Even though new spring/summer 2014 collections are currently being rolled out across the fashion industry, we are very much in the middle of winter. The bracing chill of the season continues to bite, and the weather doesn’t look like letting up anytime soon.
So, for the time being at least, sturdy knits, outerwear and boots are still at the forefront of our thoughts and wardrobes, despite the high street attempting to convince us otherwise.
After tackling jumpers in part one of our smart knitwear styling guide, today the focus shifts to their not-so-distant cousin, the cardigan.
From fine gauge knits to chunky shawl necks, the cardigan is able to slot seamlessly into your professional wardrobe and makes for a particularly adept layering piece come the awkward transitional months.
Fine Knit Cardigans
A good fine gauge cardigan demands consideration, no matter the season or occasion. Whether used to bring an extra dimension to your nine-to-five tailoring or as a standalone top layer when the mercury rises, it’s a versatile wardrobe staple that can be dressed up or down effortlessly.
When introducing one into your formal or professional wardrobe, it’s imperative you consider colour. Bold and bright hues don’t communicate the formality of timeless neutrals, but when layered under a suit jacket a colourful cardigan can help inject life into your dreary office-ready ensembles without becoming overpowering.
Cardigans in deeper and richer shades such as burgundy, bottle green or mustard are more refined and therefore have the potential to become a integral part of your look all year round – working as an accent piece in autumn/winter while holding their own in spring/summer when you choose to ditch the blazer.
Bold Colour Accent
Give a distinct twist to your tailoring with a flash of colour underneath the jacket.
Keep the rest of the look suitably sombre: grey suit, white shirt and black tie. The knitwear is the sole statement in this ensemble, keeping it the right side of smart.
To maintain the clean, slim lines created by the suit, consider buttoning and then tucking the cardigan in with your shirt:
- Asos Skinny Fit Suit In Charcoal Fleck
- Reiss Cutler Knitted Silk Tie Black
- Topman Burgundy V-neck Cardigan
- River Island Black Formal Lace Up Shoes
The Year Round Cardigan
As previously mentioned, a rich coloured, fine gauge cardigan can become your all purpose piece for work and play.
In this look, an on trend, deep green knit works just as well with or without a jacket, depending on the season.
A light grey suit provides a neutral platform and when the sun shines, leave the jacket at home and simply pair the knit with the trousers, shirt and tie:
- Reiss City Classic Stripe Shirt Red Stripe Shirt
- Asos Lambswool Rich Cardigan
- Gant Rugger Slim-fit Glen-check Wool Suit Jacket
- Burberry London Spotted Woven-silk Tie
- Gant Rugger Slim-fit Glen-check Wool Suit Trousers
- Topman Black Leather Monk Shoes
Skip The Shirt & Tie
A more fashion forward way of styling the cardigan, try ditching the shirt and tie altogether.
Adopting the same approach we used to create a similar look in the first part of this series, pair a neutral coloured fine knit cardigan with a similarly fine gauge roll neck.
Tailored trousers and brown leather Derby shoes complete this creative take on business-casual:
- John Smedley Belvoir Rollneck Merino Wool Sweater
- A.p.c. Ivy Cardigan
- Lanvin Slim Cotton Poplin Trousers
- Paul Smith Mens Kirby Leather Derby Shoe
The Shawl Neck
If a lightweight knit is your go-to top layer come the summer season, consider a shawl neck version for an extra bit of detailing and a touch of debonair.
Integrate an on trend gingham shirt into your work shirt rotation and anchor it with a plain tie in a darker shade.
