A couple of weeks ago I mentioned that a shawl neck cardigan is one of the many pieces that can lift your style game this autumn/winter. Based on a number of e-mails that I’ve received since, it’s clear that people would like me to go into a bit more detail on this particular garment and how it fits into a modern man’s wardrobe.
Because, really, how much knitwear does a guy need? I’m assuming by now you’ve got the basics covered – a handful of neutral solid wool/cashmere jumpers and cardigans, with maybe a stripe or a Fair Isle thrown in for good measure. These pieces are perfect for just about any occasion and, if you’ve invested in quality, should see you through plenty of winters to come.
So why is there the need for a shawl neck cardigan?
Well, the answer is threefold (use threefold in an article: check). Firstly, they’re a great way to add character to your wardrobe. Whether you’ve picked up a chunky version or a more lightweight office-appropriate kind, the addition of a shawl collar to your knitwear collection can liven up even the most tried and tested of looks. During these colder months, the ability to flip that collar up to protect yourself against the wind can be a welcome addition as well.
Secondly, it’s just so damn versatile! There’s no denying that there’s so many kinds of shawl neck cardigans out there these days it can be hard to decide on which one to purchase. If you’re only going to buy one this autumn/winter, then make it a chunkier one in a neutral colour such as navy, grey or beige. Maybe with a subtle pattern thrown in for good measure.
Then wear it with everything! So long as you nail the fit (snug on your shoulders, sleeves end at your wrist and slim down your sides) there’s nothing this beast can’t do, especially during this awkward transitional season. But more on that later.
Thirdly, there’s something inherently rugged and manly about them, especially when it comes to the heavy woollen varieties. They’ve been worn for ages by everybody’s favourite (and arguably predictable) style icons such as McQueen, Newman and Connery, and the shawl collar itself always makes me think back to 1940s/1950s Hollywood – meaning I automatically feel more stylish.
But now that you’ve got your shawl neck cardigan, what can you wear with it? Well…
This is the simplest thing that most guys forget to do, just swap your suit jacket for the cardigan. Due to its fit, it looks just as good over a shirt, tie and suit trouser combination as it would with your jeans and t-shirt.
I find the problem with most trench/macs that you can buy these days is that they are made from one single sheet of cotton/thin wool. Sure they keep the rain off but they sure don’t keep the chill out! Solution? Layer your cardigan in-between to provide an extra layer of warmth and an element of texture to your look.
If you happen to be a fan of the seriously chunky cardigans out there (I’m talking an inch thick, doing a bicep curl to pick up style) then why not just think of it as the perfect autumn coat?
For those brisk morning commutes that still don’t warrant breaking out the winter wear, simply layer the cardigan over the top of your suit and be on your way. Then, when it warms up later, take the cardigan off or stuff it in your bag rather than having an awkward stiff wool coat to carry around.
Maybe even invest in a belted version to add that ‘is it a trench, is it a knit?’ conundrum (conundrum in an article: check. I am on fire today).
We all know the easiest and most boring way to wear a chunky cardigan is to pair it with jeans/chinos and a t-shirt. But seriously, if that’s all you’re ever going to amount to with it then what’s the point? You might as well just apply to be in TOWIE.
Mix things up by layering it with other, more lightweight knits instead. Why not try it with a pair of casual tweed trousers or cords and a linen/cotton blend crew neck jumper? The great thing about linen blended knitwear is that it keeps you warm and comfortable without becoming hot or stifling.
So there you have it guys. Hopefully I’ve explained my reasoning behind selecting the shawl neck cardigan as an easy style upgrade this autumn/winter and given you a few ideas on the different ways it can be incorporated into your wardrobe.
But what I really want is to hear what you all think! Is it as essential as I’m making out? What sort of shawl neck have you got and how do you wear it? Did I undo all my hard work of using big boy words by mentioning TOWIE? Let me know…