Layering and accessories for cold Spring days

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Back when these things were possible, I remember an American friend visiting in the Spring and asking: “How on earth do you dress for this weather? I can see my breath in the morning, but my midday I’m roasting and can barely wear a jacket.”

We’ve been going through such days again in the UK recently. I’m no meteorologist, but it seems the combination of cold air (winds from the North or East) and hot sun (given the time of year) mean it can be freezing until the sun gets up, then boiling when it is. 

Dressing for such weather can be frustrating, particularly if you’re a traveller and thought carefully about packing for every eventuality. 

I was thinking about this recently when we toured London for our recent series of articles on great shops - which is the outfit pictured here. 

Alex and I were having coffee at the Allpress on Redchurch Street, and alongside the fascinating variation in style you get around there (business, fashion and defiantly anti-fashion) there was a broad range of choices for the Spring weather: some guys in T-shirts, others in coats. 

I find a better approach is to dress in layers, with heavy fabrics for the basic pieces (jacket and trousers) which avoid the need for a coat. The last thing you want is to be carrying a coat over your arm all day. 

In this case the jacket was navy Fox lambswool, an overcoating material at 20/21oz, made up by Solito. I wouldn’t actually recommend something this heavy for a jacket, and regret it slightly: 16-18oz would have been better, with almost as much heft but much more pliable. But it does come into its own on days like this.

The trousers were brown corduroy from Brisbane Moss, made up by Whitcomb & Shaftesbury. They too are very heavy, at 19/20oz, although I don’t regret those - the weight has perhaps more benefits in a trouser, giving them a fantastic shape.

The advantage of these weighty cloths is that even on a brisk, chilly morning, they are very effective wind breakers. It’s that northerly air that’s going to make you cold, and these stop it. 

The rest of the job is done by layers and accessories. 

The shirt itself (Bryceland’s Sawtooth) is pretty heavy, but it’s reinforced by a vest underneath (Lee Kung Man, also Bryceland’s). And if needed, that vest can easily be removed. 

In fact, a more practical option there would be a sleeveless cardigan, in that it would provide more warmth and be easier to take off. But that probably wouldn’t have worked so well with the outfit (more country, less western). 

The scarf and watch cap protect the remaining areas exposed to the cold - the head and neck - and can of course themselves be easily removed. Indeed, the scarf can even be pleasingly stuffed into a jacket pocket, keeping its colour and pattern on display. 

Also, while I certainly didn’t think about this at the time, a silk scarf works particularly well because silk is such an effective wind-breaker. It’s not as warm as wool or cashmere, but its density makes it great at blocking cold air (the reason they were often worn by cyclists).

By the middle of the day, having lunch at Morris’s on Clifford Street, the scarf was in the pocket and the watch cap folded in a bag. 

It was decidedly warm, even in the shade. Although the necessity of sitting outside (still required in the UK at the moment) meant I was still grateful for the heavy jacket and trouser cloth, whenever a cold wind whipped around the corner of Bond Street.

It’s also occurred to me while writing this piece how I often dress in such combinations. See examples below from Stockholm in the Autumn (watch cap in the bag at that point) and Florence in the Winter. 

That might also be motivated by the fact that, on a long day of visits, whether to shops or stands, it’s a pain to have more than one outer layer. So it’s a jacket or an overcoat, not both. 

Threat of rain would necessitate a lightweight raincoat that could be rolled up into a bag, perhaps. And a brimmed hat that would be better in that case at protecting the head.

Clothes in the main outfit, with links to more details:

And accessories:

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

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Martin

Great outfits like this always strike a fine balance between functionality and elegance, the tactile cloth adds a touch of “je ne sais quoi”, that for me at least, makes it a very versatile way to dress. Thanks for some great inspo! You have probably mention it before but do you know what the design on the beautiful Hermés scarf is called?

P.A.

Hi Simon,

As much as I love Hermes scarves, and as a Parisian I can only support the brand, their cost is a bit prohibitive to my means.
Any suggestions on silk scarves ?

Thanks
P.A.

P.A.

Simon,

There is no denying that those scarves are superb, I could only wish I could afford one. One has to have something to dream of, I guess.

