Back when he was still writing, Will Boehlke of A Suitable Wardrobe used to talk about “shoulder seasons” – those weeks between late winter and early spring, as well as late summer and early fall, when it’s difficult to find anything to wear. When seasons start to transition, the weather can be too warm for chunky knitwear and dense tweeds, but also too cool for madras and loosely woven linens. The trick is to find something lightweight, but insulating, and neither places you here nor there in terms of seasonal style.
The weather here in the Bay Area is a little cooler at the moment than the rest of the country, but if you find yourself getting through days in the mid-60s to low-70s at some point, here’s what I’ve found useful:
Suits and sport coats will depend on mid-weight materials, what people in the tailoring trade call 12/ 13 oz fabrics. For those shopping in stores, it can be difficult to gauge the weight of a material without some experience flipping through fabric books, but the point is to choose something that feels comfortable. That’s the most important test anyway.
For me, a staple this time of year is often described as “faux tweeds,” which is a worsted wool carrying the color and pattern of traditional tweeds, but without any of the bulk. The cloth works wonderfully for sport coats. Get them in earthy colors, such as brown and tan, and you can wear them with trousers in flannel, tropical wool, or cotton.
Wool gabardine can also be nice for suits, especially in how it drapes and performs. As a twill, it’ll keep you warm in mild temperatures without making you overheat. I like the material in more casual colors, such as tan, although the fabric is silky enough that you’ll want to keep this only to suits.
For late summer, dense linens can be nice for suits designed to be worn as separates. Irish mills are usually better at producing these heavier fabrics than the Italians, who by contrast mostly specialize in loosely woven linens. And if you’re itching to wear tweeds once temperatures cool, try a mid-weight Harris. I find them more manageable than the denser, heavier stuff.
Perhaps my favorite: silk-linen or wool-silk-linen blends. These combine the best characteristics of each fiber – the drape of wool, the strength of silk, and the breathability of linen. With these sorts of mixes, mills can also create more interesting textures, such as what you see above. They’re wonderful materials for casual jackets, especially if you’re able to find one with details such as patch pockets. If you’re daring, you could also get them as suits.
Casualwear can be a little trickier, but the good news is that casual jackets aren’t as tied to seasonal styles as tailored clothing. Whereas madras should only be worn in the spring and summer months, casual jackets can be worn year round so long as they’re comfortable.
For guys with classic sensibilities, field jackets, safari jackets, and denim truckers can all be great this time of year. Like Pete, I often throw an olive green field jacket over a simple shirt and jeans combo when I’m on the go. Of all the ones I’ve bought from niche fashion brands, my favorite is still something I got from Ralph Lauren. The company has been making them for decades – they know how do them well. Mine looks like this.
Safari jackets are a bit harder to find, although The Armoury and Private White VC have some nice ones in a range of materials. Denim truckers are also available at shops such as Levi’s, 3sixteen, and Self Edge. For something more affordable, you can find Levi’s trucker jackets second-hand for about $50 (much like army surplus coats). The nice thing about vintage is that the jackets come with a broken-in look that’s hard to achieve when you’re a cubicle farmer.
Many of these more basic styles often do better when you create a point of interest somewhere else in your outfit– maybe an interesting shirt, a great pair of boots, or some sort of unusual combination. Phill Kim wears his trucker jacket here with black jeans and a cowboy hat. Hooman Majd is pictured above teaming a safari jacket with a nautical striped shirt. Don’t be afraid to experiment a little.
I’ll also take any excuse to wear a leather jacket these days. Some of my favorites include Enrico Mandelli bombers, Margiela five-zips, Valstarinos, Saint Laurent’s Harrington (and old season model), and Stoffa’s flight jackets. The key is to find something lightweight and minimally lined (Stoffa’s are especially good for this). Suede shows its age more easily, but it’s a wonderfully charming material. For something that’ll hold up a bit better to wear and tear, stick to calfskin, goatskin, or lambskin (the last being the most delicate of the three).
Lastly, one of my favorite jackets this past year is a simple French chore coat I bought from Norton & Sons (it’s an older collaboration piece they did with Barbour). You can find similar pieces from companies such as Vetra, Arpenteur, Le Laboureur, Carrier Company, and Old Town. And while I love my Norton & Sons coat, the best ones in this category are again vintage. They just have tremendous character, which makes the simple design much more compelling. You can search for them on eBay and Etsy. Just don’t fuss too much over the fit – they look best when they’re a bit loose and off-kilter. See here for some style inspiration.