Shawl neck collars are not a new revelation within the world of fashion. Shawl collar cardigans became a resurgent trend around two years ago after an extended period in the fashion abyss, and are now seen on everything from knitwear and polo shirts to blazers and suiting. However, with us focusing a lot recently on the key detailing that can take your looks and outfits to the next level, I thought I would shine the spotlight on a style that can definitely give your existing looks that differential or shake up that you require.
The inspiration behind this article came from the recent trend of integrating a variety of materials and textures into your wardrobe. We have already broken down the 8 key textures for this autumn/winter on site, whilst we also looked at adding subtle touches of elegance to your day to day outfits through use of accessories and thoroughly scrutinising the fit of your existing wardrobe. Attention to detail is what sets the well dressed man apart from the everyday male, and something as simple as opting for a shawl neck collar can potentially set you apart from the crowd.
So first things first – what is a shawl neck collar? Well thefreedictionary online defines it as:
“A collar rolled back in a continuous and tapering line along the surplice neckline of a garment.”
noun (clothing & fashion)
If we delve a little deeper, the shawl neck was originally seen on smoking jackets within the Victorian era, and before recently was mainly associated with your traditional tuxedo jackets. In laymans terms the collar ‘folds back on itself’ creating a curved effect that can stop anywhere from the breastbone down to the waist (mainly on cardigans).
Today we will be focusing on 3 types of shawl collared garments that are perfect for the autumn/winter period. These are the blazer, cardigan and pullover jumper.
As mentioned above, the shawl collar neck line is traditionally associated with true formalwear such as tuxedos or smoking jackets. However, in recent years they have been modernised and revamped by designer brands and the high street alike to the point where you can purchase shawl collared tailoring suitable for work, and blazers that are also a lot less formal in appearance – making them appropriate for smart casual events and day to day wear.
I am particularly fond of the shawl neck blazer because of its traditional association with the tux – which many consider to be the most powerful and sharp piece of clothing a man can wear. A tuxedo oozes masculinity and a refined elegance, and the shawl collar blazer hints at this without having to go all out formal.
Shawl neck blazers give you something different in comparison to your traditional blazer lapels. It is a subtle and graceful difference that will identify you as an individual amongst a see of peaked or notched lapels – especially at smart casual events. They are still quite rare, and so to pull one off will earmark you as a well dressed male.
The look book below generally consists of full suits but you can see just how versatile the shawl neck is. Essentially it can be dressed up and down just like any other suit you own:
There are a variety of ways to wear the shawl neck blazer. Of course, you can wear it as part of a suit for a traditional approach, and in that case there is advice about how to rock a suit formally all over this site. There is no real difference in how you should wear one in comparison to traditional suits – you can dress it up or down as much as you please. Pairing with a patterned shirt or bold coloured bow tie [top left & centre] is a great look, as the ironic and playful aesthetic that these pieces produce in comparison to a traditional tux silhouette shows you know how to break ‘the rules’.
You can also dress it down just like you would a traditional suit [bottom right & top right]. We have explained how to do this recently in our two part guide, so feel free to sub in plain t-shirts, on trend roll necks or casual knitwear instead of your formal shirts. Again the clashing of smart and casual styles is something that garners attention in a good way.
However, my absolute favourite way of utilising the shawl neck blazer though is through the use of separates. I love the combination of the beautiful teal velvet shawl neck above with dark black trousers [bottom centre] – the contrast is perfect and destroys the whole formality of a full suit. It is a look that would be great for the upcoming ‘party season’, where there are many dreaded smart-casual events to attend. You could do the same with the traditional black shawl blazer by pairing with grey jeans for a true dressed down look, or go the other way and pair with some smart grey flecked wool trousers.
We have featured the simple jumper as a timeless essential recently and the shawl neck version is just another way to add some variety to your current knitwear collection. It is the perfect alternative to the v-neck, and straddles the crew neck as well, with some versions having button openings as well as a fold over shawl neck collar.
