There's much ado about what women should wear this spring, but we're not the only gender in need of some warm-weather rejuvenation. Men are notoriously slow to change when it comes to fashion, which is a shame considering it takes so little effort to freshen up a guy's look.
And men have the benefit of knowing that what they buy will stay in style much longer than women's fashion because men are less prone to fads. The tortoise in this race wins in more ways than one.
Designers tend to think products aimed at men need to be both practical and better constructed to persuade guys to open their wallets. And a growing supply of items are multipurpose; no, not a penknife that's also a flashlight, but closet and bathroom staples that meet multiple needs in clever ways.
Here's our list of top switches men should make when shopping to replace necessities this spring and summer.
Bike-to-work pants • These are activewear pants that can walk into an office setting. Indie menswear designers have been catering to the stylish, active guy for a while, but now mainstream designers are taking notice and making those clothes more accessible and affordable. Betabrand's bike-to-work pants ($90-$98) were among the first to introduce an update on traditional work khakis. Their pants are full of details you'd never find in traditional relaxed-fit workday pants, but to look at the slimmer-fit pants walking toward you in a hallway, you wouldn't think of them as athletic wear. Available in eight colors, the pants are made to move. There's stretch fabric designed to minimize wrinkling. The cut is better for not flashing your underwear when bending. The cuffs roll up, and the pockets turn inside-out to flash a reflective lining for riding at night. But you don't have to take advantage of any of those biking perks to appreciate these slacks. Levi's introduced a Levi's 511 Commuter Pant ($78) with many of the same details, as well as fabric that's moisture resistant and anti-microbial. And this month The Outlier introduced a new "bike to boardroom" pair of pants, 4Season OG pants ($188) at shop.outlier.cc. The pants are aimed at hipster professionals in New York who can afford luxury cars but prefer bikes. But even if you're not channeling Lance Armstrong on your way to work, these are great options for guys looking for durable clothing that looks good.
Summer shoes • If you're a sandal guy and you haven't upgraded in a few years, now's the time. There is an appealing Italian leather sandal option out there. And for those moments that require a casual closed-toe shoe, options abound. There's a cooler canvas sneaker in weathered and washed colors with or without laces. And spring is a great time to invest in suede dress shoes — not too formal, not too casual, just right for dressing up your everyday look or making you look a little more in touch with style at a casual outing. And another updated classic is the washed leather boat shoe. Kenneth Cole has a preppy deck shoe (One by Land, $118 at kennethcole.com)
Fitted, unlined one- or two-button sport jacket • The key word here is fitted. In case you're wondering how fitted, if you can button it without taking a breath it's too big. Am I exaggerating? Not really. For one thing, this might not be a jacket that you ever need to button. But it shouldn't look like you're wearing a kids' jacket. Most guys err on the too-loose side, and it looks sloppy. Make sure it fits your shoulders. If you can do a cartwheel without splitting the jacket, it's too big. But a great jacket is the right look to class up a fitted T-shirt and colored cotton pants or jeans, and it's a great switch from a boring sport coat.
Bow ties • Get one that you tie yourself. It's not that hard. I was skeptical, but even without a cheat sheet I managed a respectable knot. Note: Even if your bow isn't perfect, you get points for effort. And now you can instantly double your bow tie options with reversible ties ($15 at thetiebar.com). We are huge fans of the blue gingham and plaid options, but the simple black and white tie is uber-chic. Maybe you're not adventurous enough to wear one to work, but try it for an evening out, a wedding or theater outing to acclimate.
Pocket square • Pick a color, any color ... many colors. And to maximize your dollar, pick a reversible style like the bow ties. Options with plaids and polka dots or a pattern and a solid are easy to incorporate. Dressed up or down, a pocket square can be a simple way to make you look dapper. It doesn't have to match in a traditional way. A canvas jacket and a pocket square with slim pants and a plain or graphic T-shirt create a look that is unexpectedly elevated.
Cologne suites • Fragrance is a personal thing. Some people avoid it, and that's your choice, but if you're looking for something to take you from day-to-day to a special occasion, a few collections now offer intriguing scents that blend and build on one another. Eau de Lacoste ($39 for 1-ounce mini-bottles and $62 for full 3.4-ounce versions) has a collection that includes Blanc (white), Bleu (blue), Vert (green, my personal favorite) and the newest addition Rouge (red). The scent is based on a triple blend of spices — Madagascan black pepper, Indian ginger and Guatemalan cardamom. It smells sexy and sporty, but few people prefer a single scent, so having a suite gives you options that range from date night to boardroom. And the manly collection looks good on display.
Eyeglasses • If you haven't visited WarbyParker.com, you're doing your eyes a disservice. For $99, you get a quality pair of glasses with your prescription and you're providing the resources for them to give a pair of glasses for someone in need. It's the ultimate feel-good twofer. And the styles are worth the price and more. The glasses are aimed at retro-loving hipsters, but there are great frames to jazz up any look. There's nothing more unexpected that a contemporary pair of frames on an older face. And nothing ages you quicker than a dowdy pair of eyeglasses or sunglasses.