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The Adult Man Spring Style Models Wearing Blue Shirts and Springy Patterns
 /  Style /  Fashion Tips

Solar Flair: The Essential Men’s Spring Style Guide

‘Tis the season for plaids, pastels, and pro-sun menswear.

Karlton began covering men's style and grooming topics for The Adult Man since 2020 as a writer. He's also written for other popular men's publications such as The Modest Man and Effortless Gent. Karlton is an LA-born, New York-based lover of culture and optimism. Perpetual watch-wearer. Always holding a martini or a football, Karlton's favorite subjects in school were recess, PE and prom. Read full bio.


Published: Jul 8, 2024
15 min read
Key Takeaways

Spring calls for light fabrics like linen, silk blends, and bamboo. A light suit, knit polos, white sneakers, and chino shorts are essentials. The season goes hand-in-hand with light and bright colors, but focuses on lighter tones. Pastels, colors lightened with white, are key. Hues muted with gray, for dustier, vintage tones, also work. Finally, have fun with patterns and florals.

When it comes to seasonal dress, I have an innate and natural sense of warm weather style.

I grew up in Los Angeles, with a mother in the fashion industry who believed one must always honor dress codes. It didn’t matter to her if it was 95 degrees on a Sunday morning, church service called for a full suit—two layers of long sleeves on my arms and a tie around my neck.

Even more, I was trained to understand the nuances of spring fashion compared to summer fashion (our only two seasons).

Now a New Yorker, whenever I see the first tulips bloom on Park Avenue, I know that it’s time for my sartorial expertise to shine.

Going from bloody cold to sweltering requires a full wardrobe upheaval. And I’m here to show you how to do it.

Checklist for Nailing Spring Style

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From the functional to the visual, here are the most important points to consider to achieve effective spring fashion.

Go for light fabrics like linen and silk blends. This is the most obvious consideration when transitioning from a chilly season to a warm one.

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In addition to the practicality factor, light fabrics are also more aesthetically spring-like. Free-flowing materials and light weaves match the brighter tone of the season.

Choose lighter colors and brighter accents. Both spring and summer fashion emphasize light and bright colors. However, summer has more of the former, while spring has more of the latter.

The Adult Man Madda Fella Ernest Linen Blue Shirt

Use light neutrals and pastels as your base colors. Beige and light blues are classic choices. Don’t be afraid of lively accents colors like yellows, bright greens, and even pink. 

Get a lightweight spring suit. Get yourself a warm weather suit. The traditional, heavily-woven wool suit may still work in your air-conditioned office, but you’ll be kicking yourself if you have to wear one to an outdoor wedding under the sun.

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Spring suits can be made of linen, linen and wool blends, or even bamboo.

Seasonal patterns and graphics add a stylish uniqueness. Some great patterns include bright plaids, foulards, paisley, florals of course, and seersucker in late spring and into summer.

Close Up Of Model Wearing Apposta 100% Pure Cotton Poplin Floral - Chest

If you’re curious about florals, but are intimidated, there are two ways you can make it easier for you. 

First, you can just stick to accents. This way, you can wear as much or as little of a pattern as you’re comfortable with. Even just a floral pocket square can add a lot of personality without being too loud.

Or, you can temper the patterns or motifs with traditionally masculine tones. Avoid dark brown and black, but a floral shirt can be paired with chinos in maroon, dark olive, or navy. Stick to traditional spring colors, but in deeper tones.

Best Colors to Wear for Spring

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Fall and winter is all about the deep and the dark. And again, spring is all about light foundations and bright accents.

You’re basically going for colors that occur in nature during this season. Think trees, clear skies, and flowers. Garden tones, I call it.

Charles Tyrwhitt pure linen blue shirt 1

So for example, a sky blue linen button-up, floral tie, with a broken suit, say a slate blue jacket with cool maroon chinos is very spring.

Of course, there’s plenty of overlap between the two and it isn’t a faux pas to mix and match, especially during the transitional period between the seasons.

You can basically go for lighter versions of your favorite colors, so instead of true red, go for light pink. If pastels aren’t your thing, colors can also be muted with gray tones instead of white, resulting in a vintage “dusty” version of that color. So for red, it would be a light rust tone.

The Adult Man Madda Fella Ernest Linen Cuffed 800 1

When it comes to neutrals, go for beige, light slate gray, cool tans, olive, and maroon. 