It is a great option for those males who have been struggling to get on board with the recent resurgence in roll neck jumpers. The neck line of the shawl neck typically finishes higher than your standard crew neck jumper due to the added bulk the collar provides but the cut is much more forgiving and generous like a v-neck – perfect for those who are conscious of their weight or worried about how a roll neck would accentuate their neck length, head size etc.
As our very own Paul McGregor pointed out, a jumper is perfect for wearing elegantly. Pairing a shirt or shirt and tie combination underneath your jumper is a ‘go-to’ look that every man should have in their wardrobe. The great thing about the shawl neck is that they are cut very similar to a v-neck (the drop varies from model to model), meaning that it will showcase your shirt and tie or shirt and bow tie combination to its fullest. Try utilising bold coloured shirts or ties in order to inject a shot of life into your look – the shawl neck will only showcase a section, meaning it will neutralise most brash colours or patterns for you automatically.
The shawl neck jumper looks inherently smarter than your typical crew or v-neck. This probably has something to do with being associated with the tuxedo jacket, and there is a reason that it is generally paired with slim trousers or dark solid jeans in the look book above. It works best when dressed up slightly in a smart-casual approach, and always looks better in a slim fit. You can still give your looks some edge by pairing with boots [top centre & bottom right] and bold coloured trousers [top right & bottom right], but just be aware of the overall aesthetic this piece gives off naturally.
Generally the shawl neck jumper looks best stripped back and utilised as the top layer of an outfit. I am not keen on layering blazers over the top like you would a roll neck, as the clashing of lapels doesn’t really work. The gilet in the look book above [top centre] does show that it can be done however, and I think a nice slim mac or smart-casual piece of outerwear would also do the job sufficiently if the weather does turn.
The shawl collar cardigan has many of the same benefits of its jumper counterpart. It gives you that subtle difference in comparison to traditional cardigans, and can often give off a much smarter aesthetic if you purchase a slim, fitted version. However, as you will see below, the cardigan naturally gives you many more options when it comes to layering and also fit.
The shawl neck cardigan is what I consider to be the perfect item for the transitional period we are going through. It is cold enough right now to warrant some good thick knitwear in your daily outfits but it actually quite dry (I am sure to have jinxed this now – I am sorry), meaning that you can utilise the cardigan as your top layer most days and forgo the outerwear.
As mentioned above, the shawl neck cardigan is a little more versatile than its jumper cousin. Even though the shawl neck gives off a more formal appearance due to association, it can actually look great oversized and slouchy. This oversizing allows you to layer a couple of pieces underneath and turn your cardigan into a makeshift jacket. Try throwing it on over the top of a shirt and tie, t-shirt and shirt combination, or even other light knitwear. Leave it wide open in order to really showcase your items below, or do it up half/three-quarters in order to neutralise bold colours and create segmented sections to your look. This is where the versatility of a cardigan comes into play.
Again, like with the jumper before it, these cardigans are best teamed with a shirt, as the shawl collar actually compliments the shirt collar much like a blazer would. It allows it to rest neatly above or beneath it, and automatically smartens up your casual looks. Pair with checks, chambray or denim shirts for relaxed dress down days, and smarter shirt and tie combinations for those days you want to dress up.
One of my favourite relaxed outfits comes in the form of the slouchy oversized shawl neck and simple t-shirt (crew, v or scoop neck) underneath. Understated and unfussy style that will also keep you warm and cosy during the cold weather. Pair with dark denim, cords or a bold pair of chinos for an easy to wear, everyday look that can be individualised through accessories and footwear choice.
Remember that these cardigans will also come in all your favourite current trends – such as cable knit, Fair Isle/Aztec patterns, flecked wool, duffle coat fastenings and bold colours. The shawl detailing just adds that extra touch of detailing that can set you apart effortlessly.
With every male looking for those subtle differences that will give him an edge, the shawl neck is a great option and will provide you with some variety in your ever expanding wardrobe. Whether you opt for a blazer, cardigan or simple pull over, you can be sure that it will integrate perfectly within your current looks and give your outfits a subtle modification this year.
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