Despite them being close to a fall staple, an indispensable part of a gentleman’s wardrobe come the cold months, most men know little about sweaters – and therefore not many of them dare take advantage of the entire spectrum of styles and patterns available. From the choice of color to the one involving the material, the point is to always highlight your individuality, while opting for quality and durability in your garments.
If you plan on making every moment of your wearing knitwear this autumn / winter 2013 count for a change, this guide attempts to give you a better understanding of a sweater’s fabric, style and fit, along with a few important rules concerning its care and best handling. Read it all, after the break.
Sweaters and knits for autumn
Either jumpers or cardigans, thin or thick, solid or patterned, in bright or in dark hues, the sweaters resonating with the fall season span over many and different styles, mixing functionality with some of the most pertinent runway trends. That said, the classic elements seem to always persevere, meaning there’s absolutely nothing wrong in sticking with a timeless cut and choice of fabric.
Knitwear on the runway at Burberry Prorsum F/W ’13 men’s
- Wool is probably the first fabric that comes to mind in regards of a cold-proof wardrobe, sweaters making no exception here. Although its quality and softness may vary with the animal, wool makes for the most traditional fabric choice, being best at retaining heat. Durable, able to keep you warm even when it is wet, wool does require a great amount of care. It is best washed by hand in temperate water, dried on a drying rack, or dry-cleaned. To avoid shrinking, remember to never wash wool in hot water or stick it in the dryer. Use a sweater stone or a pill razor to remove the pills. Fold the wool sweaters instead of hanging them on clothes hangers.
- Cashmere makes for the highest standard when it comes to sweaters. Warm, soft and incredibly light, a cashmere sweater is more of a long-time investment. Giving its high-price rage you should make sure the sweater fist perfectly and comes in a timeless color before purchasing it. Avoid counterfeit sweaters and follow the same caring rules as for wool.
- Cotton sweaters tend to be cooler than either their wool or cashmere relatives as their cellulose foundation sheds heat faster. You can wear them directly on your skin without the risk of irritation. They are machine washable, however they should be kept away from moisture. They are far more inexpensive than wool, but at the same time they tend to wear out faster. Given the fact that cotton makes for a breathable fabric, it can be worn all-year round.
- Synthetic fabric sweaters can mimic the properties of wool or cotton, with the main advantage being their coming with a considerable lower price tag. Oftentimes they don’t require a special treatment when it comes to washing and handling. They are more resistant to chemicals and oils, but less breathable and less warm. Acrylic sweaters make for the most common choice.
Note: if you’re still unsure about the finer points of washing and drying your sweater, you can also check the symbols on the tags and follow this guide to clothing care labels.
Style, pattern and color
When it comes to style, pattern and colors in a sweater, the road you choose to take can lead to endless combinations, some more successful than others. In terms of style, here are the sweaters to keep in mind:
- Men’s V-neck sweater. Defined by its own name, this particular type of sweater comes, of course, with a low cut “V” neckline. It is usually complemented either by a button-down collar dress shirt (without a tie for more of a casual approach, with a tie for a smart, business-casual outing), or by a crew neck t-shirt. Whenever worn with a dress shirt, the collar should stay under the sweater, as should the cuffs, and the shirt should always be tucked in. You should also avoid the V necklines that are cut too low.
V-neck sweater at Valentino F/W 13 men’s
- Men’s crew neck sweater. When it comes to lightweight or mid-weight sweaters, the crew neck easily stands for the classic choice. Versatile yet timeless, the crew neck sweater works when paired with anything in between jeans and grey flannels. It can be a flat knit or cabled in solid colors, it can be used for layering but it can be also worn with something less revealing underneath. For the best fit, the sweater should fit comfortably over an oxford shirt yet still allow for easy movement.
Crew neck sweater at Calvin Klein F/W ’13
- Men’s Aran Sweater. A tale of history, as well as an Irish original, an aran sweater is still perceived as both a work of art and a menswear staple. It can be worn casually and a little baggy. Thick cable knits don’t have to fit perfectly around the midsection, but they should fit in the shoulders and under the arms. Best worn over clothing rather than under a sport jacket.
Aran sweater at Tillmann Lauterbach F/W ’13
- Men’s Cardigan Sweater. Underrated and underused, the cardigan is wrongfully perceived as an “old man’s sweater”. The truth of the matter is that the cardigan, either zipped or button-down, is just as versatile, as it compliments men of all ages. Simple to remove, it can be worn over dress shirts, just as easily as it can be worn underneath a sport jacket, and it can also be matched to a suit. The cardigan is also the only sweater type to allow pockets. Whenever sporting a cardigan, remember to always leave the bottom unbuttoned.
Cardigan on the runway at Roccobarocco F/W ’13 men’s
- Men’s turtleneck sweater. Always fluctuating in and out of style, a men’s turtleneck sweater in a dark color should still not be missing from a men’s fall wardrobe. Paired to a dark pair of trousers, it immediately contours a leaner and taller silhouette, in addition to framing the face well. It can be worn by itself, with a suit, or with a sports jacket for more of a casual styling.
Turtleneck sweater on the runway at Ermenegildo Zegna F/W ’13 men’s
In terms of patterns, it is well known the fact that as opposed to the solid colored knits, the sweaters featuring patterns represent a more casual choice of garments. Stripes are easily one of the most popular knit patterns. In wearing them remember to choose thin stripes for fine knits, and broad with alternating bright and dark block of colors for thick-knit sweaters. The fair isle sweaters are a unique choice, given the whole wide world of ethnic patterns available. Avoid the reindeer motif or keep it strictly for the weeks preceding the Holidays. Also, make sure the pattern of your sweater isn’t extremely busy or extremely loud, unless that is a look you can pull off with confidence.
Patterned sweaters on the runway at Kolor F/W ’13 men’s, Dsquared2 F/W ’13 men’s and Paul Smith F/W ’13 men’s
With solid colors, the fine knits are safer for business casual. Fall and winter work best with darker hues, which are also considered more formal and conservative. However, this doesn’t mean that the bright and pastel colors should be excluded. In the end it is all a matter of perspective and aesthetic. Remember that in the right combination, the darker reds and navy blues are colors that can be worn all year round.
A great fit, or the right fit is maybe the most important thing when it comes to all things fashion related. With that said, a sweater worn rather casually can be a little loose, but never as loose as to help translate your entire look as sloppy. Too tight doesn’t work either.
Thick knits are allowed to be a little baggy in the arms and midsection, as well as to hang a little lower than your pants pockets, as opposed to thin knits which should feature the shoulder seam right at the shoulder bone.
The bottom button of a cardigan should meet your belt. Also with cardigans, avoid the collar gap.
Knit fittings on the runway at T by Alexander Wang F/W ’13 men’s, Valentino F/W ’13 men’s and Missoni F/W ’13 men’s
When it comes to layering, the possibility of making the most out of wearing a sweater aligns many options. Based on color, the layering can be built upon the contrast between outerwear and sweater, but it can also be created around a matching color palette.
White button-downs along with crew neck t-shirts make for the most common choices to be worn under V-neck sweaters, and crew neck sweaters alike.
In order to successfully wear a sweater under a blazer, they both must fit exceptionally well, and their patterns should never clash. Same thing applies for wearing a sweater with a suit, in which case the suit becomes less formal.
When the temperatures beg for it, a nice coat or a thick sports jacket can be added to the layering process, by making sure everything is being kept to the adequate proportions and the colors, patterns and fabrics work in perfect harmony.
Knitwear layering on the runway at Topman F/W ’13 men’s, Roccobarocco F/W ’13 men’s and Viktor & Rolf F/W ’13 men’s