Winter knits aren’t just clothes. Uniquely, they embody what’s best about the holiday season: wrapping up, and the warmth of a neat scotch by the fire. What’s more, they also come into their own as between-season aides that you can layer up and down as needed.
When buying any form of knitwear, you should consider fit and fabric. This is a purchase that should last – both literally and in the sense of transcending trends. “First and foremost, I recommend buying knitwear in natural fabrications such as wool, merino and cashmere as they dress your frame better, last longer and have a better handle,” says Damien Paul, head menswear buyer at MatchesFashion.
If, on the other hand, you want something slightly more trend-led, try niche materials. “[For AW16] cotton-blends and mohair are key, while Chenille yarns are also making a comeback – and featuring in many catwalk shows – due to the Nineties resurgence,” says James Lawrence, head of menswear design at ASOS.
It’s fit, though, that makes the difference between a knit looking clapped out and on point. “Taller, slimmer men can carry off larger, oversized styles, but I’d suggest keeping the silhouette close to your frame if you’re not as lean as you’d like to be,” says Paul. “Always err on the side of caution, and never wear any form of knitwear which fits too tightly.”
With the basics addressed, these are the styles you should be considering this season:
The Roll Neck
The roll neck (AKA the turtle neck or the polo neck) is a bona fide winter warmer – its neck coverage acting as a kind of second scarf – but this year, it’s menswear’s trending knit too.
“The seventies trend that we’ve all seen coming through has made the roll neck a must-have shape for the season,” says Lawrence. “Especially in jewel tones and worn underneath crew necks and shirts for a true retro look.”
Great with low-key trainers and loosely pleated trousers, a slimline roll neck – when styled well – smacks of masculine elegance.
Make sure you invest in a design that pays dividends, though. Avoid paper-thin materials at cheap prices that will wear, tear and let in the cold easily. What you need is a mid-weight, tightly ribbed knit jumper to keep the chill out.
The Cable Knit Crew Neck
The cable knit jumper has been a cold-weather staple since it first debuted on the backs of fishermen, helping to fend off the elements at sea. “They work for all ages and styles, thanks to the sheer volume of choice available,” says Paul.
Insulating and durable, a cable knit makes for a smart winter wardrobe investment. While Lanvin’s AW16 version (below) is particularly tempting, mid-priced labels like Superdry and Reiss also offer great, sturdy options in wool-rich fabrications.
For foolproof weather solutions, look to specialist brands such as S.N.S. Herning, or for a cable knit that’s eye-catching above all else, prioritise interesting yarns. “Fluffy yarns instantly make a somewhat basic crew jumper into something special that can be worn in numerous ways, from smart to street,” says Lawrence.
As for styling, try layering a button-down shirt underneath and teaming with tailored trousers and Chelsea boots for a smart look that won’t make you look like you’re on shore leave.
The Shawl Neck Cardigan
More contemporary than a regular cardigan, a shawl neck take functions like a knitted jacket: a relaxed, off-duty layer that’s right in that smart-casual sweet spot, perfect for layering over tees and shirts.
Opt for a thick knit to make the most of this style’s stature; a flimsy roll will look drab. As always, classic colours like navy, dark grey and black offer versatility, but for something that shouts a little louder, look to Italian knitwear house Missoni – masters of the patterned shawl knit.
The Graphic Knit
One rule: steer clear of anything novelty. A great graphic knit should be bold and artistic, bringing your outfit into sharp focus – not prompting people to question your taste/whether you’re maybe on your way to the office Christmas party.
“It’s great to see that fashion isn’t taking itself too seriously, with scaled up all-over patterns being a ‘must-have’ for the guy who wants to add a little fun to his wardrobe,” says Lawrence.
If the budget is there, splash out; Gucci’s knits are reported to be flying off the shelves this season. But even without wads of cash up your well-knitted sleeve, you can still tap designer trends. H&M’s latest collaboration – with Kenzo – drops 3 November to much anticipation, and includes a slew of graphic knits that stay true to the Parisian brand’s much-hyped main line.
The Oversized Jumper
Stylishly slouchy, an oversized jumper performs on two counts in winter: it’s comfy; and it lets you make an easy statement with your silhouette.
Designers like J.W. Anderson and Yohji Yamamoto have riffed on the oversized knit this season, producing a variety of high-quality, edgy versions which are slightly frayed or ripped to emulate age. It’s also worth looking at traditional takes – like the chunky Aran knits available at Aran Sweater Market.
It’s easy to feel slouchy and lax in a big ol’ jumper, but if you’re out and about, you want to show a little edge. An oversized jumper can be used for experimental layering, with a roll neck underneath or cropped jacket over the top, or on its own. Team with contrasting slim jeans for a relaxed look, or go full-throttle mod and wear with a thick, green parka and Chelsea boots.
The Zip-Up Sweater
Once confined to outdoor clothing shops, zip-up sweaters are one of this season’s leading pieces, elevated to the top of the fashion chain by new luxury spins rolled out by the likes of Balenciaga.
“Another key trend is the use of zips in place of buttons,” says Paul. “Lanvin, Raey and Brunello Cucinelli have all created zip-up cardigans.” It won’t keep you warm on its own, but it’s ideal as a mid-layer, and can be worn in a variety of ways.
Throw it on over a shirt and under an unstructured blazer to add a twist to your casual Friday getup; with your roll neck underneath for a contemporary approach to layering; or try teaming a zip-up cardigan with tapered joggers and a bomber jacket.
When it comes to colour, stick to light neutrals and earthy tones which are easily matched with pretty much anything in your wardrobe.