Primer’s Fall Survival Guide 2021: 6 Picks

primer leaf

Primer's Fall
Survival Guide

6 picks

Fall is coming. Let’s be ready this year.

by Mike Henson

We took our girls apple picking today. They ran down the banks of green trees, mottled with ruddy galas, cortlands, and fujis while we soaked up the last of the East Coast’s warm weather. Beyond the orchard, the leaves lining the forest winked a few bated orange leaves, signaling to Katie and me that our favorite time of year is coming. Maybe it’s because I’m a school teacher, but I’ve always considered fall the start of the new year. It’s the time for jeans and sweaters, bon fires out back, crisp morning air, and that hint of cinnamon in the air of local shops.

The older I get, the more I find that it behooves me to jumpstart my fall, to intentionally set a few small goals for the coming months and maybe pick up a new sartorial piece to make myself feel like a stud. This year I’m trying to take a 360º approach, focusing on my mind, body, and heart. If you want to join me, here are a few ideas for stepping into fall deliberately.

Special thanks to Geologie for believing in Primer's mission and partnering with us on this post. Readers get 50% off their first trial of completely personalized skincare with code PRIMER50.
write a gratitude journal

Gratitude Journal

Life Can Be Looking Up

My therapist likes to tell me that for someone who enjoys writing so much, I really ought to journal more often. She’s right, which sort of annoys me, but I simply don’t have thirty minutes a day to write, so I think a gratitude journal is a good place to start. I’m the kind of guy who can get a little too inwardly focused, the guy who wonders why he wasn’t the first one to get the invite to after-work drinks. Basically, I worry about things that 1. Don’t matter, and 2. Revolve around myself. I also find that this is the time of year I start to struggle with seasonal affective disorder: The days are short, the sky turns grey; it just gets me down.

This fall, I’m designating one of my Moleskine notebooks as my gratitude journal. Study after study shows that habitual gratitude is linked to strong physical health, healthier relationships, and maintaining an optimistic outlook on life (in other words, keeping your mental health on the positive). Honestly, I don’t have time to write multiple paragraphs a day, but a few sentences, a phrase, a single word. I’m going to write. I’m going to practice gratitude. The dark winter months aren’t that far away, and I want to keep my head and heart in a positive space. If you want to spruce up your pen and pad game, check out our piece on productivity.


The Sneaker in Disguise

clarks desert boot in beeswax

Clarks Original Desert Boot in beeswax leather


A few years back I made my weekly stroll into the Brooks Brothers outlet to see what was new, and I happened upon a shelf with discounted suede chukka boots with a crepe sole by Rancourt & Co. Rancourt shoes are handmade in Maine and tend to run in the $200-400 range, but this was the outlet. I snagged that pair of chukkas for $65, and I’ve been hooked ever since. There’s something about a crepe sole that just lends itself to fall. I love the earthy tone and dark patina that the sole adopts, the lightweight structure, and of course, they’re damn comfortable.

The chukka boot was born out of WWII, a derivative of the desert boots issued to British soldiers. While just about every shoe company now makes a chukka boot, you can’t get more original than Clark’s. Clark’s started making their Desert Boot in the 1950’s, and they cost about $13 a pair (I know, dare to dream). For this fall, I’m grabbing a pair of the Desert Boots in Beeswax. The leather has a refined ruggedness that lends itself well to jeans on the weekends or chinos for work.

Astorflex boots

Astorflex chukkas are made in Northern Italy


Instagram message about desert boots

Personalized Skin Care

Cold, Dry Air Can Be Worse Than Summer

Geologie personalized skincare

Geologie enables you to use skincare products personalized for your skin

When I was in my early twenties, my dad told me it was time to start taking care of my skin. He gave me the old “Don’t wind up like me” speech because he’d spent half of his life smoking, washing his face with bar soap, and not using any kind of moisturizer, and his skin was paying for it. I listened, and for the last ten years or so, I’ve been on the lookout for the best skin care products I can afford. The problem is that I’m not a dermatologist, and I never finished aesthetician school (though to be honest, I also never started).

This is why it’s nice to have a company like Geologie provide you with exactly what your skin needs. Geologie was founded by two guys, Nick and Dave, who realized that fancy packaging and high prices don’t necessarily result in effective skincare products. Geologie isn’t interested in the latest skincare fad and they don’t pack their products with fillers. Effective ingredients, that’s it. Oh, and the head of their medical advisory board is a Harvard-educated dermatologist, so they have science on their side.

