A jumper – of some incarnation – will be making an appearance in every male-dominated wardrobe this season. With layering a heavy focus for a lot of us, it’s a given. The jumper becomes that timeless garment to add warmth, along with style to any look.
With a wide range of alternatives available to us in today’s market, what style of jumpers should we be looking towards for autumn/winter 2011? Whether you are looking for a jumper to dress up or dress down a look, neutralise or add colour to an outfit, or simply just add as much warmth as possible, today we will be highlighting the three styles of jumper which you should definitely be considering for this season.
For some reason I hate the word “sweater”, so I was pretty shocked when I found the inspiration to include them into this article. I don’t know what it is, maybe the fact it reminds me of that awful school uniform I once had to wear on a daily occasion (that yellow sweater has scarred me for life). Or maybe it’s a result of being forced to wear that awful purple knitted sort from Grandma every time I felt a chill. Or even that it was the nasty headmasters trademark garment? Whatever it is I find myself currently staring at a wardrobe filled with them. My now ex headmaster would be proud of my current collection.
The problem with the term ‘sweater’ is that it is so generic. It can be used to categorise nearly every form of jumper available; from crew necks and v-necks, to pull overs and polo necks – it can even be used to describe sweatshirts as well. For the sake of this breakdown, I will be concentrating on knitted sweaters, as the sweatshirt is making its own case to be considered an essential part of your wardrobe this season [Editor: full write up coming soon].
I would be surprised to hear of anyone having not worn a sweater. Whether through choice or otherwise is another question entirely. Originally designed to aid sweat during exercise, a sweater can be used in different ways to either casual down a look or formalise one.
A sweater is a great addition to any smart/casual look, and it’s the most popular way of wearing this timeless garment currently. Implementing sweaters over a slim-fit shirt and paired with jeans or chinos, brogues and topped off with a tie creates a smart/casual look fit for most occasions. In my eyes, there are two key combinations available to you if you want to wear the sweater in an elegant manner; the first is by layering a shirt underneath. A tie or bow tie is optional.
When looking to pull off this look, pay close attention to the fit of the sweater. Something too slim fit can leave the shirt looking ruffled underneath. Clad in colour for autumn/winter has been highlighted as a popular trend as any. A colourful sweater, toned down with a neutral pair of chinos or cords, can create a statement look. Subtle colour can be added by layering a colourful shirt and tie underneath a neutral coloured sweater, offering that subtle dash of personality you need.
The cut of the sweater is important too, so consider whether you’re going to opt for a V-neck or a crew neck. Wearing a crew neck is great if you’re wearing just a shirt underneath, simply showcasing the collar. If you’re wearing a tie/bow tie or want to draw more attention to a bold shirt, opt for a V-neck sweater.
Bringing a sweater into your look this way carries more style than when wearing them casually. Putting the sweater to work in this way opens doors to an ivy league, preppy look; a favourite of our timeless style icon, JFK. Here are a few photos for your inspiration:
The second ‘go-to’ option you have for achieving effortless elegance with a sweater is layering it underneath a blazer. We have spoken about this layering technique in our guide to dressing down a suit, and the principles are the same. This time, by pairing a smart piece like a blazer against a more casual piece such as a sweater, it creates a relaxed aesthetic that is still refined and chic. It is much less formal than pairing a blazer with a shirt, especially if you choose to simply use a crew neck on its own underneath.
With this timeless combination you have the ability to experiment with how smart or casual you want your look to be. Layer a Fair Isle patterned sweater underneath your blazer and pair with jeans, boots and cut off gloves for an edgier approach, or go the other way and utilise some slim navy chinos, brogue boots and a coordinating solid coloured sweater for effortless smart casual. The looks below will show you just how much variety there is when it comes to creating your own take on the combination:
Some classic elegant sweater styles:
Wearing a sweater casually can add another dimension to your look. You can integrate coloured or patterned sweaters into your layering to give your outfit a shot of life, or use a classic neutral sweater to anchor coloured chinos or a patterned shirt. Again, if you’re opting for colour, try adding a neutral lightweight scarf to break up the bold colouring.
