Feature photo by svenjajan

When it comes to outerwear, windbreakers aren’t known as the prettiest choice, but their honest, utilitarian function becomes their most stylish attribute.

The fact that the windbreaker is utility-over-anything gives this look an unpretentious ease and that attribute is something you can look forward to seeing in the years ahead. The cardigan had it’s moment and it isn’t necessarily over. I have to say, I will continue to wear them since they have been a staple of my overall look for nearing the better part of a decade. But the best transition between winter and spring is an outwear item that is light and thin yet can withstand the heavy winds of the northern Midwest and, more importantly, keep you dry in those wet days of spring.

And speaking of wet, the average precipitation in Chicago is always at it’s highest in late summer, a time when it is too hot to wear a sweater. Although the windbreaker doesn’t breathe that well, it does allow for movement and won’t make you sweat at that crazy hour when the first 30 minutes is sunny as hell and then the last is a torrential downpour.

Our Jupiter-like storms aside, the fabric is one thing that sets windbreakers apart from cardigans. The cardigan is wool or a woven polyblend, while the the athletic cut and noisy fabric of the windbreaker are always light and waterproof. Don’t be afraid to wear a windbreaker loosely, perhaps exposing a shoulder or two. You can make it an accessory by tying it around your waist.

Coverings are a fickle subject. This is why it’s much better to get into the swing of things now. Contrasts are always good, so try a windbreaker over something sturdy like a cable knit shirt or something that is stiffer, but breathes more, in congruence with torn khaki or light denim shorts would do quite nicely. The look of a baseball shirt under a windbreaker works wonders as well.

It should go without saying that I’m not talking about the 80s-looking track suit deals with the multicolor geometric shapes and shoulder pads that were often crinkled or elasticized at the waist. Think more 90s hip hop. You remember the type; in the Perry Ellis/Tommy Hilfiger vein. However, the style should refrain from exposing one’s buttocks briefly covered in white jockey. Think less-than-baggy pants rather than encompassing all staples of the gangsta rapper’s closet.

The thing to remember about a signature look like the windbreaker, is that it can be quite deceiving. It’s particular fabric require you to hang dry ( you can tumble dry, but I’ve always found it best to hang dry) and you might not even wash it that much to begin with. I have found that since it’s borderline plastic, one can barely distinguish quick enough the dirt stains or the smell, since hardly anything attaches to it.

The look and noise of the windbreaker might put some people off but the fact of the matter is it’s time to let it go. It’s spring and even though we still need to shield ourselves from the elements, you can’t do it in woven prints. It’s positively suicidal. Frankly, if you want to continue to dress like Tosh.O, be my guest but soon people will complain, “Where have I seen that before?”

Unfortunately, the way this fabric is set up (both the silhouette and the time frame) I would say that this is an exclusive look for the men out there. Sure, a woman can wear it, but for all intents and purposes, it looks much better on a man. It also makes much more sense. Cardigans have a unisex quality to them but in recent times there has been a push to soften the look of men’s style using these open faced sweaters. Windbreakers are a way to soften your image but retain a rough athleticism.

Farewell and remember:

Don’t be a stranger, but do be stranger.

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