Smartening Up Your Knitwear
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.
With this in mind, we’re going to show you how to make your cold-weather knitwear collection work overtime this season, by integrating it within a variety of smart-casual and formal looks.
Split into two parts, today we concern ourselves with the humble jumper and its various guises…
The Crew Neck Jumper
A classic neckline and timeless wardrobe essential, there isn’t much a crew neck jumper can’t do. It’s a versatile piece that will slot seamlessly into any outfit, whether used as an extra layer under your suit jacket or paired with an Oxford shirt and chinos at the weekend.
When looking to incorporate one into your work/formal attire, consider the accompanying pieces. If you’re wearing a shirt and tie, a crew neck will show much less of the tie than a v-neck, so the emphasis is immediately placed on the quality of your knot – maintain a good dimple and you’ll be fine.
Key Consideration: Texture
The stripped back nature of a crew neck jumper allows you to consider a textured version when putting together your smarter looks.
However, avoid chunky fisherman knits or cable detailing as they can add bulk and ruin the sharp, clean lines you want to create for the office. Instead, a subtly ribbed or waffle knit jumper in a dark hue would be ideal – helping add a solid point of interest to your suit and tie combination, while retaining a sense of formality.
If you do choose to go down the textured route, skipping the jacket is an option as the knit won’t compromise the refined nature of the look.
Finally, consider how your tie looks against your jumper. Opting for a heavyweight, knitted or textured tie can be overkill; instead, stick to classic silk versions and concentrate on your colour/pattern mixing.
Not a look for the boardroom but more suited to a smart evening out, ditch the tie and combine a dark textured knit with a classic white shirt, buttoned up all the way.
Anchor with slim-fitting trousers in charcoal and complete the outfit on a timeless note with a pair of black Derbies:
- River Island White Poplin Shirt
- Reiss Pilot Textured Cotton Knit Black
- Slowear Incotex Slim-fit Wool Trousers
- Selected Homme Bristol Derby Shoes
Key Consideration: Colour
The industry’s continued love affair with colour means that neutral knitwear is no longer the sole option available to the style-conscious professional. Although a solid selection of navy, grey and black jumpers is essential within any capsule wardrobe, a block-coloured version offers a striking way to mix up your formal layering.
Unlike the neutral textured pieces we advocated in the previous section, a bold coloured crew neck often works best layered under a suit jacket. When utilised in this way, the pop of colour becomes a striking focal point. However, as a standalone piece it can become too overpowering, compromising the formality of your ensemble.
Once again, if you’re going to be wearing a tie you need to consider the colour of your shirt, neck wear AND knitwear. Don’t make the mistake of wearing matching shades; uniformity can appear stuffy and is often a faux pas.
Add a statement edge to your office-ready look with a coloured crew neck layered between your shirt and jacket. If you work in an office with a slightly more relaxed dress code, break up your suit and consider separates – here we make use of a tweed jacket and some subtle Prince of Wales check trousers.
Brown leather brogues provide the perfect finishing touch, emphasising the prevalent heritage elements:
- Reiss Star Slim Fit Cotton Shirt White
- Topman Red Crew Neck Jumper
- United Colors Of Benetton Tweed Blazer
- Reiss Dino Polka Dot Jacquard Silk Tie Navy
- J.crew Bowery Slim-fit Prince Of Wales Check Wool Trousers
- Kg By Kurt Geiger Sandringham Oxford Brogues
- Uniqlo Men Cashmere Crew Neck Sweater
- Topman Navy Waffle Jumper
- Burberry Brit Holford Cashmere Sweater 182918
- Reiss Bryant Merino Crew Grey
- He By Mango Textured Knit Cotton Sweater
- Reiss Pilot Textured Cotton Knit Wine Berry
- Burton Teal Textured Crew Neck Jumper
- Asos Crew Neck Jumper
- J.crew Crew Neck Cashmere Sweater
2. The V-Neck Jumper
Another neckline that’s considered a menswear classic, the v-neck divides opinion slightly more than the crew but its credentials are clear to see. For those with a shorter neck and/or round face, the v-neck helps create the illusion of length and a leaner appearance.
A v-neck also gives a tie more room to breathe, allowing you to show off your carefully considered shirt and tie combination, whether you choose to forgo a blazer or not.
Just be wary of the depth/drop of your neckline: a deep ‘v’ can look extremely sloppy and much too casual for the office.
