It’s springtime, and that means the trees are in bloom, the sunshine is back, and it’s time for business casual. Whether it’s afternoon coffee with clients or conference room meetings with the boss, sometimes a suit just isn’t the right choice. Spring is that wonky time of year when the nights are cool, the days are warm, but there’s a steady breeze that somehow puts a chill in the air. So how do you dress functionally when it’s cool…but warm…but chilly? You layer up lightweight, breathable fabrics, and you look damn good doing it.
The mistake most of us make with seasonal shopping is thinking that we need to revamp the whole wardrobe. No, sir. In fewer than twenty items, you can have your whole spring capsule set; the key is simple, classic pieces that can stand alone but also look dapper paired together. So put the lambswool sweaters and the top coat into storage. It’s springtime.
What is a Capsule Wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a small collection of thoughtfully chosen pieces that all work together and that you love to wear. It reduces wasteful spending on items you won't wear that often in favor of investing in favorites that offer a true mix-and-match versatility.
This versatile jacket from Suit Supply is woven in a cotton, linen, and wool blend (in Italy, we might add) and is finished in an unstructured hopsack weave. What does that mean for you? It’s lightweight, with a natural shoulder, but the weave gives it a nice texture. If brown isn’t your color, try this navy option from Nordstrom Rack.
If you haven’t noticed, we like the Harrington Jacket. It’s lightweight, breaks the annoying/lovely springtime wind, and looks keen with just about anything. This one from J.Crew has functional buttons at the collar and interior pockets. If you’re set on getting the original Harrington, look no further than Baracuta. For a more relaxed fit, try this one on Amazon.
There’s nothing wrong with stripes or polka dots, but sometimes you need to ease your way into the world of patterns. This floral shirt is subtle from most distances and has alluring details up close. It’s made from a blend of Supima cotton (basically super high-quality cotton. Less than one percent of the cotton grown in the world is Supima), Coolmax polyester, and spandex. Translation: this shirt wicks away moisture and stretches to keep you looking good and feeling cool.
The white shirt is essential year-round, but springtime is when it’s the most flexible. Wear it under a jacket, with a tie, no tie, with chinos, and with a black, brown, or oxblood belt.
Yes, you still need at least one nice sweater for spring. No, it doesn’t need to be thick. Believe it or not, cashmere is great for spring because it breathes, it’s lightweight (and doesn’t need to be layered up to look sleek), and it’s soft enough to not itch your skin. It’s the long sleeve, thicker version of your favorite comfortable t-shirt.
We know, you have plenty of polo shirts, but hang on a sec. While we agree that your typical pique polo is a little more casual than business casual, this version is in a league of its own. With its long sleeves and functioning dress-shirt cuffs, you’ll feel like you’re paving the way for a new business casual staple. Wear it on its own, or layer it under a jacket.
There’s nothing wrong with the classic short-sleeved polo; but for business casual, let’s step it up a bit with the fabric. This one is made from 100% Supima cotton, giving it a much more slimming drape than your standard pique polo that every other guy in your office is currently wearing (which is basically a t-shirt with a collar and buttons). Want something even lighter weight? Try this one from H&M.
Linen is lightweight, it’s soft, it breathes, it has a pleasing texture that elevates warm-weather outfits that can’t rely on layers to look intentional, AND it looks good when it’s wrinkled (actually…it looks great when it’s wrinkled). What more could you want in a pound-the-pavement business casual shirt for work?
More dressy than jeans and more utilitarian than chinos, these performance pants from Flint and Tinder look as good on a date as they do in an afternoon client meeting.
Chinos are the quintessential business casual pants. They’re comfortable, and they still look great with a shirt and tie. For those who like an extra pop of color, J.Crew is having a great sale on their chinos.
You have to look closely, but these lightweight linen pants have a handsome houndstooth pattern that will complement any shirt and shoe combination. These also pair well with a light sweater on those chilly nights. If you prefer a cotton option, try these from Bonobos.
These brogue oxfords coordinate well with a suit, chinos…hell, you could even pull them off with jeans. This pair even includes an extra set of laces. Looking for something American made? Check out the Strand by Allen Edmonds.
Loafers are, by nature, a casual shoe (after all, they’re made for loafing), but that doesn’t mean they can’t slip into the business casual wardrobe. Suede loafers with a leather sole exude spring, but if you prefer the soft touch of a rubber sole, check out this pair from G.H. Bass.
We already told you here that suede is the way to roll this spring, so we’ll go ahead and throw these chukkas into the mix. Chukka boots, native to South Africa, have become an American sartorial staple. They match pretty much everything you already own (seriously), and they have just enough ankle support to give you comfort without restriction. For additional sizing check out these as well.
The knit tie (known as a rooster in the south) is a subtle but intentional statement. Yes, I’m wearing a tie; yes, the bottom is flat and the silk is knit; and yes, I chose it on purpose. But more importantly, all of those characteristics make it clearly more casual than the 3” wide shiny silk option most guys default to when they’re dressing up. And the name of the business casual game is striking that perfect balance between business and casual.
These classic wayfarers are your new best friend for spring and summer. The dark frames look great with any color you’re wearing, and their light weight means you’ll forget you’re even wearing them.
Pocket squares shouldn’t be all matchy-matchy. It’s a pop of color — a little bit of hot sauce on your eggs, if you know what we mean. Pair this up with your Havana jacket and white shirt. And don’t try to origami fold it all fancy, Jeeves. Shove it in your pocket, pull a little bit out, you’re done.
The giant-faced, looks like you have a grandfather clock on your wrist, watches of 2008 are out…and they’re not coming back anytime soon. When it comes to business timepieces, less is more. This watch collaboration between Timex and Todd Snyder is understated and sophisticated in its simplicity, harkening back to the elegant dress watches of the '40s-'60s. It even looks a bit like the much more expensive Omega De Ville worn by some very successful on-screen characters.
Like your watch, your belt should be classic, unobtrusive, and refined. In a word, simple. And for $15, get a black one while you’re at it.
For when you have a client meeting that may go late.
For when you're taking an old client out for lunch to maintain the relationship.
For when you're feeling bold and you don't give a damn who knows it.
For when your boss's boss is at the office for the day. Pull out all the stops.
For the brunch meeting. And make sure you pick up the tab.
For those days when you just need to feel comfortable, but still look pulled-together.
For when it's warm outside and you have a midday meeting.
For that last-minute business trip.
For after work.
For a nice-but-not-too-dressy dinner with your partner's parents.
For when that spring breeze brings a chill.