P.A.

A.

Can you specify the Brisbane fabric reference?

Rob

Simon, Which jacket are you wearing in the penultimate image? Love that dark green.

Misbah

Simon

(Herringbone) blazer with lapels popped and using the full width of the scarf to cover the chest. So simple yet effective. I will definitely appropriate that technique.

Thanks

Robert

Simon-
Maybe ages ago but first I time I have seen it. Thanks for link. I have a separate scarf cupboard in my closet. I own dozens. A scarf can really add a little punch to a simple tonal outfit. So easy and frequently overlooked. Really nice. I encourage all your readers to check it out. Good stuff.

S.H.

Hi Simon,

Thanks for another great article. I am commenting as the temperature today reaches 90/33 degrees (F/C) where I live. I do however live the better part of the year elsewhere where the temperature could drop below -4/-20 degrees (F/C). I share a similar frustration for building a wardrobe for such extreme climates.

I like the practicality of a jacket in coating weight for a day you described in the article. When choosing the cloth for such a jacket, would you consider how hard-wearing a cloth is? Perhaps a cavalry twill would be more practical than flannel?

Kenny

I’d choose a heavyweight tweed for a jacket, partnered with cavalry twill or flannel trousers. I often prefer a heavy peacoat or shooting coat, with a windproof membrane, with a thick jumper in cold weather.

Robin

WOW !!! Those 3 jackets !

So impressed by those jackets I’m going to bookmark this page and have those made when I can finally afford bespoke. Thats the perfect capsule wardrobe of jackets.
They’d go with any trousers and shirt combo I have .

Although there are details for the navy I don’t see any links for the grey herringbone or tweed jacket.

Robin

Many Thanks.
Yes, I’ve seen the capsule article but still good to re-read.

The texture on the grey herringbone is a fantastic example of the type of suit jacket that works well as a separate.
Something possible with plain navy or grey but also noticeable that the jacket is derived from a suit.

Tommy

Like your outfits Simon and often wear a heavy jacket on cold sunny days.I also sometimes don a suede Valstarino or dark brown cafe racer leather jacket with heavey grey flannels, navy cords or cavalry twills as a change of pace.Likewise I might alternate the woollen cap with a beige cotton/linen flat cap when it’s sunny.Incidentally, I seem to remember you saying that you were not fond of linen flat caps.Would be interested to know the reason.

Ralph

Thanks Simon. Where are the sand coloured trousers in the last photo from?

TT

I enjoy the review articles too, but I really appreciate the continuation and increasing frequency of these types of articles. Thank you Simon!

I think these types of articles are a great use of your experience with a variety of cut, cloths and weights so readers can put a bit more thought into their choices depending on the situation. The extra information also provides some nice insight into your own choices and preferences making the read that much more enjoyable.

Peter Hall

Very useful.

I find the biggest problem in spring, is how cotton tees go from warm thermal layer to wet cold layer, with just a few minutes of added sun. Luckily, good merino base layers are easily available. RAB make very good ones-they lay flat and have a variety of neck styles.

Chancellor

What are your thoughts/experiences with jackets that can button all the way to the top, like your vintage H&S tweed jacket. Do you find it works? Or is it better not to bother with that, just prop up the collar and lapels and let it sit a bit more open?

Rob

Simon, I thought you took a size 38 in the brycelands shirt, which was abit right across the shoulders but good around the waist? Did you decide to size up to a 40.

I have that same tote from Trunk. Very expensive for what it is, but a useful bag nevertheless.

Christopher

Dear Simon,

excellent post, as we are used to 😉
For layering during rain, which raincoat would you suggest?

Robert M

A very nice outfit, especially the trousers, but wouldn’t the weight of the jacket be a problem during the warmer parts of the day? As you say, it’s cumbersome to have to carry an overcoat around, but if your friend can barely wear a jacket, then surely this is not a solution for him?

Dante

Nice combos and definitely relevant as we have an extra cloudy May over here. I see why you wouldn’t go with overcoating for a jacket again, but that Solito does look fantastic for a climate like this, almost like a scaled-down pea coat in the shoulders.

