While most of us in the northern hemisphere are still enjoying the summer weather, now is the best time to think about your upcoming fall wardrobe. In a few short weeks, it will be getting colder again. While many loathe the colder months of the year, I always look forward to that time of the year because it allows me to wear different fabrics and layers paired with a range of accessories. Here are some sartorial tips for making the most of fall.
1. Wear heavier fabrics with an interesting pattern
My first advice is to go for heavier fabrics, meaning 12 oz / 350 grams or above. The average winter fabric will be 10 oz / 300 grams, but this weight doesn’t drape as well and during the colder months of the year you’ll appreciate the added weight. Personally, I recommend flannel fabrics – grey for business and dark brown or tan for less formal suits. For jackets, go with patterns such as windowpane, glen check, or houndstooth with an overplaid. If you want something very special, have a suit made out of the aforementioned materials – for example, a brown flannel glenplaid suit. Off the rack, you will find garments like that from sophisticated haberdashers but a bespoke tailor or made to measure operation may be the way to go for something really unique. Only there will you be able to choose the shade of your grey windowpane flannel suit and that can make all the difference, especially if your wardrobe has evolved past the classic foundation pieces. Many weavers produce excellent fall/winter fabrics – two that have produced consistently great stuff are Luciano Barbera and Vitale Barberis Canonico (link with sound) – especially their Winter Classics.
2. Opt for fall colors
While summer is great for bright colors, the fall / winter season is made for muted colors: shades of brown, tan, red, purple, mauve, green, mustard yellow, and blue will work supremely well, especially if you mix the colors. Of course, you can choose to wear bright colors as well, but ensure you have one vivd item such as a tie, pocket square or boutonniere and tone down the rest. For example, take a rather bright red tie with printed small geometric patterns, a paisley pocket square in burgundy and some mauve socks together with a grey herringbone tweed jacket and grey flannel pants – you’ll look fantastic.
Most garments off the rack come in solid color these days, but for fall, a mottled grey, blue or tan has a warmer character that goes so much better with the season. Even if you look closely at your grey flannels, you’ll notice there are some variations in the color.
3. Mix Color, textures & patterns
Due to the range of rather muted colors, fall outfits allow you to experiment with pattern, color and texture matching. As you may know, it’s quite easy to overdo it. The art of matching lies in the subtle harmony of all the elements. For example, look at this outfit below. You can see a sports coat in dark blue, mid blue and brown plaids, a bright purple boutonniere, a faux-madder pocket square in a greenish grey with yellow and orange geometric patterns, a white shirt and white and blue bold striped jacquard tie. Basically, there are three patterns and one bright color but it all works together beautifully, due to the color harmony and the size of the patterns.
4. Go with fall ties
Just like coats, fall ties are more muted in color and classics like real ancient madder silks or wool challis prints make for a great fall / winter outfits. Also, knit ties in silk, wool, or wool blends work well, including cashmere because they create a very different character than traditional silk tie. Generally, I wear more printed silk ties during the fall but a jacquard one can work too, as shown above. As with all ties, make sure you have the right length because it looks disproportional to have a tie stick out underneath your cardigan, waistcoat or knit vest.
5. Top it off with fall specific pocket squares
Again, fall calls for muted squares, although you can also make this a great, bright centerpiece if the rest of your outfit is subdued. In regard to texture, it pays to alternate with the tie. For example, a jacquard tie goes well with a printed madder silk square. Printed ties work well with wool challis squares, and wool ties works well with printed silk. These are just a few ideas for you to play with. After a while you should develop a sense of what works well. Just make sure to avoid wearing the same pocket square tie combination too often – there are so many ways to create new outfits, even with a few items! Personally, I never wear the exact same outfit twice, even if it’s just the socks that are different, or the cuff links… try to experiment and you’ll be surprised what you can pull off.
Find some low-light outfit pictures below:
6. Reorganize your closet
Even if you already have a fantastic fall wardrobe and accessories, make sure you actually see them, otherwise, you just won’t wear it. For example, take a look at Sean Crowley’s tie collection – layered ties make for forgotten ties. The same is true for your shirts, sport coats and shoes. Even if you have a small closet try to organize it in a way so you can see what you have, even if that means that you have to sort through your collection and get rid of some pieces, because you will end up wearing more.
7. Brown shoes are your friend
Of course, you can wear red, tan or green shoes in fall, but your most versatile option is definitely brown. Now, brown “narrows” your color choice down to about 350 because there are so many different shades! On top of that, you can choose different leather textures and finishes. The most classic is the plain boxcalf finish, but suede is particularly suited for flannel because both have a certain texture that works well together. Of course, there are all kinds of exotic leathers such as elephant or alligator, but in terms of versatility, a trio of chocolate brown suede derby shoes, a cognac brown full brogue and oxblood cordovan loafers will get you very far because you can combine them with so many things. Antiqued cherry monk straps would also work with many things, but if you are still building a wardrobe keep these three shoes in mind.
8. Wear a boutonniere
One of the easiest and least expensive ways to create a very unique outfit is to add a boutonniere. Probably no other accessory will elevate your outfit as noticeably as a boutonniere, because so few men wear them. Since fresh flowers can be hard to come by, silk boutonnieres in smaller sizes are recommended, because big flowers will easily overwhelm your outfit.
9. Wear silk scarves, a trench coat & a quilted jacket
During the transitional period from summer to fall and sometimes even winter, a trench coat will be one your most valuable companions. Not only does it give you a pleasing silhouette, it also protects you from the rain and works with almost any other garment. While wool or cashmere scarves are the standard during the winter, either double sided silk and wool scarves or just printed silk scarves are a perfect accessories for your trench or sports coat. For more casual outfits, a quilted jacket is great for travel because it’s lightweight yet warm when you need it to be.
10. Get an Overcoat
Once January rolls around, even trench coat with wool lining will be too cold especially in the sleeves, and so you should look for at least one overcoat. Over the past few years, we wrote a number of definitive articles on various overcoat styles; read them here.
Last but not least, I would like to present a few fall outfits from the likes of Luciano Barbera, Dr. Andre Churchwell and yours truly.