Take a more relaxed approach to your footwear with some leather penny loafers – wear them with socks, rather than going sockless, to avoid communicating an off-duty vibe:
- John Lewis Large Gingham Check Long Sleeve Shirt
- Asos Shawl Neck Cardigan
- Hugo Boss Herringbone Silk Tie
- Allsaints Bermen Trouser
- River Island Grey Textured Ankle Socks Pack
- Churchs Elveden Leather Penny Loafers
- Asos Lambswool Rich Shawl Neck Cardigan
- River Island Black V Neck Cardigan
- Massimo Alba Garment-dyed Shawl-collar Cashmere Cardigan
- Uniqlo Men Extra Fine Merino V Neck Cardigan
- He By Mango V-neck Wool Cardigan
- Reiss Finch Salt And Pepper Cardi Green
- Easy V-neck Soft Touch Cardigan
Chunky Knit Cardigans
A casual staple, the chunky cardigan can more than hold its own within smarter aesthetics, especially during the colder months and transitional periods.
Fair Isle or similarly patterned pieces simply aren’t going to cut it in true formal working environments, so if such a dress code applies, discount these styles immediately.
You also need to be wary of textures: chunky fisherman knits or cable detailing can quickly add bulk and ruin the sharp, clean lines you want to create for the office. If you want to add a touch of individuality and character to your work attire, consider subtly ribbed or waffle knits instead.
For a heavy knit cardigan to work in a business setting, it needs to be plain, simple and classic. Black and navy shawl necks work particularly well due to the lapels framing your shirt and tie, much like a blazer does.
Those that work in business-casual settings have a lot more styling options open to them – see the lookbook below for a mix of formal and smart-casual inspiration…
The Modern 3-Piece
Throw your pinstripe three-piece a curve ball by ditching the jacket in favour of a chunky shawl collar cardigan.
Keep the rest of the outfit as you would – shirt, tie and smart shoes – for a softer take on power suiting. Don’t be afraid of trying out some pattern mixing via your tie or shirt combination either:
- Asos Slim Fit Waistcoat In 100% Wool
- Asos Slim Fit Trousers In 100% Wool
- Reiss Dino Polka Dot Jacquard Silk Tie Navy
- Bottega Veneta Spread Collar Cotton Shirt 185814
- J.crew Cable-knit Wool-blend Shawl Collar Cardigan
- Crockett & Jones Hallam Oxford Shoes
Rather than leave the suit jacket at home, utilise your cardigan as a makeshift piece of outerwear and layer it over the top.
Unless you’ve got an extremely heavy duty piece of knitwear, you may have to size up to pull this off. Style your suit as normal under your chunky knit but throw on some dress boots to keep it rugged and on trend:
- Zegna Slim-fit Cotton Shirt 181012
- Reiss Youngs One Button Peak Lapel Suit Grey
- New Look Navy Chunky Cable Knit Cardigan
- Drakes Plaid Woven Silk Tie
- Asos Pocket Square In Oxford
- Stemar Grain Oxford Boots
Don’t be content with a single-breasted cardigan – double up for twice the fun.
A chunky double-breasted version makes a subtle statement and is a great way to mix up your current knitwear collection.
Pair with some black slim-leg trousers and a tailored flannel shirt – its tactile nature will complement the cardigan beautifully:
- Ben Sherman Flannel Tailored Shirt With Small Point Collar In Skinny Fit
- Green Herringbone Silk Tie
- River Island Grey Cable Knit Double Breasted Cardigan
- Balenciaga Slim-leg Tailored Trousers 169186
- Barbour Kirkham Shawl Cardigan
- Kiomi Heavy Gauge Cardigan – Cardigan – Olive
- Etro Shawl-lapel Cardigan
- Topman Burgundy Ombre Shawl Cardigan
- Ben Sherman Plectrum Heavy Rib Collar Cardigan
- Textured Cardigan
- River Island Navy Cable Knit Pocket Cardigan
- He By Mango Chunky Knit Wool-blend Cardigan
- Reiss Marlbrough Zip Up Knit Anthracite
No longer the outdated piece it was once seen as, the cardigan, whether chunky or lightweight, makes a great addition to the modern gent’s formal or professional wardrobe.
But now it’s time for your view:
- Is the cardigan an essential part of your professional wardrobe?
- Will you be integrating a chunky knit cardigan into your smarter looks this season?
- Which of the example outfits could you see yourself wearing?
- Do you prefer a jumper or cardigan when it comes to formal layering?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…