When the air gets a little crisp, there are few articles of clothing that bring as much comfort as a good sweater. There are two main things to keep in mind when it comes to owning the right sweater: the material (cotton sweaters are common, but also wool and artificial blends) and the style. The former depends a lot on your fabric preferences. For the latter, there are four main styles that every guy should keep on hand from fall through spring.
Crew Neck Sweaters
Crew neck sweaters are your typical sweater style with sleeves, a circular hole for our spherical heads, and a hem at the bottom. If someone was trying to teach an alien what an archetypal sweater was, they’d pull out a few crew necks. To put a little bit more technical terminology to it, a crew neck sweater is a sweater with a round, collarless neckline.
Crew neck sweaters are a practical outer layer for casual outfits, whether you’re lounging around the house or running a few errands. Then, depending on the rest of the outfit, it can easily blend into a dressier outfits — with the important caveat that the crew neck sweater is what’s elevated, not what does the elevating. If you plan on wearing a sweater to a Friday happy hour or the company Christmas party, you’re going to need more formal pants, shoes, and accessories.
Wallace Lake Waffle Sweater from REI
You need a sweater you can beat the hell out of and not feel bad about. And that’s kind of REI’s whole deal. This one comes in a bunch of different colors, is made with easy-to-care-for cotton, and should last you awhile. Don’t think about it too hard, you’re not wearing it to an inauguration.
The Heritage Aran from Moss and Cable
Despite what John Mulaney says, Irish sweaters (or an Aran jumper as they’re known over there),aren’t all itchy burlap sacks meant to make the wearer miserable beyond human comprehension. Plenty of them, like everything from Moss and Cable, are ridiculously cozy and exceptionally durable. With the Heritage Aran, you’re getting a truly local product, made in Donegal from Donegal wool by a woman who knows the Donegal weaving tradition.
A v-neck is a crew neck that got a liberal arts degree. Technically speaking, a v-neck is any sweater where the neck drops to a point somewhere below the chin. There’s a good chance that you not only know what a v-neck sweater looks like, but that you also have strong feelings about them. If those are positive feelings, then you probably already have a couple in your closet. If they’re negative, well, there’s still no denying that the V does, in fact, make a sweater a little fancier.
Övik V-Neck from Fjällräven
This sweater mixes the slightly inflated formality of a v-neck with the durable practicality of a crew neck. Put in real world terms, you can go for a day-long winter hike in it, then wear it to the base camp bar afterward and know that the sweater is a fit for both.
Cashmere V-Neck from J. Crew
This cashmere sweater from J. Crew will easily turn into one of your business casual go-tos. It’s also sustainably produced from cashmere wool, so it’s comfortable on your body and in your brain.
A quarter-zip is a good compromise between a full-zip hoodie and a typical crew or v-neck sweater. There’s a collar for that extra little bit of formality, but a zipper that goes about a quarter of the way down the front (hence the name) to allow room for neck comfort.
Over the colder months quarter-zips can double as regular shirts rather than being solely relegated to layered sweaters. A good quarter-zip sweater is breathable enough that it doesn’t make you feel like you’re overheating while being insulating enough that you stay warm when the air is crisp.
Waterfowl Sweater from L.L. Bean
Like the REI crew neck sweater, this offering from L.L. Bean is designed to be worn rough, though it’s a little fancier looking. The merino wool can take a beating, and you can have confidence that you look pretty damn good on top.
Recycled Cashmere from Patagonia
Patagonia’s owner recently announced that he is basically donating the company to the Earth. That’s a big move even for a company already known for its environmental initiatives. It’s an admirable move that can make you feel good about rocking Patagonia gear, and this recycled cashmere quarter zip is something to add to the list. It’s a simple, understated, functional sweater made of cashmere that would have otherwise been wasted.
The cardigan is the most formal option on this list. It’s generally collarless (though not always, as you see in the two recommendations here) and opens fully down the front. Depending on the one you buy, the sweater pushes the boundaries of what kind of events you can wear a sweater to.
Unlike the other sweater styles, the meaning behind the name isn’t immediately obvious. It was invented by the man who led the Charge of the Light Brigade, the seventh Earl of Cardigan, James Thomas Brudenell. The original cardigans were sweaters the Earl had made for his regiment as part of their uniforms. It’s just one of a long list of clothes that originally came from the military. Though it’s safe to say that few on that list have seen a vibe shift as drastic as the cardigan.
Retirement Shawl Collar Cardigan from Duluth Trading Co.
Duluth has picked up on something distinct about the cardigan in that, yes, it’s a fancy sweater for businessmen, but it’s also a sweater for old men who are aggressively retired. The latter is comforting and makes for a durable sweater. It’s also a great display of I-don’t-care-and-I-know-you-know-I-don’t-care fashion sense. You look good, but it really doesn’t matter if you look good or not.
Calder Cable Cardigan from Fatface
This cardigan has a shawl collar and a button down front. The cable knit fabric is a nice touch that keeps it right in the middle ground in terms of weight, so consider this one for fall and spring rather than the dead of winter.