Peter’s Picks for Shoulder Season Style

Spring in San Francisco is onerous.  It’s as if winter is on its deathbed with a wet cough that keeps drenching you with incessant gloom as it slowly releases its grip on daylight.  It’s pathetic.  Long after the novelty off sweater weather wears off, you just feel like pulling the plug and ending the misery.

My first spring in New York was unforgettable.  For months, the trees surrounding me in Putnam County had been shivering naked during the long winter like so many desiccated toothpicks, reaching up to a sun that would give them no warmth.  The trails circling Mountain Brook were surrounded by dirty snow that blended into the granite horizon and ashen sky, painting a dormant landscape filtered in desolation, until finally the earth awoke.  I remember buds shooting from the branches while it was still cold in March, offering hope of renewed life.  I was so excited I walked around in jeans and a t-shirt; 36 degrees seemed almost warm.  The snow began to melt, and within weeks, the whole valley of the east branch of the Croton River exploded in an intense, waxy green, sparkling in the breeze with hues of malachite in the sun and viridian in the shade.  I’ll never forget that sight; it could have made anyone a believer.

It’s no wonder, then, that our clothes reflect spring’s renewal of life and color.  The changing of seasons brings longer days and blossoming flora, prompting us to put away our heaviest winter coats in somber hues and exchange them for something lighter and cheery.  For men, this traditionally means oxford cloth button-downs in soft pastel hues of robin’s egg blue, pale pink, and dusty yellow.   Since it won’t get really hot for several months, now is what some call “Shoulder Season,” when moderate temperatures can accommodate items from both summer and winter wardrobes, without necessitating full-on shearling or head-to-toe linen.  Lamentably, many places have pathetically a short Shoulder Season.  This is a shame, since spring and autumn have arguably the most pleasant temperatures of the year – the Golden Mean Climate – perfect for for a variety of menswear.  Here are some of my favorites for spring:

A faux tweed sport coat.  I’m considering sending this fabric to my tailor in Sicily.  A lightweight wrinkle-resistant wool from the long-gone Hardy Minnis Riviera line, the dusty kelly green expresses just the right amount of “spring” without being garish.  A jacket in this color goes great with light grey trousers, tan chinos or faded jeans, so I expect I’ll be wearing this a lot come March.  One of my favorite online stores, No Man Walks Alone (also a Styleforum affiliate), headed by longtime forum member Greg Lellouche, has a jacket in a solid olive green and a houndstooth patterned blue and brown in fabrics that are perfect for spring and would transition well into summer.  If you’re not a plaid person, try a suit or jacket in a fresh sage green cotton instead of traditional tan.

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A suede safari jacket.  Last year I scored one from Polo Ralph Lauren at Goodwill for less than $30.  It quickly became one of my favorites, and I found it went surprisingly well with a variety of outfits: beat-up denim and white sneakers, fresco trousers and tan chukkas, and hunter green khakis and boots.  The four utilitarian pockets carry just about anything, and the jacket can be worn open for ventilation, casually belted for a quick jaunt to the market, or buttoned-and-belted for when the wind starts to pick up.  Fair warning: people will want to touch you.

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A mid-weight sweater.  Twenty years ago, a sweet girl from Hyde Park named Liz gave me a periwinkle blue cotton cable-knit crewneck sweater from LL Bean, and I ended up wearing it all spring.  In fact, they still offer the same one, available online.  Perfect for those in-between times when you don’t have to worry about shedding layers of clothes.  Sweaters such as this one feel wonderful against your skin, and when the temperature changes you can either roll up your sleeves or throw on a Baracuta.  Later on, I picked up a shawl-collar sweater in a cotton-cashmere blend that serves more or less the same purpose, worn either with a simple white t-shirt or taking the place of a more formal jacket.

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