Key Consideration: Colour
Apart from neckline depth, the key consideration for your v-neck jumper is colour. The advice given above on crew necks applies here, too.
Try not to go jacket-less if you’ve opted for a bold colour – you don’t want to blind your co-workers. Pastel shades in spring/summer or rich, muted tones of burgundy/emerald in autumn/winter are more considered choices that will retain a sense of refinement while still allowing you to garner attention.
As spring edges closer, consider a seasonally-appropriate khaki suit. Combine it with a pastel blue v-neck that highlights the time of year and add a tactile edge with a knitted tie in a complementary brown colour way.
Tassel loafers add panache to this continental-inspired take on formal wear and help finish a look that would be perfect for a spring/summer wedding, or similar warm-weather occasion:
- Allsaints Mode Merino V-neck Jumper
- Peter Werth V-neck Jumper
- Topman Green V-neck Jumper
- Alfred Dunhill Cashmere V-neck Sweater
- J.crew V-neck Cashmere Sweater
- He By Mango Silk Cotton-blend Sweater
- Reiss Rutheford Merino V Neck Jumper Dusty Pink
- Uniqlo Men Cotton Cashmere V-neck Sweater
- Reiss Rutheford Merino V Neck Jumper Navy
3. The Roll Neck
The roll neck has shaken off its past stigma and become a key knitwear style in recent seasons.
We’ve already documented its resurgence here on FashionBeans, so today we consider how we can style the roll neck in a smart and refined way.
Key Consideration: Texture
Choice of texture is integral to styling the roll neck in the more formal manner. A chunky or heavy knit version simply will not do in this case; they are far too casual.
A fine-gauge, merino wool version is the way forward here, particularly if you going to be wearing it with a suit in place of a shirt and tie.
There are a number of ways you can work a roll neck into a smarter ensemble. The most popular of which involves pairing one with a suit in place of your traditional shirt and tie. This technique helps effortlessly separate your look from the rest of the workforce, without appearing sloppy or unprofessional.
It also allows you to remove the jacket for a slightly more relaxed vibe, should you be attending a smart-casual event or after work drinks. Whether you tuck in your roll neck comes down to personal preference, although it can appear sleeker and aid the creation of a streamline silhouette.
Recent trends have seen the roll neck being worn alongside a shirt, rather than in place of. Although not something to consider for formal occasions, layering a shirt over the knit, whether buttoned all the way up or not, has proven a popular look on both the runways and the streets outside the shows. It is certainly a combination that would help bring a high fashion edge to your smart looks.
The Pitti Uomo trade show is a sartorial highlight in the fashion calendar and January’s AW14 event saw a new roll neck styling technique rise to prominence. Definitely one for the more creative working environments, it involves wearing your knit over the top of the shirt, with the collar subsequently popped.
It oozes sprezzatura when done right; get it wrong and you’ll be ridiculed for a long time. Confidence is paramount to pulling off this look.
Finally, try ditching your blazer, shirt and tie and layering a cardigan over your roll neck. Opt for fine gauge versions to ensure slim lines and a sense of refinement, differentiating each piece through choice of colour.
Camel and navy makes for a particularly striking combination, as does burgundy and charcoal grey.
Example Outfit 2: Knitwear On Knitwear
Here we utilise one of the aforementioned colour combinations to devastating effect, creating a fashion forward ensemble that is smart enough for dress down Friday.
This camel roll neck exudes luxury and is even more striking when compartmentalised by the navy cardigan. The two hues work in complete harmony, playing off each other to make the tones appear deeper and richer.
Anchor with some grey tailored trousers and sleek brown leather Derbies:
- John Smedley Belvoir Roll-neck Jumper
- Reiss Walter Mercerised Merino Cardigan Navy
- Selected Suit Trouser With Contrast Trim
- Mark Mcnairy Full-grain One-piece Leather Oxford Shoes
Example Outfit 2: Shirt & Tie Replacement
Keep it classic and timeless by favouring a suit and roll neck pairing. Ditch the shirt and tie altogether – a simple approach is often the most effective.
Sidestep traditional footwear shades and reach for a pair of oxblood lace-ups to complete this office-ready look:
- Asos Roll Neck Jumper In Cotton
- Asos Roll Neck Jumper In Cotton
- Asos Roll Neck
- Topman Red Roll Neck Jumper
- River Island Navy Roll Neck Long Sleeve T-shirt
- Uniqlo Men Cashmere Turtle Neck Sweater
- Reiss Moon Extra Fine Merino Roll Neck Soft Grey
- John Smedley Roll Neck Merino Wool Jumper
- Gucci Fine-gauge Wool Rollneck Sweater
Often applied to cardigans and blazers rather than jumpers, the shawl collar retains a timelessness that belies its current trending status. It may have faded from vogue in recent years but a shawl collar jumper can breathe new life into your existing formal looks.
