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A man for both seasons

It's a change less obvious -- in L.A., a guy doesn't need frost to tell him what to wear.

September 14, 2008|Adam Tschorn | Times Staff Writer

HAVING made the transition from rural Vermont newspaper editor to West Coast style reporter, I've learned a few things about the guy's version of swapping out a seasonal wardrobe. Though the rules are subtle (in general, ditch the floral prints, cargo shorts and lighter hues before the TV networks launch their fall lineups), they're nonetheless important. Wait too long to make the switch from summer to fall and you wind up looking like Tommy Tourist on the Third Street Promenade.

Back East, timing was easy. Late September usually brought the first frost -- an early-warning system signaling that sometime in the next 30 days Mother Nature would flip the thermostat from Indian summer sweat lodge to Ben & Jerry's ice cream freezer. A climate that could freeze the water in car batteries made the focus less about style and more about surviving the elements.

Here, though, fall is an opportunity to display a little more personal style. It took me about eight seasons to find the rhythm, but now, when the late September Santa Anas turn the Southland into a giant convection oven, I start to put the following plan in motion. Although the contents of your closet will vary, the approach will feel about the same.


Corral and quarantine the flip-flops, light-colored leather and any brightly patterned Vans slip-ons (my collection of the SoCal skate shoe includes some 30 pairs decorated with such images as palm trees and Apu from "The Simpsons"). Dust off and re-repair the black cap-toe lace-ups, brown ankle-high boots and any seasonal shoes (the Santa-skull Vans, for instance). Boat shoes? They're acceptable all year on the West Coast, and this year I'll be unboxing an autumnal-looking dark green fabric-covered pair from the Band of Outsiders Sperry collaboration.


Contemplate wearing them at some formal occasion in coming months. Less formal? Think argyle.


Although jeans are on deck year-round, fall is for black Levi's 501s and dark-washed selvage denim from Agave Denimsmith and the Stronghold. Put cargo shorts and linen trousers into hibernation mode and pull out the crisp cotton khakis. If corduroys didn't make me sound like an approaching zydeco band with every step, I'd bust them out about now.


Florals and bright patterns evoke a strictly summer vibe, which means as much as you love them, it's time to send those Reyn Spooner Hawaiian shirts and Tommy Bahama camp shirts packing, along with any lighter-weight and light-colored polo shirts and all the linen, seersucker, light cotton and short-sleeve button-fronts you own.

Replace them with oxford cloth dress shirts, anything in the brown/tan/earth-tone spectrum, plaids and any fall and winter polos (think darker oranges and forest greens).


Au revoir, light gray pinstripes and khaki-colored linen. Hello, blue herringbone tweed and green glen plaid blazers. My custom-made blue velvet blazer (which in L.A. can be worn only in a six-week window from Christmas to Groundhog Day) comes out for the holidays. Similarly, say sayonara to windbreakers and zip-front hoodies and embrace the Burberry trench and J. Crew barn jacket.

Whether you follow my lead, just remember: For guys the seasonal switch can be the style equivalent of daylight saving time -- a chance to spring ahead into new territory or fall back on old favorites -- except for that pair of outsized Arctic-caliber Sorel boots from back East. You can keep those buried in the mudroom of unfortunate fashion until, oh, the next Ice Age.


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