Are there places on our planet that enjoy luxurious, gentle transitions between the seasons? Does any wardrobe rotate in steady lockstep with the ripening leaves, frosts, thaws and heat? I ask for more than rhetorical effect; I would be envious of a place where linen, gaberdine, flannel and tweed can be predictably selected without fear of getting it terribly wrong. Anywhere I have lived, it is summer one day, and the next it has already been fall for a week. That it then reverses back just as I’ve slipped into warmer clothing—the dreaded Indian summer—is cruel. And so we formulate ways to weather unseasonable seasons. I find the following three items indispensable.
The fourteen ounce tweed jacket is ideal. True, this conclusion is based on experience rather than science, and I realize tolerances vary greatly. But I also challenge those skeptics to find this versatile weight far too hot or cold on those unpredictable inter-seasonal days. I have worn one of mine between forty and seventy degrees fahrenheit without any major problems. The trick, if it can be called that, is to mentally recategorize the jacket as a sweater or cardigan, which one wouldn’t think twice about slinging over an arm or wearing with a scarf as needed.
Conversely, cotton socks present somewhat of a versatility challenge. They don’t really insulate well while managing to wear too warmly in the real heat. Quality versions are no less expensive than woolen socks and I have even struggled to launder them with consistent results. But they are the only sock for unpredictable weather; not because they adjust, but because they will not cause too much discomfort if the temperature veers in either direction. I realize this wisdom is less an endorsement for the cotton sock than a recommendation based upon its shortcomings. But isn’t all versatility grounded in some form of compromise?
Finally, the seemingly least practical tip. For years I assumed the lightweight scarf was one of those silly accessories favored by stylists for their warm-weather clients who yearn for cold-weather style (these people live in Los Angeles, by the way). But then I was given one made of modal (reconstituted cellulose spun to incredible fineness). It is softer than cashmere, and, like a scrap of urban rubbish, could easily float around the city on a stiff enough updraft. Despite these qualities it also insulates exceedingly well when worn beneath a jacket or casually over a lightweight knit. I am a convert—with the sincerest apologies to stylists everywhere.
There is one slight problem though. A gauzy (polka-dotted) scarf will not go unnoticed, and tweed, while widely worn, has strong enough fall and winter connotations to elicit snarky comments if worn too early in the season. These items are only as good as one’s likelihood of wearing them, and for one reason or another, most of my preferred inter-seasonal stuff is fairly conspicuous. I wonder if this is why many men resort to technical gear—the sort of athletic stuff that is said to breathe and wick. But I ask: what’s more alarming, a man warding off an unseasonal cold snap in tweed or the site of a mountaineer hailing a cab?