Adam

I got a valstarino last fall and I’ve found it pretty useful for the continental fall and spring. Buttoned up with a scarf it’s surprisingly windproof, and unbuttoned without a scarf relatively cool and comfortable.

I really do like the look of a sports jacket with the collar turned up, though. Especially with a scarf, it’s just so cool.

Tommy Mack

Simon, you mention removing the vest if it gets too hot but what about the other way round? Are there any T-shirts you’d recommend that will work as a base layer under a shirt but also as a top layer if you removed the shirt when the sun comes out? Is that asking too much of a single T shirt – e.g. long and light vs shorter and heavier? Better to commit one way or the other?

Love these outfits btw, there’s a real sense of fun to them while still being very stylish – I really must get a raincoat so I can wear more tailoring as top layers rather than falling back on my Barbour jacket whenever rain threatens (which let’s face it is all too often in London!)

Tommy Mack

I ordered one of these in Stuart’s sale: https://www.stuartslondon.com//merz-b-schwanen-button-facing-white-worker-shirt-207-p20344/s112119

Looks like it’ll hit the spot as a base layer that can serve as a top layer if required!

tommymack1981@gmail.com

TBH I imagine I’ll wear it underneath most of the time – I’ve got plenty of Ts I can wear when it’s a case of putting something over rather than under.

Also, most of my physical quirks are the opposite to yours! Shortish neck, square head etc!

Lister

Is there a way to recreate this look without spending thousands? I love the look of the jacket in the photo but don’t think I’ve seen anything like it for sale, and definitely can’t afford to get it make bespoke.

Stephan

Hello Simon,
a great and inspiring article as always.
I own similar brown corduroy trousers. My navy jacket for colder days is also in corduroy. My grey herringbone jacket works well, as seen in your second example. Would you think, double corduroy in an outfit would lead to the unwanted double denim look, which should be avoided?

Cheers,
Stephan

R Abbott

Do you have any advice in selecting a silk scarf, to avoid looking overly feminine? What qualities do you look for?

Nhans

Simon, in the comments above, you mention AIC and Saman Amel for tailoring that is very soft shouldered and unstructured. Those options are both great, however, I am just curious as to whether you think that Drakes RTW blazers fall into that category – both in terms of quality of the offering and style? Drakes blazers seems to be very similar to AIC but just trying to better understand the points of difference – thank you!

Michael

Simon, do you have a recommendation for a tailor accessible from London making jackets that are unstructured (or less structured)? thanks.

Michael

Thanks, Simon.
Have you explored the bespoke service from Anglo-Italian? They have some appealing fabrics but your review left me unconvinced by the MTM option.

Michael

If they provide any informative feedback about the service it would be interesting to hear!

Michael

Many thanks for posting this — I think I’ll give them a try! That’s a competitive price for bespoke.

Jmehpg

Hi Simon,

Any details on where their cutter is coming from? Also, prices listed above I assume is for jacketing? Will their bespoke offer a lot more handwork compared to their MTM, or is it really their MTM service with better fit?

BB

Hey Simon, lovely essay on outwitting the cold air around the ‘corner of Bond Street’. I once asked you about this changeable season in the arsenal that the English weather throws at you. So it was such a relief to read this before I could moan again. As a regular runner, I have nearly lost my fingers by forgetting to wear the proper gloves, just because I didn’t see anyone wearing one. Cold, inclement weather affects people differently and you have to listen to your body, I have found to my chagrin. Love layering, silk scarves, wool/cashmere socks that reach up to the knees (my favourite), watch caps, and blankets (which you’ve recommended in the past). Sounds a misnomer, as they are not for beds or picnics! But very effective, I’ve discovered, draped over the shoulders and can be folded away into the bag when not needed. Could you do a small feature on them and the brands that do them at different price ranges. Almost impossible to find them in shops in London. Thanks

BB

Most grateful for the shawl tips. Yes, I am wearing them like you did in the photos and they serve as a perfect wind breaker. Thanks

MP

Hi Simon,

Another great post, thanks.

Are you planning another run of the Watch Caps? The navy looks great.

MP

Great stuff; thanks.

MIchael

Simon, what shoes did you wear in the top picture?