The Surprising Essential for Spring You Never Expected + 7 Outfits That Prove It

Colors! Patterns! Florals! Spring is the season of rejuvenation, and as tradition goes, it’s when we reintroduce a little brightness into the dark, bundled up drabness winter has dominated our wardrobes and souls with.

But there’s always been an irony for me when I see a guy who has a rugged, neutrals-based style in fall try to cram himself into the bright and fun mold that retailers have forced us to believe is all that SPRING FASHION! should be.

Not only is this unnatural for a lot of folks in terms of their personal style, practically speaking it’s inappropriate for a lot of events and venues.

A conservative professional office that expects muted suits in winter doesn’t all of a sudden get to be pastel sweaters in spring, just because 4 months have gone by.

A trendy cocktail joint full of first dates and business meetings doesn’t go from a classy, dark palette to light, vibrant colors because the temperature is 30 degrees warmer.

men fashion outfit ideas black crew gray jeans brown suede boots

Crew: Amazon, $21 / Slim tapered jeans: Mott & Bow, $118 / Suede boots: Thursday Boots, $199

But there is an issue – a warmer temperature does mean we lose the benefits layering gives us in creating dynamic and intentional outfits. So how do we look intentional and maintain that evening-appropriate vibe?

That’s where the textured black crewneck comes in. The texture (and in 2 of the options below, the raglan sleeves) creates visual interest among outfits composed of only 2 or 3 items. The dark color keeps the look subtle, classy, and purposeful. And the light weight allows us to wear it solo or under a thin jacket and stay comfortable in the rising spring temperatures. Not only that, a crewneck can be less suffocating and more comfortable than a long sleeve button up on hot days.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love colors, patterns, and florals. You’re going to see plenty of them in the months ahead here on Primer. But there’s a time and a place for them. And the reality is in more professional or socially nuanced environments they’re not the right pick.

knit black crew neck sweater

I’ve found 4 crew necks that are perfect for accomplishing this task, depending on what you’re looking for. A raglan sleeve textured knit from Target’s Goodfellow & Co. line for $18. (Available in store, here’s an alt to check out on Amazon.)

A raglan sleeve 100% cashmere sweater from Amazon’s Buttoned Down. Because it’s cashmere it’s buttery soft and isn’t scratchy, and its light weight makes it incredibly comfortable even on warmer days. Everlane has a great one too.

The second two are waffle knit crew necks from Goodthreads, one in a dark black and the other in a faded black. A great texture that doesn’t look like thermal underwear.

men black sweater with shorts nike killshots outfitCrew: Target, $18 (similar) / Linen-cotton shorts: J.Crew Factory, $24.50 (I got them for $17 from our recent deals round up) / Nike Killshot sneakers: J.Crew, $90 (Read our guide to gum sole sneakers)

Shorts Weather

At first glance this look may seem simple but there’s actually quite a lot happening in the details. First, the textures: the knit of the crew and the linen-cotton shorts create complexity in a look that doesn’t benefit from much of a silhouette or structure. The raglan sleeves accentuate the shoulders and chest, and further cement the feeling that you picked it on purpose.

Isn’t it kind of crazy that the branding of the Nike Killshots actually adds to the overall visual interest that a plain white sneaker would miss? That doesn’t happen very often.

men fashion black sweater gray pants suede shoes

Cashmere crew: Amazon, $99 / Textured pants (similar): Banana Republic, $159 / Watch: Orient, $126 / Suede wingtips: Banana Republic, $139 alt: Trask, $245

Looking Great at Work in Spring

…is probably one of the harder things to do. It’s one of the reasons our Business Casual Capsule Wardrobe feature was so popular. I actually wore this exact outfit while speaking on a panel at the Menfluential conference this year. It’s a great example of utilizing the texture of suede to enhance your style in spring, and it features two of our picks from our Suede for Spring guide: the Orient watch and the wingtips.

work outfit to evening outfit denim trucker jacket black crew gray pants white sneakers

Denim jacket: Levi's, $55 / Crew: Target, $18 (similar) / Textured pants (similar): Banana Republic, $159 / Watch: Orient, $126 / White sneakers: New Republic, $89

Work to Whiskey

Heading out after work? Take the same outfit and stash your trusty denim trucker jacket and white sneakers in your bag. Now you’ve got a brilliant smart casual outfit that doesn’t look overdressed. Check out our feature and video on how to wear work clothes and casual clothes together.

texture crew neck jeans desert boots

textured crew neck

Faded textured crew: Goodthreads, $28 / Slim denim: DSTLD, $75 (on our best men's slim denim guide) / Desert boots: Clarks Bushacre, $60 (read our review)

The faded color of this crew is what started the whole journey. I was looking for an affordable and lighter weight option of Buck Mason’s vintage Traveler Sweater, which used to be available in faded black. That took me down a rabbit hole of 15 black crewnecks that got groomed to the 4 you see featured.

suitsupply suit black crew suede boots

Unstructured suit (similar): SuitSupply, $499 / Black crew: Target, $18 in store / Chukkas: Thursday, $149

Los Angeles Cocktail Attire

I recently got invited to a bougie event in LA that requested cocktail attire but there were some specific details that really had me at a loss for what to wear. Beverly Hills? 7PM? Cocktail attire? At a Lamborghini showroom? Uh..what?? Sounds like the perfect outfit for our next installment of What I Wore. Stay tuned!

green bomber black crew dark denim white adidas stan smith men's fashion

Olive bomber (similar): Amazon, $20 / Black crew: Buttoned Down, $89 / Slim jeans: DSTLD, $75 / Sneakers: Adidas, $80

Spring Casual

The textured black crew neck is a genius one-item swap if you’re more of a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy but you’re either trying to expand, or a t-shirt isn’t appropriate for where you’re headed. Check out all of our spring Getups!

Which look is your favorite? Chat with me in the comments!

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Andrew Snavely

Andrew founded Primer in 2008 and brings 15+ years of men's style expertise. Known for his practical, relatable approach to style and self-development, he has been a recognized speaker at conferences and has styled work for top brands. Off-duty, he loves photography & editing, and enjoys road trips with his dog, Leela. Raised in rural Pennsylvania, educated in DC, and living in LA for nearly 20 years, Andrew's diverse experiences shape the relatable and real-world advice that has helped millions through Primer. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.