The 3 Best Jackets For Spring
With the change of seasons comes the inevitable deluge of internet articles about stuff you NEED for the coming months. With titles like “10 Essential Shoes You Need For Spring!” or “15 Shirts You Need To Try This Season!” these articles are predictably packed with links off of which the author makes a pretty penny. The more items on the list, the more links that can be included.
Now, there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. I would love it if someone paid me to write about clothes. But when viewed with a critical eye, are these articles really all that helpful? Does anyone need 10 shoes or 15 shirts? Isn’t it a bit more helpful for someone to whittle down the myriad of choices using sound reasoning for what is included or not and make things easier for the reader who might be looking for honest-to-goodness guidance?
With that said, I would like to discuss three jackets that I feel are the best choices for spring. No, you do not need all of them; you will be just fine with any one of them. They all nimbly straddle the line between casual and “looking nice” but are also practical enough for the chaotic and unpredictable business of fatherhood.
Waxed Cotton Field Jacket
Even though it’s late April, it still has a relatively “early spring” feel. Possibly because it has snowed the past two days here in the Northeast. But that just illustrates the unpredictability of spring weather. Even though there have been snowflakes, it hasn’t been super cold, so a heavy winter coat at this stage doesn’t make sense, especially because there are some days well into the 60s. I find a waxed cotton jacket to be the perfect transitional piece.
Mine is a Barbour Dalkeith from Orvis. It’s cut a little more like a sport coat than the more popular Barbours, but the construction is basically the same: hearty waxed cotton shell over a thin wool lining. For the past month or so this has been my “hanging by the door” jacket that I throw on whether I’m driving the 4-year-old to school, walking the dog, or splitting the last few bundles of firewood for the season.
Even though Barbours and other waxed cotton field jackets have made their way into the typical Midtown Bro’s uniform, that shouldn’t detract from their appeal as a handsome and highly functional wardrobe staple. Yes, they are somewhat ubiquitous, but often things become ubiquitous because they work.
For me, there are three main benefits of the waxed cotton field jacket beyond the fact that they just look good. One, is that they are tough and when you beat them up they look better and better. The other day I took the 4-year-old into the woods on our property to help me start clearing a trail. It was brambly and poky but the waxed cotton felt like a thin layer of armor.
Reason number two is that a waxed cotton field jacket is a true load bearing garment. The inside breast pocket holds my phone, and the two large bellowed hip pockets means I have room for gloves, my keys, and my facemask, but I also have plenty of room for a few racecars to keep the boys busy while we wait for our burgers to be ready at the diner.
Adequate pocket space is a godsend when you hear the inevitable “Daddy, can you carry this?”
Reason number three is that this jacket is practically impenetrable when it comes to the elements. Again, it can get very wet very quickly here in the Northeast, so impermeability is a requirement for any type of outerwear. A cold and soggy shirt can definitely ruin the rest of your family hike and have you wishing you wore something more robust.
A lighter jacket is needed as we head from the “60 Degrees Today, 20 Degrees Tomorrow” portion of spring into the more reliably warm portion. A Harrington Jacket is the perfect choice.
I know it just looks like a windbreaker, but that’s because this classic jacket is the style on which all other windbreakers are based. It’s like how all steel watches look like the Rolex Submariner because it was a pretty perfect design to begin with.
Since the Harrington is so lightweight, you can wear it on even very warm spring days. Not having to constantly remove and put on my jacket as I go about my day is helpful especially when additionally encumbered with all the junk the kids need wherever we go.
And, as with the waxed cotton field jacket, the Harrington boasts pretty substantial pockets with button closures.
An added benefit of the Harrington is the fact that, since so many companies make some iteration of the original Baracuta design, it comes in pretty much any color you could want. Channeling your inner James Dean or Steve McQueen? Grab a red or tan one. I opted for navy since I felt like it would look better with khaki pants (and the dark color is great for hiding stains).
Even though, like I said, most other windbreakers bear some resemblance to the Harrington, it’s really the details that make the Harrington stand out, specifically the tartan lining and the stand-up band collar, so make sure you find one sporting those elements.
Tweed Sport Coat
I know I keep beating the “Tweed Sport Coat Drum” around here but I honestly feel that it bests the three honorable mentions that didn’t make the cut for this article, specifically, the leather jacket, the denim jacket, and the chore coat.
Let’s look at them head to head…
Vs the Leather Jacket – I have two leather jackets and I LOVE them. One is a G1 bomber jacket with a fur collar and the other is a Schott Perfecto double rider with a red tartan flannel lining. Both of them could ably fill a “one jacket” wardrobe. However, for spring, the tweed jacket is more practical given its lighter weight and versatility when it comes to more “dressed up” occasions like periodically going back in to your office. Now, if you solely wear t-shirts then I would say a leather jacket would trump the tweed jacket, but you’re a stylish man who needs to dress well more often than not.
Vs the Denim Jacket – I wrote an article some time ago expressing my thoughts on why the denim jacket isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. If you’ve read that article then you know why the tweed jacket is the better bet. Weather resistance is the name of the game here. I’ve been caught in the rain in my denim jacket many times and each time I come away soaked to the bone. In my tweed jacket, I’m more or less fine since it’s made of wool as opposed to denim. If you live in a particularly dry climate like Arizona or California, then I could see choosing the denim jacket, but in many parts of the country springtime means unpredictable showers. You’ll need something that can handle a bit of rain.
Vs the Chore Coat – Chore coats are a great choice for spring and summer when you KNOW it won’t rain since they are light weight and have tons of pockets. For these reasons, they are great for museum or playground trips with the kids. But again, the issue here is its ability to handle inclement weather. Many chore coats are made from cotton or canvas which won’t block the rain.
And don’t be precious about your tweed sport coat just because it’s a “sport coat” and feels a little more formal. A rough tweed won’t wrinkle so you barely even need to hang it up. When choosing a tweed sport coat that you plan on using for outerwear at times, I find it helpful to have a pretty substantial collar so you can flip it up to protect your neck when the weather goes south. And don’t shy away from details like leather elbow patches or button flap patch pockets or throat latches. These little flourishes casualize the jacket and make it easier to wear as a regular spring jacket. Remember, these jackets were originally built for outdoor pursuits like hunting.
Also, while pure wool will never let you down, don’t discount a jacket that has a little bit of polyester blended in with the wool. Notice how I said “a little bit”. If it’s a 50/50 mix then move on to something better. But a small splash of poly in the wool helps shed water, resist wrinkles even further, and beef up the general heartiness of the garment. Purists may say that the poly makes it less breathable, which is true, but in small amounts it is so negligible that you won’t even notice.
I would try to make sure the lining of the jacket is something like Bemberg or viscose, as a pure polyester lining won’t help regulate your body temperature as well. But again, it’s not a huge deal. I have a tweed sport coat with a polyester lining from Aran Sweater Market and the thing is built like a tank and blocks wind and rain like I was wearing a slicker. The jacket pictured above is from Brooks Brothers.
So, there are your three best options for spring jackets. As I said earlier, you don’t need all three of them. Take your pick out of any of them and go take care of your dad-business.