Lavender, mint green, salmon, stark white, and yellows are bolder spring-appropriate colors.

And again, I understand that some guys are insecure about sporting spring colors. I’m not one of those guys, but I get it. It’s a palette often associated with blooming flowers and Easter. Just don’t avoid them completely and take my prior advice of anchoring them with deeper spring tones.

J.Crew model wearing pink madras cotton button up shirt with performance chinos

Going for patterns, like plaid for example, in spring hues is a good way to go. Brighter, less traditionally masculine tones, are tempered by the pattern’s activity, without extinguishing the brightness.

model wearing robert graham summer outfit

Lively patterns are also a great way to bring a warm-weather liveliness to your outfit without having to commit to just one light tone.

Outfit 10 J.Crew

And of course, you can always just go the white t-shirt, shorts, and low-profile sneakers route. It always looks flattering. Just go for shorts in the spring palette, like blue, rust, or mint.

Spring Tops for Every Occasion

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As mentioned, you typically want lightly-woven tops to make up the foundation of your spring wardrobe. However, don’t forget the season goes in like a lion, and out like lamb.

Outerwear is an important part of spring clothing. Not only is it functional on cooler days, breezy evenings, and in the rain, but it adds a lot of personality to your entire outfit.

A Bright White Tee

Cuts t shirt fit on model

Get yourself a proper, well-fitted white t-shirt. I highly recommend investing in an organic combed cotton tee. It’s stronger and more breathable than regular cotton, while maintaining a substantial weave.

This makes it perfect on warm days, windy days, and evenings. 

Plus, the high quality of cotton produces a bright, attractive white. 

Tees in Spring Colors

Ten Thousand blue t shirt front view

Tees in light blues, mints, and salmons add so much character to a simple outfit. 

Colored tees effectively pair with suits as well, if that’s your style. It’s a perfectly acceptable smart casual look. The color of the shirt adds that lively aesthetic to your look, which you might otherwise rely on a tie to do.

Other ways to bring brightness to your shirt game is by going for a cotton slub shirt or a two-tone raglan.

Cotton slub provides dimension and texture to the surface of your shirt. Meanwhile, you can also go for a typical white raglan with colored sleeves. It’s a little retro, it allows you to incorporate color without going all-out, and it has a warm weather vibe to it.

Long Sleeve Tees and Henleys

model in GAP long sleeve henley

Again, spring weather varies, so you want lightly woven long sleeve tees too.

Henleys are always flattering. I’ve never seen a man who didn’t look great in one, as long as he’s in the right size and fit for his body type.

And, they look handsome on their own or with outerwear.

Spring Polos

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If there’s a type of shirt that lends itself to bright colors, it’s polos. After all, no one has ever batted an eye at pastels on the golf course.

Even if you can’t break out of the blue and white world with your dress shirts and tees, use spring as an opportunity to experiment with some polo colors.

Model standing in Mod polo

Knit polos have an effortless vibe to them, and are perfect for hotter days. Meanwhile, pique polos are more country-club-esque.

And again, if you fear color, go for patterns. 

A jacquard-knit polo in more understated colors brings brightness via textures instead of tones. I highly recommend cinched-hem knit polos, since they perfectly balance structure and lightness. They’re perfect for smart casual dress codes during outdoor events on warm days.

Chambray Top

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Mid spring isn’t the time for your denim shirts. But, if you like that look, go for a chambray top. A chambray utility shirt, western shirt, or even general button-up looks like a lighter, warm-weather version of denim, and it’s as airy as many performance fabrics.

A pastel henley with an open chambray utility shirt over it is a perfectly balanced combination. The buttons on the henley, the denim-like quality of the chambray, and the overall dimensionality of the combination add ruggedness that tempers the pastel tone.

Spring Button-Ups and Button-Downs

model looking at camera with black Frank and Oak oxford button down

Button-ups, which are more formal and professional, and button-downs, which are more smart casual, are year-rounders.

However, especially during late spring, you must have warm weather versions.

You want lightly woven shirts in linen or cotton. I know the idea of a silk shirt is a bit too aloha for some, but spring shirts feel and look great in silk and bamboo blends.

They offer a slight sheen, adding a bit of formality, without looking tacky.

Button-ups accented with colors or patterns are also a good option for parties, nights out, and dates. Even something as subtle as a floral lining can peek out from your shirt collar adding a pop, without being too loud.