Getting started with Geologie is easy: jump on the website, answer some questions about your skin, upload a photo of yourself (if you want to), and boom, they select the plan that’s right for you (I’m a #28 in case you were wondering).

Your trial set is a thirty-day supply, but Geologie gives you two weeks to try the products and see if the plan is to your liking. Not happy? Reach out – the only thing equal to Geologie’s commitment to quality products is their commitment to customer service.

man reading book

Read a Book (For Fun)

I’m an English teacher, so I realize I’m biased, but how about reading a book this fall? To be clear, I’m not talking about a book on how to become an Amazon drop shipper (that’s a thing, right?), or a self-help book, or a book about how the blockchain works. I mean just…read a book, for no reason other than pleasure. Reading is relaxing; it expands your vocabulary, and it allows your imagination to wander (Remember imagination? That’s what we used before we all became addicted to TikTok).

Anyway, here are a few of my old favorites:

treasure island book cover

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

If you’ve never picked up a classic, give this one a shot. It’s easy, and it’s legitimately a fun book to read. Pirates, knife fights, and buried treasure. It’s a page-turner. 

the glass castle book cover

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

This harrowing memoir follows the upbringing of Jeannette Walls by her unorthodox parents who lead a nomadic lifestyle in order to evade bill collectors. The story begins with Jeannette as a three-year-old realizing that she was on fire, literally. 

things fall apart book cover

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

If you didn’t read this one in high school, you need to read it now. This is the book that got the world to start paying attention to African Literature, to the African voice. Achebe’s raw prose shines light on the reality of colonization through the mind of his bellicose protagonist, Okonkwo.

pictures of dorian gray book cover

The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

You probably know the story: a man stays beautiful while a painting of him ages. What you probably don’t know is that this book forces you to examine your definition of masculinity in the face of societal expectations.

Tenth of December

Tenth of December by George Saunders

If you don’t have time for a novel, grab this collection of short stories by George Saunders. I read this book in two evenings because the stories are so damn good. “The Semplica Girl Diaries” is especially odd and a haunting commentary on American consumerism.

Start an Indoor Recreational Activity

Don't Hibernate

dumbell bench press

We moved into a new house a month ago, and I finally have a basement big enough to spread out my weights and get a quick pump here and there. With my schedule, 45 minutes thrice a week just isn’t realistic, but I can squeeze in 15-20 minutes every other day. While this isn’t going to turn me into the Rock, it’s something I can do regardless of the season.

Like it or not, fall is the time when your body starts preparing for winter, and that means eating more (It’s usually not conscious; it’s in your biology). The best way to stave off that Christmas fifteen is to get yourself in the habit of indoor exercise now. It’s still a great time to go for a run or shoot hoops with your buddies, but make sure you have something ready for when the snow comes.

Weight lifting, racquetball, virtual reality, exercise bike – it doesn’t matter. Just get your heart rate up a few times a week. On a tight budget? Grab a set of resistance bands and get to work.

VR Exercise, supernatural

The Twill Chore Coat

The Perfect Layer for this Fall

Olive twill chore coat

More coat than shirt jacket. More shirt jacket than bomber. The twill chore coat is the new normal's answer to the blazer: Comfortable enough to wear around in the house thanks to its light weight, and interesting and minimal enough that it can be dressed up almost like a cotton blazer.

The chore coat is often found with a traditional flap coat collar, buttons instead of a zipper, smooth front with patch pockets on the bottom, and the length falling right around the middle of your pants fly. Wear it while schlepping around the house or walking the dog, or dress it up and wear it with a dress shirt.

Start with these: Paige, Banana Republic, Bonobos, Bespoke Post, Abercrombie & Fitch

(Paige chore coat originally a part of an Amazon campaign)

Fall isn’t here yet, but it’s on its way. The leaves are changing; the mornings are getting brisk, and my sweater is calling my name. Instead of just getting through fall, let’s make fall an intentional season, a time for deliberate, steady progression until the sun comes out again.

Thanks again for supporting the companies that support Primer! Get 50% off your first trial of personalized skincare at Geologie with code PRIMER50.

This post may contain affiliate links, read about our editorial promise
Mike Henson

Mike Henson is a literature teacher in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He enjoys shooting 35mm film, restoring vintage straight blades, purchasing too many American-made goods, and spending time with his wife and their three daughters.