As the old saying goes, "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." And this seasonal switcheroo can trigger a veritable thunderstorm of fashion mistakes. To be completely fair, though, you're not entirely at fault here. After being fed a steady, six-month-long diet of wool lined in shearling wrapped in down, it's no wonder you're in a hurry to make a hasty break for a swimsuit and sandals. But without heeding our words of caution, your newfound freedom could come at a hefty price.
Lighten up: After a long, lousy winter, old habits - namely, wool, corduroy and cashmere - can be hard to kick. Instead of boiling up in a heavyweight herringbone, make the switch to lighter fabrics like cotton and linen. Super soft newcomers like hemp and bamboo are seasonably sensible options too. (Best of all, they're environmentally friendly.)
Crinkle fabrics: Wrinkle-ready fabrics top our textile selections for spring. Why? Because they lend themselves to the lived-in look that makes bearing a brutal winter worth it. But beware: Laid-back doesn't mean lazy. Hard folds completely crush the rumpled, relaxed feel of the season. The key is to gently crinkle - not crease - your favorite finds in madras or linen. Old standbys like cotton work well too.
Layer lean: Just because winter is winding down doesn't mean you have to lose your layers, especially if there's still a chill in the air. This spring fashion rule requires reinventing your favorites from fall in fabrics that embrace the upward-trending temperatures, like cardigans in cotton and jackets in lightweight nylon.
Change colognes: If you were planning on spritzing your spicy oriental through spring, think again. Your scent selections from winter are simply too strong for the warmer weather and sweating out the excess is bound to leave a trail of tears in its wake. Instead, choose fragrances with citrus and musk notes to complement the budding freshness of the spring season.
Invest in military themes: This fashion rule could actually be applied year-round (hence the investment). At this point, we've basically been beaten senseless with camo and epaulets. So, here's to one more season of saluting military-inspired gear. This go around, look for army-issue charm with outerwear pieces, combat boots and drawstring details.
Settle for saggy slacks: Chinos are a prime choice for warmer weather. They're cool, comfortable and, frankly, a hell of a lot more sensible than men's jeans in the scorching summer sun. But let's face it: We've done a disservice by believing that khaki slacks shouldn't flatter like a kick-ass pair of jeans. So, gentlemen, this spring, let's stand up and say no to crappy-fitting cotton trousers and opt instead for ones with lower rises, slim-lined legs and backsides that don't sag like an adult diaper.
Bring out the sandals: Although spring is certainly sandal time, most men fall short - or shall we say, chunky - in the shoe department. The basic rule is this: If the sole and straps are sturdy enough to wear on a trek through Yellowstone, they're best kept in a backpack for when an outdoor occasion calls. Stick to lean-lined sneakers for everyday activity and flip-flops for the beach.
Play in boardshorts: It's surprising how even the most well-attired men can end up lounging beachside in boardshorts left over from a college-era trip to Cancun. You know, the knee-length kind that are so big and billowy they could double as a skirt. Well, the time has come to grow up and get serious about your swimsuit. For this spring fashion rule, pick a swimsuit that sits just below the hip and ends its journey somewhere in the midthigh region. And one more thing: Solids and subtle prints are preferable to the ubiquitous Hawaiian flowers you're probably used to.
Choose the wraparound: Unless you're Lance Armstrong or an extra from Tron, you can pretty much retire your wraparound shades. In their attempt to look modern, they do little more than breaking the barrier into 1997. Throwbacks like tortoise wayfarers and wire-rim aviators, alternatively, are so traditional, they transcend time.
Continue wearing skinny jeans: Emaciated, pencil-thin denim has died in favor of more neutral ground: straight-leg fits that are slim rather than skinny jeans. Rises are likewise medium, but as always, darker washes continue to rule the roost. We'll let you know when stonewash makes a comeback. Liberating yourself from the cold hard grip of winter can be more challenging than squeezing into a pair of denim mantyhose. Fortunately, with our list of spring fashion rules, you won't have to worry about doing that anymore.
The writer is a fashion specialized in men's tailored clothing, outerwear and contributor at www.askmen.com