Spring Outerwear

author walking in Buck Mason chore coat

Spring climate can vary depending on locale and altitude. Moreover, rain and wind are usually factors to consider.

Beyond that, I’m a big proponent of using outerwear to add dynamism to your outfits. So, put your large parkas, heavy wool coats, and tweed blazers in storage (or in the back of your closet). Then make sure you have these handy instead:

  • Macintosh coat
  • Harrington jacket
  • Unlined blazer
  • Knit blazer
  • Quilted vest
  • Norfolk jacket
  • Chore coat
  • Utility shirt
  • Car coat
  • Three quarter zip
  • Light cotton or cashmere pullover
  • Raincoat

Bottoms for Spring: Pants and Shorts

Mugsy boot cut jeans

While pants that are light and flowy are appropriate for Q2 and Q3, you don’t always have to go that route. Structured, strongly-woven pants can anchor your outfit as long as the entire combination is balanced.

For example, fitted cargo pants seem too workwear heavy for warm weather. But, wear a pair of light gray ones paired with a pastel-toned henley and white sneakers, and you’re golden.

However, here are the more natural choices for bottoms to go for spring.

Classic Flat Front Shorts

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Get flat front shorts in both light and dark anchor colors (like maroon, olive, and navy, as previously mentioned).

This way, you have the option to create subtle contrasts or to offset the more Easter-toned garments on your person.

Make sure the hems land right above the knee at longest, and no less than half-way down your thigh at shortest.

Dress Shorts

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Dress shorts are basically just dress pants, but cut above the knee. Thom Browne may have normalized them, but they’ve been around since the beginning of time, most commonly used for school uniforms for young elementary school boys.

They’re unconventional, but can be worn in more understated yet still unique fashions.

I think the best way to wear them is casually. Try a pair of dress shorts in a cool tan hue, extra light gray, or royal blue, then pair it with a knit polo and leather loafers. It’s like a leveled-up version of a dad grill-mastering at a barbecue.

Basically, dress shorts are an effective way to level up a casual or warm-weather smart casual combination.

Patterned Shorts or Pants

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There are definitely classic, non-corny ways to wear bottoms with patterns on them—though I get they aren’t for everyone.

However, even a conservative glen check trouser can add pop to your outfit while remaining neutral from a personal style perspective. Look for classic check trousers with a subtle color woven into the window panes. It could be a light blue, orange, or even pink. Then, match that accent with a tonal polo or tie.

Madras shorts are a go-to garment for the preppy-on-holiday look. Meanwhile seersucker and anchor motifs are perfect for late spring, summer, or anytime you’re on a boat or by the beach.

Jeans

Buck Mason jeans fit demonstration front

In spring, you want to opt for light wash jeans or regular blue jeans. Any darker, and it will look out of season.

Selvedge denim is a durable mainstay, but you may want to add a lightweight stretch denim jean to your rotation. They’ve come a long way, and brands like Mugsy and The Perfect Jean have options that look like high-quality jeans, but are airy and easy to move in.

Trust me, when an impromptu flag football game comes up during a spring picnic, you’ll be happy you’re wearing them.

Linen Trousers

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Linen pants are absolute essentials for spring and summer. They look classy in shades of off-white, like beige and cream. 

There’s nothing more cosmopolitan than a polo, linen trousers, and drivers. It definitely gives off-duty Bond vibes.

Plus, these are the perfect pair of pants to try in flowy, looser cuts. You can also cinch the look with a safari jacket if you want to add more structure. Still, a loose cut pair of linen trousers is the ultimate resort-chic garment.

Chinos

The Adult Man Tracksmith Eliot Runner Navy Outfit

Sensible khakis are a way of life. They can take you from the office on a casual Friday to the pub to a wedding or garden party.

During spring, you want a mix of light neutrals and deeper versions of spring colors, similar to the palette you want your shorts in.

Joggers

Best Workout Pants for Men Walking Down Stairs in the Lululemon Surge Joggers

A pair of modern joggers with cinched hems is surprisingly versatile. In fact, despite polos being a smart casual staple, they go quite well with well-fitted cinched-hem joggers. 

Their slim cut just makes them a lot more flattering than the early-aughts baggy sweatpants. They’re perfect for running errands in or just a casual day out with friends.

Footwear for Spring

My go-to shoes for spring are loafers. The low-profile collar adds to the relaxed look conducive to warm temperatures. Still, they’re grown-up and formal enough for professional situations.