Other alternatives are knitted, relaxed sweaters layered under statement jackets such as a parka, shearling lined leather or classic waxed Barbour. How you like to wear yours casually really just comes down to personal preference. Layered underneath, over the top or simply on its own with jeans – the sweaters versatility makes it a must buy and a wardrobe staple for all men.
Here are some casual inspired looks:
Finally, here are some finely picked casual sweaters, suitable for your autumn/winter wardrobe:
Always a favourite here at FashionBeans, the polo neck jumper is gracing both designer collections and the high street with its presence this season. Reminiscent of the 60s, you should definitely be looking at implementing a polo neck jumper into your wardrobe. It doesn’t offer the styling versatility that the sweater does but if worn correctly, it can really enhance a look.
We have already covered that the best way to style the polo neck jumper this season is by layering it under a blazer, with in-depth articles by Ben (Men’s Turtlenecks: Autumn/Winter Essential) and Alex (How To Wear the Polo Neck).
Layering the jumper underneath a tweed blazer really adds a heritage feel, and the layering can offer a true alternative to wearing a coat. A chunky knit polo neck jumper would obviously be the logical choice for this approach, but lighter weight cotton polo neck jumpers can offer more opportunities for styling. For example, try layering a lightweight, coloured cotton polo neck jumper underneath a crew neck cable knit; adding an extra layer and dimension to a look.
If you’re looking for a simple but classic look, try wearing a chunky knit polo neck jumper with some chinos or jeans, with a trench coat layered over the top if the weather requires it. A lot of men are shying away from the polo neck, meaning that you can keep the styling stripped back and minimalistic whilst still creating a statement. It is definitely the stand out piece of the season for men looking to separate themselves from the crowd effortlessly.
This is a simple look that layers the polo neck underneath a navy cotton blazer. Colour is important this season, so I’m adding dash of colour using the pocket square. If I wanted to create more of a statement, I could of utilised a coloured polo neck jumper, making it the focal point of the look.
This look is much more simplistic. By using a knitted polo neck jumper with a bold pattern, it creates enough of statement individually that layering isn’t necessary. I’ve paired it with some neutral coloured chinos and on trend brogue boots to maintain the refined minimalistic nature of the look. Goes to show that you don’t have to go over the top in order to be well dressed.
Here are some other alternatives available on the market today:
Another favourite jumper of ours is the cable knit – for a full breakdown read Ben’s article on the trend. This specific type of knit consists of a crossing stitch, creating the effect of a “twisted rope” that runs through part or the whole of the jumper. The detailing and texture that the cable stitch creates allows even neutral colours to stand out from the crowd. The cable knit screams warmth, and its simplicity allows you to wear it effortlessly.
It can be used as a casual piece of clothing, layered over a t-shirt and paired with some chinos and loafers, but at the same time can be used within a formal context by layering over a shirt, paired with a classic trench and slim fit jeans or chinos, with brogues to complete the look.
As mentioned above, the detailing and texture of the stitching allows the jumper to naturally stand out even if it’s a neutral colour, making it the perfect jumper to create a simple casual look. Last season we saw the oversized trend play a big part in menswear, and we can adopt this approach with the cable knit as it gives off a casual and cosy aesthetic naturally that lends itself well to being ‘slouchy’.
The look below takes inspiration from the oversized trend – layering a baggy cable knit jumper over a t-shirt, and pairing with some dark denim jeans and boots.
Using the cable knit jumper from above, this look is based around the same principles we adopted when styling the sweater elegantly. A cable knit jumper can be integrated into a more formal look by layering over a shirt and pairing with a tweed blazer, some slim fit chinos and brogues. If needed, a trench coat will again add an extra traditional touch along with added warmth and protection from the elements.
There is no denying that a jumper is a key staple piece for any man’s wardrobe. These three styles have been highlighted as they are key for this season, and you should be looking to try and add at least one of each into your developing wardrobe. They all add something different to your look, and although all three are classed under the same category, each hold different values and purposes.
Let us know in the comments below!
Paul McGregor – Brighterman
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