We’re in the middle of what’s known as a “shoulder season.”
Meaning: Those times of year where it’s not too hot, not too cold, sometimes just right, but always difficult to dress for.
First known use: Sundress merchants in ancient Mesopotamia trying to liberate women’s shoulders while boosting sales, since the men’s shoulders proved too hairy for attractive marketing material.
Derived from: Probably Latin.
Shoulder seasons make getting dressed in the morning a chore because the weather can be so unpredictable. Is it going to be sunny and 68, cloudy and 54, or snowing slush and 36?
What you need is a piece that is ultra versatile, stylish, and toes the line between way-too-much and not-enough.
Enter, the Chore Coat.
What began as a French working-person’s solution to chilly damp air has become a modern wardrobe staple. Thanks, France! (Americans that had a problem with France, fashion, or both started calling
it a “barn coat”, so there’s an alternative option if you don’t consider yourself a Francophile).
A chore coat successfully fills the gap in the shoulder season wardrobe because it comes in a mid-weight material, a trim cut, and the style can take you all the way from actually doing chores in the morning to 2-for-1 happy hour.
Let’s talk logistics –
The Material: The two best material options are twill and linen. Twill is going to be heavier, warmer, and slightly more polished – great for early Spring. Linen is going to
be lighter, breathe more, and give off a more casual approach since it will show the lived-in wrinkles – great for late spring when you only need an extra layer to cut the morning chill.
The Cut: A chore coat has a straight cut.
It doesn’t call attention to itself by being big and bold. It helps you master the art of subtlety. It is slightly longer than a denim jacket and extends just past your waist. This creates an elongating and slimming effect without being too obvious about it – stealth mode, like a French spy.
The Style: It honestly does so many things well that it needn’t be confined to one style, but it plays especially well with
your favorite denim or cotton pants (guys read: chinos). Because it pairs so well with denim, I would go with any color except for blue for your first chore coat so that you can easily add some contrast to your daily style. If you want a more airy and whimsical feel for your style, go with a white or a
light shade of a primary color. If you want more of an anchoring piece that plays an understated role, go with an olive, khaki (brown), or black.
The chore coat can do so many things well and with so little effort that it is definitely worth a try if you’ve never worn one and it’s absolutely worth pulling out of the back of your closet if you already have one.
Hang it by your front door or keep it in
the back seat of your car. You can throw it over just about any outfit and it will play well together. It just might save you once or twice this Spring during those crazy temperature swings before Summer officially settles in.
The other shoulder season staple your wardrobe is going to benefit from is a pair of ankle boots.
These go by many different names – Chelsea boot, chukka, ankle booty, jodhpur, side-
zip boot- but they all share something in common… They cover your ankle.
This is one of those times where form followed function and both ended up being better because of it.
The functionality is great for this time of year. It is usually a little rainy and muddy, or the snow is melting into a slush but it’s warm enough that you don’t want to be wearing full-on rain boots. A little extra height is all you need to keep the mud and slush out and your style is going to benefit too.
An ankle boot is by no means niche, but it isn’t nearly as common as a sneaker. It is going to stand out just enough to give your style a boost without the risk of pushing too far and becoming part of a trend.
The best part is that there are enough options when it comes to these stylish icons of function that you can find a pair that is dressy enough to go out in and another that is utilitarian enough for your daily demands.
Your daily driver: The Chukka or the Blundstone Chelsea
Clarks created the chukka boot for infantrymen in World War 1 and it was originally called the desert boot. The OG chukka boots have a gum sole, which is SUPER squishy, so you won’t be sacrificing any comfort while still looking phenomenal.
Blundstone’s version of the Chelsea boot (#500) is much more rugged and utilitarian than most Chelsea boots. Historically a work boot, they are just as easy to pair with your favorite denim for a workwear- inspired daily style.
This time, with class: The Chelsea or Jodhpur
The classic Chelsea boot is available for both men and women and comes in varying levels of formality. For reference, the thinner the sole, the dressier it will be perceived and for women, the higher the heel, the dressier as well. Another factor influencing the dressy/casual scale is the leather. More shine = more fancy.
The Jodhpur boot was originally a low horse-riding boot that British officers adopted while in India. It has a smooth front without laces, and the boots are fastened by a wrap-around strap and buckle. Typically more of a gentlemen’s style, this is the epitome of a dress boot and one that will pair well with a full suit or trousers and a turtleneck.
Early Spring and late Fall share some crossover pieces between their wardrobes, and the ankle boot is one of them. This is great news, because it means you get more mileage out of them and more opportunity to hone how you like to style them. Enjoy your last several weeks of boot weather before a steady Summer heat finds you transitioning to canvas sneakers and sandals.