Here’s how to approach each shoe style for the season.

Dress Shoes

Close up shot of brown dress shoes

Get your favorite dress shoe style, whether it’s an oxford or wholecut or slipper, and opt for lighter, cooler browns. Oxblood and burgundy are also good options because they complement florals and garden tones.

As mentioned, loafers are perfect (My go-to being the G.H. Bass Weejun) for the season, as are more casual slip-ons.

All Slip-Ons

Model wearing SeaVees Hawthorne Slip On Classic 1

Slip-ons embody the relaxed attitude associated with warm weather.

You can go for sophisticated slipper-style shoes like Venetians and drivers, or boat shoes which are a yacht and country club staple, canvas espadrilles, or even vacation-friendly huaraches which pair beautifully with loose linen trousers or shorts.

Sneakers

Model Wearing Black Vuori Meta Pants and Blue Sneakers

You should definitely take advantage of the season by having fun with simple canvas sneakers in different tones. 

However, an absolute must is a pair of low-profile white leather sneakers. They can be worn in the most casual situations and in smart and business casual ones as well.

Sandals

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Forget flip flops and slides—from a style perspective, that is. They have their practical uses.

Find yourself a high-quality, classic leather sandal. Think full-grain leather, a nice cross strap, or even a braided design.

For those who don’t love open-toed shoes, find a sandal with a broader top strap, so that most of the toe area is covered. 

Spring Accessories

model wearing Vincero midway Sunglasses

And finally, finish your spring wardrobe off with these accessories. You can make any neutral outfit more seasonal with an accessory or two.

  • Sunglasses. Wayfarers and aviators are always classic choices, but you can also have fun with spring-palette frames
  • Ties. Knit ties and floral prints scream sunshine, or you can also just go for classic patterns in pastels and garden tones
  • Bright watches and, or, NATO straps. Go for a sporty coastal vibe or a more relaxed, sunning-on-a-yacht tone (or both)
  • Hats. Straw fedoras and boater hats with a brightly-colored hatband can take you from spring to summer
  • Lapel pins or or seasonal boutonnieres, when the occasion calls for them of course

5 More Stylish Spring Outfits

Here are some gents who have the right idea. Feel free to mix and match these approaches to suit your personal style as well.

1. Seasonal Colors and Patterns

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Admittedly, these gents are going hard with the spring vibes. But don’t they look great? From the linen suits to the protective hat, these are quintessential seasonal outfits. For those of you who prefer a more understated look, take inspiration from the stylish guy in the pink. Notice how his lively patterns just peak out as fun accents.

2. A Cooler Spring Day

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Brightness doesn’t always have to mean pinks and purples. Strategic incorporation of primaries, this gent’s deep red harrington and navy shirt for example, represent the cooler or rainier moments. And again, check out how that interior pattern pops without being loud.

3. Tempering Spring Motifs Without Extinguishing Them

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This guy is me, and I promise you that silk mint shirt is totally out of character. But the overall combination is completely me. I temper the fanciful forest-themed tie and shiny pastel shirt with layers. Instead of being the star of the show, they’re just fun accents. 

Sometimes, you might think that specific garments and accessories don’t work within your personal style, until you see it in the right context. Keep that in mind for you men who fear pastels and florals.

4. Layers and On-Theme Accessories

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The anchor belt and the dive watch can take this guy from parties in the spring to summers on a boat. What makes this outfit more spring-friendly though is the layers. 

He can go from his grandmother’s tea party (just button up the polo and tuck it in) to pub hopping with the guys in this transformable combination.

5. Classic Broken Suit Made Seasonal

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The balance achieved in this outfit is low-key brilliant. The navy-jacket-khaki-pant combo is forever relevant and always classy. 

He remixes that staple with a bright, powdery blue jacket, cooler khakis, instead of warmer ones, and the sockless loafer look. The light puce shirt hints at pink without going completely pastel, while the pocket square adds a tulip-like pop. 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, and I say this for every time of year, as long as you’re going for weather-appropriate classics that are well-made and fit you, you’ll look fantastic.

But the season in question is unique. It’s a safe space to experiment with patterns and colors outside of the traditionally masculine deep tones. Even better, now you know how to do it without stepping foot into the dandy aesthetic. And if you like a fanciful outfit, more power to you. Spring is the season for it.