Essentials? Maybe not each and every one for each and every body. We’re not talking about Maslow’s hierarchy here. These pieces are more guidelines really. Guidelines that add up to a versatile, Vernal-Equinox-y friendly wardrobe. And while many of us prefer autumn to spring, spring is still a good time to reboot and refresh your look. Ten items follow that are good to have one, if not multiples of, on hand once the temperatures start to crack that super-comfortable realm. Assorted specific picks are added below as well. Enjoy the weather.
Leather or Suede Sneakers
- Gustin Italian Made “”Sienna” Lowtops – $154
- Brooks Brothers Suede Sneakers – $98.00
- Todd Snyder + PF Flyers Rambler Hi – $149
- Billy Reid K-Swiss Arlington – $79.50 FINAL ($175)
- Puma Suede S – $30 – $40ish
Think classic court shapes and designs, only cut from leather or suede instead of canvas. The critics would say that sneakers + leather = something close to the “athle-leisure” shoes of the late 90s/early 2000s… but for whatever reason, if the shape is a familiar classic? It seems to work.
The Light, Striped Sweater
- J. Crew Cotton/Cashmere Striped Crew – $52.12 w/ SHOPMORE ($69.50)
- Banana Republic Striped Cotton Shawl Collar Cardigan – $84 w/ BRCFIT ($140)
- Lands’ End Cashmere Crew – $199 (but wait for a sale)
- J.C.F. Cotton Striped Crew – $34.50
Crewneck, v-neck, or cardigan. Doesn’t matter. But stripes on a lighter base look right at home, and quite good, when winter starts to turn to spring. They’re athletic looking. Basic but still interesting. And with that lighter shade base (think white or an off-white) they’ll fit right in once the sun starts to shine. Always good to have an extra layer on hand during this unpredictable, transition between seasons.
A Simple, Lightweight, Mac Jacket
- J. Crew Water Repellent Bonded Mac – $248.00
- Old Navy 97% Cotton / 3% Spandex Mac – $41.96 discount at checkout ($69.94)
- Tommy Hilfiger Cotton/Nylon Mac – $90.63
- Suitsupply Navy Raincoat – $499
Full blown trenches are great and all, but a simple mac will never go out of style. A mac usually hits around mid-thigh to knee, is single breasted instead of the double breasted look trench coats have, and can have some of the details of a trench (cuff tabs, maybe epaulets) but usually look much, much less busy. No belt on a mac either. Look for options that are mainly cotton with perhaps some synthetic worked in for better water resistance.
Chinos in a cool shade of green, blue, etc…
- Old Navy Ultimate Slim Built-in Flex Khakis – $22.16 discount at checkout ($36.94)
- Lands’ End Straight Fit Lighthouse Chino – $49.00
- JCF “Flex” Sutton Chino – $45.00
- H&M Slim Fit Chinos – $29.99
Not pink or red or yellow. Think crisp greys and greens. Color, without the shouting. Sea-ish blues like slate and de-saturated turquoise and the “seascape” shade shown above on Old Navy’s Ultimate Slim-fit Built in Flex Khakis. 3% spandex in those for a little more stretch than you’d normally expect.
The Non-Graphic, Un-Plain T-shirt
- JCF Slim Fit Pieced Pocket Tee – $23.50
- GAP Vintage Wash Rugby Stripe Shirt – $24.95
- JCF Slim Fit Surf-Stripe Tee – $23.50
- Todd Snyder Made in Canada Striped Tee – $38 FINAL ($145… Seriously? $145?)
Just because you’re dressed way down doesn’t mean you can’t inject a little intentional style. Skip the kitschy graphic tees, and go with something simple but still interesting. Think bold stripes, a contrast pocket, etc.
The Slightly Different, Not-So-Plain Polo
- Banana Republic Tipped Luxe-Touch Polos – $29.70 w/ BRCFIT ($49.50)
- UNIQLO Button Down Dry-Fabric Striped Polo – $19.90 ($24.90)
- Kent Wang Striped Spread Collar Polo – $65.00
- H&M Contrast Collar Fine Striped Polo – $12.99
This isn’t a shot against solid polos. Far from it. But consider adding to your collection a polo that’s just a little bit different. Maybe some retro-inspired piping along the collar and sleeves. Or a button down, or shirt fabric collar. Maybe a symmetrical, yet somewhat unexpected pattern.
A decent umbrella with good coverage
- Totes Blue Line Wooden Stick Umbrella – $15.00 (seen above)
- Atree Auto Open J Handle 16 Rib Umbrella – $29.99
- Barbour Tartan Umbrella – $69.00 (or just get the Totes for fifteen fellas)
For whatever reason, there seems to be a direct correlation between male age and male umbrella use. As in, the older you get, the more you appreciate a good umbrella. Some kids (and bros) refuse to use an umbrella. Can’t figure out why. Hoods are fine and compact and all, but an umbrella can protect your shoes, your briefcase… your date. Look for something with reasonable canopy coverage, and a hooked handle comes in real handy when you’re headed into tight spaces (you can easily hang it over your forearm on a subway, or, in a crowded elevator).
The Light in Weight, and Color, Sportcoat
- J. Crew Summerweight Ludlow in Cotton/Linen – $168
- Club Monaco “Grant” Lightweight Shell Blazer – $298
- Bonobos Unconstructed Wool Blazer – $398
- UNIQLO Stretch Wool Blazer – $129.90 (full review here)
- J. Crew Factory Unconstructed Linen/Cotton Horiz. Striped Blazer – $124.50
And yes, you can wear one of these now with jeans. NORTHERN LIGHTS PEOPLE! Embrace it. It’s still early on in the season, so there’s not a ton of these available for purchase… but… if you’ve got one stored away from last year? Now’s the time to get it back out and start wearing it again.
Sleek Penny Loafers
- Banana Republic “Paul” Penny Loafer – $88.80 w/ BRCFIT ($148)
- Jack Erwin Ellis – $195
- J. Crew Kenton Suede Penny Loafer – $148.50 w/ SHOPMORE ($198)
- J & M 1850 ‘Allred’ Penny Loafer – $129.90
Clunky Weejuns are classic, but a little aerodynamics goes a long way. That sleekness makes them look younger, as well as helps the humble penny loafer become incredibly versatile.
Sunglasses that are easy to dress up or down
- AO Original Pilot – $50ish
- Ray-Ban New Wayfarer – $80 – $100
- Carrera 55mm Aviators – $139.00
- Brooks Brothers Navigator – $95.00
- Cole Haan Navigator – $19.97
Sunglasses are a little like shoes. Too clunky, and they won’t look right dressed up with, say, a suit. Super sleek? They’ll look out of place with shorts and a t-shirt. So the key to maximum versatility, is to find something that walks that line between sporty and formal, laid back and uber-sharp. The AO Original Pilot is a classic, USA Made example of this. They’re a metal frame aviator, but they still look good dressed way down. On the acetate side, try Ray Ban’s “new” wayfarer. It’s not as clunky as the classic, and works in all situations.