Prepping for your warm-weather wardrobe shouldn’t just be about trading in heavy fabrics for lighter ones. This spring, experiment with every variety of plaid; take risks with sunny yellows; and explore your sporty side with refined athletic wear.


While shorts may not be an unexpected spring wardrobe staple, prepare to see—and bare—a lot of leg this season, as hemlines creep ever higher. Tommy Hilfiger paired his preppy shirting and jackets with short shorts in denim, as well as camouflage and color blocked pieces. Prints from edgy New York label Duckie Brown also showed up in mini shorts, while the hemline of Jil Sander’s perfectly tailored high-waisted, pleated trouser shorts hit several inches above the knee. Whether patterned or draped, these summer ready shorts look right at home in the Northeast, but work wherever the sun is shining.


A perennial hipster favorite, plaid is going to have a major presence in this spring’s menswear. Expect to see everything from traditional tartan to cartoonish checkerboard patterns. Iceberg kept it subtle with subdued shadow plaid separates, while Comme des Garçons and Alexander McQueen showed eye-popping checked ensembles. Plaid means an opportunity to dabble in color, and we saw that big time in a bright orange overcoat at Raf Simons and Jean Paul Gaultier’s pink and green tartan. Etro’s plaid suit conveyed a sense of Edwardian elegance, while the likes of Louis Vuitton and Kenzo went for a more modern look with broader squares and simpler patterns. You’ve definitely got options this spring!


Prints and patterns are making even bigger statements this season, with designers showcasing their most flamboyant offerings yet. Burberry Prorsum’s spring collection is emblazoned with 60s-inspired batik and tribal patterns, while Dries Van Noten’s stripes ranged from sunny to somber. Florals may not seem like the most obvious choice for menswear, but Prada made them work in playful, springtime colors. Pringle of Scotland took on digitalized geometric patterns, while Jean Paul Gaultier’s psychedelic SoCal landscape prints are just as subtle as you expect from the in-your-face designer.


Bright, cheery colors are, of course, nothing new for spring. Take your pick out of a crayon box, and you’re sure to be on-trend. But designers all over made a singular case for every variation of yellow this season. Roberto Cavalli gave us Italian Riviera luxury with an immaculately tailored mustard suit, while Michael Bastian’s lemon yellow pants for Gant spoke to our adventurous inner WASP. Calvin Klein Collection was packed with characteristically minimalist tanks and sneakers in various citrusy shades. And newcomer Marlon Gobel’s luminous sheer shirt and equally brilliant yellow board shorts provide the summer sunshine all on their own.


To offset spring’s bright colors and prints, designers looked to the muted tones of khaki for styles that are at once seasonally casual and chicly crisp. There’s an air of military formality to Yves Saint Laurent’s minimal suits and coats, while Louis Vuitton’s safari jackets and shorts seem to be channeling our inner adventurer. Maison Martin Margiela and Hermès delivered decidedly more laid back takes on luxury in the form of khaki colored separates: a structured jacket with asymmetrical zipper at Margiela, and sandy turtlenecks, cardigans, and tanks at Hermès.


Runways took a decidedly sportier turn for spring 2012, where Calvin Klein Collection spearheaded über-casual yet austerely luxe athletic style with baggy elastic hemmed sweat pants, mesh t-shirts, lightweight tank tops, and zip-up sweaters. Antonio Azzuolo’s punctuated his dapper spring collection with bright anoraks and sleeveless hoodies, and Dolce & Gabbana included mesh accents on shorts and jackets. Meanwhile, Marc by Marc Jacobs is bringing the ultimate sportswear accessory, the baseball cap, back into the realm of casual fashion to top off your look.


Designers championed looser silhouettes this season, ensuring a comfortably casual spring. This theme was especially obvious with trousers—leading us to wonder if skinny jeans’ days might be numbered. Pants were treated with breezy drapery, volume-creating pleats, and eye-catching drop crotches. At Henrik Vibskov, pants were at once perfectly tailored and comfortably roomy. Alexander McQueen featured super wide-leg striped pants fit for a circus ringmaster. And slouchy legged suits were ubiquitous on the runways of Duckie Brown and Vivienne Westwood.


We have a springtime solution for all you guy married to your basic black. One word: Blue. Like khaki, this basic hue shows up in various shades and silhouettes for spring. From sharp navy suiting to over-the-top electric leather sandals, designers from Viktor & Rolf to Dsquared2 are feeling blue in the best way possible. Versace’s always eye-catching runway show was a study in bright blues that showed up in head-to-toe prints and suede bomber jackets. Ports 1961 opted for pairings of navy and white for that timeless nautical appeal, while a dusky cerulean suit made a subtle statement at Zero + Maria Cornejo.


When spring comes, trade in your dark palette for flashes of sherbet hues. This season, everything from wardrobe staples to attention-grabbing standouts will be painted in lightened shades of primary colors. Mugler’s warrior-like dreamscape featured soft purple suiting, sculptural jackets in lime, and even straightforward tees in an unexpected creamsicle orange. Carlos Campos followed suit with strong showings of sun-bleached yellows and roses, while faded teal pants proved to be the perfect juxtaposition to printed jackets at Richard Chai. Don’t worry; your basic blacks and winter whites will be back come fall. But for now, don’t be afraid of a little springtime color!