For some guys, shopping is a painfully dull experience. Not because they don't like poking through selections of clothes in the mall, but because the shirts, slacks and sweaters they find put them to sleep.
You don't have to have the taste of Giorgio Armani to add some style to your closet. Just changing a few details can help a white-bread wardrobe. One of the most common miscues occurs when you try to dress "nice casual." You might have a nice pair of slacks and a sweater, then you automatically pull out a white shirt to wear under the sweater.
"There are a lot more interesting colors and patterns you can wear with the sweater/shirt combination," says Elizabeth Perlmutter of Structure in Costa Mesa.
Among the newer styles out there are the slouch-neck sweater, the roll-back and the ever-present cardigan. Slouch-necks can be worn with traditional collared shirts as well as polos and Ts.
The roll-back looks best with a T-shirt or a thermal undershirt if the weather is cool. The cardigan goes with virtually any undershirt except a tank top.
If you're shopping for a sweater for spring, think primary colors: reds, yellows, oranges. Earth tones are fading.
If you're not comfortable with brighter shades for a sweater, try wearing a shirt with them. "We're seeing a lot of brighter colors to go with sweaters, and that's one way of updating an outfit," Perlmutter says.
In colder climes, men are wearing a "vest-over," a layered look that includes a vest fitted over a sweater. "You see it in other areas of the country, but not as much here," Perlmutter says.
The preppy look, with a button-down collar under crew-neck cotton sweater, is a classic, but it can be made a little more stylish. "I'd add some funky trousers and boots for a look that says, 'I'm not really a stuffed shirt,' " says fashion designer Brian Mayne of Mission Viejo.
Men's shirt collars have been quite an unstable force in fashion, and seeing them pop out of sweater necks gives you a good view of what's new in this area. "We're seeing a return to collars being unbuttoned and spread out from the neck," Perlmutter says.
If you're still one of those guys who wears a polo under a sweater and pulls the collar straight up, you're probably getting strange looks. "That was kind of an aberration, but I'm sure it will be back at some point," says Tom Fuller of Fuller's for Men & Women in Monarch Bay.
Of course, if you're wearing a dressy sweater, be sure not to wear a polo on underneath. "That's more of a casual, country club look," Fuller says. "A collared shirt goes somewhat better."