hour of the night comes just before the dawn.” While Mr Fuller probably wasn’t talking about the life-affirming changes that pass through our wardrobes following the arrival of spring, he could have been. It’s in the final weeks of winter, when a man’s grown fed up with wearing heavy clothes, that he’s closest to the sartorial pleasures of the new season.
That said, it’s all very well shedding last season’s garments, but what’s going to take their place? Of course, by August, the wheel will have turned again, and while we’re sweating on the way to work, we’ll be dreaming of cool mornings and the opportunity to wear a tweed jacket and a rollneck sweater. Right now, however, late summer is a long way off, and we’re desperate to cast aside the thick socks, chunky boots, heavy knits and heavier coats that have sustained us through the past five months.
It’s out with the old, in with the new as we introduce the 11 garments we most look forward to retiring, and the 11 that will take their place.
Switch flannel for lightweight wool
Despite our affection for the rumpled elegance of a grey flannel suit, we’ve reached that point in the year when we’re keen to drop it into the waiting arms of the dry cleaner for an end-of-season refresh. And as soon as we do, we’ll be reaching for a crisp blue mohair. A blue two-piece suit is extremely versatile, and appropriate whether you are dressing for a day chipping away at the corporate coal face, or for a dinner date. Mohair’s slight sheen works particularly well in the evening, taking on a lustrous quality in the low light.
Switch hiking boots for boat shoes
This past season, nothing has felt as right with jeans as vintage-style hiking boots and thick, patterned socks. Now it’s time to give those Viberg boots a much-needed clean, and put them away until the autumn. In their place, we’ll be going sock-free in boat shoes, and enjoying the feeling of fresh air around our ankles and soft leather against our feet. This burgundy pair works well with dark blue jeans, and if socks are required, there’s only one colour to go for: white.
Switch trackpants for shorts
Most of us have been enjoying the comfort of trackpants over the hibernation months, either as weekend wear or just to go to and from the gym. Whether inspired by vintage sportswear (think unadorned heavy grey marl) or the logo-intensive 1990s fashions that are enjoying such a revival, they have been an important part of our winter wardrobe. Once spring has finally sprung, we’ll be pulling on athletic shorts (and, in my case, only wearing them in the back garden until some kind of tan is achieved). Nike’s Tech Fleece pair is as right for weekend lounging as it is for serious gym work.
Switch your wool tie for a silk one
Are neck ties actually seasonal? Not really, if, that is, you are content to make do with just a couple of striped silk numbers all year round. But come spring, anyone who wears a wool or cashmere tie during the winter will want to find comparable texture and attitude, but in lighter fabrics. The obvious substitute is slubby silk, which is lightweight and a perfect partner for blazers and suits. This burgundy Marwood tie is 7cm wide, which is just the right width to work with the slim lapels on contemporary tailored jackets, and the small collars on modern shirts.
Switch your beanie for a bucket hat
It goes without saying that the cashmere beanie that kept the bitter winds of winter from freezing the blood inside your skull will soon be redundant. The question, at least for men who now want to protect their head from the sun, is what to put in its stead? While a panama is a faultless and traditional choice, we also like the informality of cotton bucket hats. These casual hats have been championed by various musical subcultures, from Britpoppers such as Oasis, to early 1990s rappers such as EPMD. Try Alex Mill’s version with a soft button-down shirt, indigo jeans and suede desert boots.
Switch your cashmere cardigan for a linen sweater
How could we get through winter without a heavyweight cardigan? The combination of warmth and softness means that these knits sustain us through the worst weather and the darkest days. Happily, it’s now time to buy a bottle of Woolite, take a deep breath and put your faith in your washing machine’s wool wash (remembering, of course, to dry flat). This spring, we’re looking forward to enjoying the barely-there feel of gauzy linen sweaters, and this Italian-made piece has a bohemian, creative edge. Try it with loose, drawstring trousers or with faded black jeans.
Switch your harris tweed jacket for a linen blazer
In Scotland, sports jackets are worn all year round, but men in warmer climes will soon reach a point when their Harris or Donegal tweeds begin to feel less insulating and more stifling. That’s the moment to hand over the tweed to a competent dry cleaner, before storing it in a moth-proof bag. Having done so, the airy feel of linen will be a revelation. While dark linen jackets are work-appropriate in all but the most formal offices, it’s light-coloured ones that really speak of the pleasures of warm weather. Aspesi’s mushroom-coloured blazer is unstructured both for the sake of comfort and coolness, and its casual feel means it works well with a thin crewneck and chinos.
Switch chunky brogues for light loafers
Rain, ice and snow are the enemies of good leather shoes and will quickly penetrate any pair that lack both a chunky commando sole and a watertight Norwegian welt. However, while we are second to no one in our admiration for solid winter shoes (especially Edward Green’s Dover model), their literal and visual weight eventually grows tiring. We long for spring days when we can swap pebble-grain leather, storm welts and rubber soles for lightweight Blake construction, soft uppers and thin leather soles. These loafers are made from supple kangaroo leather in a dark brown shade and have a cool air of informality.
Switch brushed-cotton shirts for camp-collar linen ones
In winter, nothing feels as good against the skin as a brushed-cotton shirt. The cosseting fibres trap the air and keep the wearer warm. None of which is the slightest use once the seasons turn and the challenge is to stay cool, rather than to keep out the cold. This voile shirt is light enough to allow plenty of air through, made as it is from a blend of cotton by-product cupro, regular cotton and linen. It’s no exaggeration to say that an open-weave shirt feels like it’s got built-in air conditioning, which is why so many well-dressed men swear by them during the summer months.
Switch your overcoat for a shirt jacket
The big overcoat has been a key outerwear style over the past few months. Whether military inspired, with powerful-looking shoulders, or soft like Neapolitan tailoring, no other coat can rival its elegance. For a more casual alternative, we’ll be looking for a cotton or linen jacket to wear this spring, ideally in a summery hue. This utilitarian made-in-England jacket is cut from breathable tropical-weave cotton twill and is designed to be worn over a T-shirt. The tan colour works particularly well with faded blue jeans, which is useful as the patch pockets and reinforced shoulders strike a casual note.
Switch jeans for chinos
From October to March, it’s impossible to imagine life without jeans. However, once the mercury rises past about 25ºC, it’s just as difficult to envisage being comfortable in denim. Which is where soft, washed-cotton trousers come in because they combine the casual appeal of jeans with summer comfort. This pair is made from military-inspired HBT (herringbone twill) and updates the shape of traditional combat pants while retaining details such as outside pockets, adjustable waist tabs and the OD (olive drab) colour used by the US Army during WWII.