Guys, Lighten Up

Menswear picks winter to explore its softer side.

Men can always get away with crisply pressed shirts and clean leather accessories, but designers took liberties with masculinity in this season's collections. Following are a few different ways to play with textures, patterns and shades.

SWEATERS: Whether you like it or not, the Cosby sweater is coming back, but with more couture overtones. Rodarte's crewnecks and cardigans are the most glaring example of how this style is playing out. The handmade mixed knits and impressionist patterns make them statement pieces in dark neutrals and light blues. To get the same effect without shelling out two grand, consider this sheer-paneled sweater from Diesel Black Gold, pull on a piece-y cardigan from Marc by Marc Jacobs, or go full bore with the houndstooth-inspired Energie Kiefer Sweater.

SOCKS: If your sock drawer looks like most men's, it's a sea of black, charcoal and brown. Add some pop to your outfit without making too much noise by investing in dress socks in different shades. Urban Outfitters offers knit socks in six shades ranging from light blue to a mossy olive shade, while Ralph Lauren sells a three-pack of crew socks in mint, red and cornflower.

SPORT COATS: Velvet is not just the fabric of choice for smoking jackets and Elvis paintings. It actually makes a handsome-looking sport coat, a fact that Emporio Armani explored in his Fall/Winter 2010 lineup. Down-to-Earth retailers have noticed, and are offering their own affordable versions of this trend, including the two-button slim-fitting number at Barney's New York Co-Op.

SHOES: Tweeds and herringbones are making their way to footwear for a surprisingly sharp-looking addition to jeans, slacks and even suits. You can find an affordable, wear-with-anything pair at Urban Outfitters, perfect for trying out the style without breaking the bank.

SWEATER JACKETS: San Diego doesn't call for heavy jackets very often, which makes it the perfect place to play around with a new sort of men's outerwear: Sweater Jackets. They are a great replacement for the standard layered sweater, and hooded versions add a welcome warmth if you do decide to venture into colder climates. Check out this classic black version from 7 For All Mankind.

PANTS: Why let your tops and ties have all the pattern fun? Pull out a pair of herringbone pants in traditional (or otherwise) shades and double your outfit options. The Newbury Wool Herringbone Pant from Ralph Lauren is a perfect example of how you can pair these with neutrals or pops of color and still look classic.

OVERCOATS: For an outwear statement that hearkens back to Jil Sander's Fall/Winter 2010 line, ditch your dark and dreary overcoats for beige or light grey. For one example, check out this B.son Heather Slub Hoodie. It adds structure and style while staying lightweight and masculine.

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