"I find menswear right now the best it's ever been. It's just more exciting, fun, colourful," says Melissa Austria, founder of Toronto menswear boutique Gotstyle.
While menswear doesn't change as rapidly as womenswear, it remains rooted in the classic staples — albeit with a twist, notes Shannon Stewart, assistant general merchandise manager for Harry Rosen.
"The polo is a great example. It's been around for decades and decades and we keep reinventing it really through colour and through silhouette," Stewart says.
Whether you're a fashion-forward fella or a style neophyte, Austria and Stewart have some tips on ways men can spring forward with their seasonal wardrobe.
1. Rainbow brights. It's not just flashes of colour in neckties, pocket squares, socks and collared shirts: a rainbow full of saturated shades are brightening up all facets of menswear.
"The overriding theme for the season is the sheer amount of colour," says Stewart. "Even from a psychological point of view, it just has an impact on a person. It instantly lifts their mood — and it can instantly lift a wardrobe."
Austria says the colours span the spectrum from reds to brighter greens to blues, oranges and yellows.
"It's a more toned-down silhouette. So, it's going to be a toned-down (coloured) chino that you're going to wear with a crisp white shirt. It's going to be a polo shirt that you're going to wear with dark jeans," she says. "It doesn't have to be that intimidating for guys."
Colourful patterns are also in the mix for spring, with smaller-scale houndstooth print, finer stripes and smaller grid checks in shirting, notes Austria.
While some men may have no qualms about donning pants in a bold hue or pairing a variety of shades within one look, both Austria and Stewart say more style-shy guys should start by opting for one core coloured piece.
Unsure of which shade to select? Stewart recommends blue which she says is a "go-to colour" for many men.
"If they stay in that colour family of blues but maybe go a little bit lighter or a little bit more punchier with the blue, it's a simple way of just taking the blue up a notch from the usual navy or denim blue."
2. Tie one on. Bowties are broadening beyond tuxedos and geek chic as a sleek alternative to neckties awash in vibrant hues, graphic patterns and even available in reversible varieties.
"Even if a man isn't planning on buying a new suit for the season, through dress shirts and ties...or bowties, you can easily freshen up a suit that you may have purchased within the last couple of years," says Stewart.
"We've seen a return to men wearing bowties which is kind of fun. It's definitely a modern look, you have to be a little bit more confident in it; but it's just a great way to inject a little bit of life into the wardrobe."
Austria says the use of colourful, lighter-weight summer scarves which has made a splash on the other side of the Atlantic is poised to make waves closer to home.
"If you go to Europe, they've been showing them for 10, 15 years; and now we're slowly starting to see the guys embrace that in North America, because they'd usually only wear the scarves in winter and that's it," she says.
3. Smart suiting. Austria says formal wear for men is true blue heading into spring after being "grey-driven" for some time.
Austria says the new blue is a lighter hue and distinct from the midnight navy and darker shades of the classic colour.
"You can tell that it's blue and it's really fresh," she says. "I just find it more vibrant. And then getting away from the stripes and doing more plaids and checks that are tone on tone (on the fabric). It will look like a solid from a distance, but then again, when you get up close, you'll see (the pattern)."
4. Fresh coats. From Monet-inspired linings in trench coats to patterns dotting coats and the undersides of collars, expect to see subtle details making a strong statement in spring outerwear.
"We're all about style at six steps," says Austria. "From a distance, it's going to look like a regular jacket, but up close you're going to see the added details. The contrast stitch, the lapels."
Austria says there's also a big trend towards the jersey blazer, which is unconstructed and free of shoulder pads, almost reminiscent of a sweater jacket.
Stewart says the concept of the soft, relaxed jacket for spring speaks to the climate as well as the notion of comfort.
"During the warmer weather, you want to be wearing something that is as light as possible, but to wear a jacket just completes the outfit," says Stewart.
"Without a jacket, a lot of gentlemen don't necessarily feel completely put together, and a jacket can just take you into any situation and you look appropriately dressed."
Stewart suggests opting for an unlined jacket which can be in a cotton or cotton-linen blend. She says they're also showing a lot of knit jackets for the season.
"It almost has the feel of a cardigan... when you put it on but they're done in very, very light yarns. But you just have that element of extreme comfort," she says. "You stay cool in the warm weather but you still look very well put-together."
5. Fun with footwear. From low-heeled brogues to comfortable slip-on driving shoes, Stewart says footwear swathed in suede is a great warm-weather style option.
"It's still breathable, it's a natural material, and it just adds a little texture I think to the outfit, which again, is a nice way of updating the spring wardrobe."
And not unlike the extensive apparel offerings, Stewart says there's considerable colour popping up in footwear, like brightly-hued oxfords.
"I think most men are comfortable in wearing a little bit of colour in their shoes. So whether it's just a coloured lace or full-in colour throughout the entire shoe or the coloured sole, it's a nice way to add that fashion element but without being too over the top."
Harry Rosen: www.harryrosen.com
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