When layered under a notch lapel blazer, this neckline helps create a striking silhouette that offers more to the eye than a standard v- or crew neck. The collar adds natural bulk, giving your layers a sense of depth that helps bring an extra dimension to a simple shirt and tie combination.
Even when the blazer is discarded, the shawl collar holds its own in a formal environment – arguably more so than the other knits at your disposal. The aforementioned depth at the neck frames your tie perfectly, placing the emphasis squarely on your neck wear.
Mix up your nine-to-five suit rotation with a textured dogstooth version in a softer blue hue.
Maintain the strong tactile feel with a complementary grey flannel shirt layered underneath a charcoal shawl knit. Add a plaid woven tie for a dash of pattern and touch of individuality, then finish with classic tan brogues:
- Browns Tailored Flannel Shirt
- Jigsaw Merino Wool Shawl Collar Jumper Grey
- Drakes Plaid Woven-silk Tie
- Asos Skinny Fit Jacket In Blue Dogstooth
- Asos Skinny Fit Trousers In Blue Dogstooth
- Burton Tan Brogue Shoes
- He By Mango Shawl Collar Cotton Sweater
- Asos Shawl Neck Jumper
- Xs Blue Harbour Pure Cotton Shawl Collar Jumper
- Topman Peter Werth Regents Shawl Collar Jumper
- Burberry London Shawl-collar Cashmere-blend Sweater
- Ben Sherman Shawl Collar Cable Jumper
- Tommy Hilfiger Pacific Shawl Jumper
- He By Mango Shawl Collar Flecked Sweater
- Ted Baker Hortie Shawl Neck Pattern Top
Polo Collar/Long Sleeve Polo
In formal environments, a knitted long sleeve polo shirt can be utilised in two distinct ways. The first sees the piece being used on its own underneath your blazer, for a dressed-down feel. Alternatively, you can wear it like a classic jumper: layered over the top of your shirt and/or tie and then buttoned up all the way or with a couple left undone.
In the case of the latter, the double collar creates a unique aesthetic that can, surprisingly, aid in smartening up your look.
Polo collar jumpers work best with soft shouldered or unstructured suits. Power tailoring and long-sleeved polos just don’t mix; the strong shoulder and powerful silhouette created by the suit will overwhelm the knit.
A knitted polo shirt isn’t suitable for true formal occasions, but they make an ideal shirt replacement for smart-casual events.
Here we introduce a shot of colour into the mix, layering an on trend purple knit under a light grey suit.
Step out in black double-monks, a key street style trend at London Collections: MEN AW14, for a stylish finish:
- Ps By Paul Smith Knitted Polo Shirt
- Topman Selected Homme Grey Herringbone Suit
- John Lobb William Leather Monk-strap Shoes
- Reiss Boulter Merino Polo Shirt Grey
- Asos Knitted Polo
- Peter Werth Melange Polo Long Sleeve
- Ben Sherman Classic Knitted Long Sleeve Polo
- Topman Peter Werth Hemingford Cut Knitted Polo Shirt
- Gucci Cotton-knit Polo Shirt 181964
- Gucci Knitted Wool Polo Shirt
- Reiss Goldie Textured Knitted Polo Navy
- John Smedley Cotswold Long-sleeved Merino Wool Polo Shirt
Often underappreciated, jumpers are extremely versatile and really come into their own during the colder months. With the harsh winter weather yet to relent, knitwear – in all forms – continues to play a big part in the way we dress on a daily basis, whether smart or casual.
Today we looked at the ever-increasing number of jumper styles and necklines available to the modern, style-conscious gent – each with their own merits and requiring a unique styling approach.
In the next instalment, our attention turns to cardigans and how they can become an integral part of your professional and formal wardrobe.
But now it’s time for your view:
- Do you make use of jumpers when dressing for smart-casual or formal occasions?
- Which style/neckline do you prefer?
- How do you incorporate jumpers within your professional wardrobe?
- What are your thoughts on shawl necks?
- What do you make of wearing a shirt under a roll neck, as seen at Pitti?
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below…