Shawl So Hard Bloggers Wanna Fine Me

It looks like the worst of the cold weather is finally behind us. After months of bitter winds, falling temperatures and the ever-present threats of flooding and snow, the northern hemisphere can breathe a sigh of relief as the sun finally peaks it head out.

That’s right, with the mercury creeping towards the teens you can begin to store away those huge overcoats, moleskins trousers and chunky scarves and start to unpack those long-neglected summer pieces.

But don’t celebrate too soon – this unpredictable and changeable period between winter and spring is notoriously difficult to dress for, which means your layering needs to be on point.

Many of us will have a go-to layering piece: an item that will slot seamlessly into any outfit, smart or casual, while being practical enough to cope with the various demands of the British climate.

For some of you that might be your trusty denim jacket, for others it could be a cable knit jumper, but for me it will always be a shawl neck cardigan.

The Shawl Neck Cardigan

Why the shawl neck cardigan? Well, firstly, they’re a great way to inject character into your wardrobe. Whether you opt for a chunky version or a thin gauge, office-appropriate style, a shawl collar is unique and can help liven up even the most tried and tested of looks.

Not only that, during the in-between months – brisk in the mornings and evenings but warm during the days – a collar that you can flip up to protect yourself against the wind is a particularly welcome addition.

Secondly, they’re extremely versatile. With so many different types of shawl neck available on the current market, it can be hard to decide which style to purchase. However, if you’re only going to buy one this spring, make it a chunkier version in a neutral colour such as navy, grey or beige. Maybe even throw in a subtle cable knit for good measure.

So long as you nail the fit (snug on your shoulders, sleeves end at your wrist and slim through the sides), there’s nothing this piece can’t do, especially during this awkward transitional season.

Thirdly, there’s something inherently rugged and masculine about a shawl collar cardigan, especially those constructed from heavyweight wool. Beloved by timeless style icons such as McQueen, Newman and Connery, the lapel instantly conjures images of 1940s/1950s Hollywood – meaning I automatically feel more confident.

Paul Newman and Steve McQueenHey, If the shawl neck cardigan is good enough for Paul Newman (L) and Steve McQueen (R)…

Ways To Wear

Here are a few of my favourite ways to wear the shawl neck cardigan:

Leave The Jacket At Home: It’s not hot enough yet for summer weight blazers, but it’s a bit too warm during the day for your tweed/cord styles. Just swap your jacket for a shawl neck cardigan.

Pick up a medium weight version in a dark neutral colour and use it the same way you would a suit jacket. I personally love wearing mine with the trousers and waistcoat from my three piece.

Beast Mode: The very first shawl neck cardigan I ever bought was from a charity shop in Scotland. It was navy with an awesome Fair Isle pattern running across the chest, but the real selling point was that it was a beast. I mean, it was made of the heaviest wool I had ever felt. I’m talking about an inch thick.

This type of cardigan can easily be used in the same vein as a trench coat on your morning commute to the office, layered over your suit. Alternatively, think of them as a softer, more malleable pea coat that you can use on the weekends with jeans and a t-shirt.

The Middle Layer: Not all shawl necks have to be huge and chunky. Some come in finer gauges that work extremely well as a middle layer.

Use these in the same way you would any other knit: under a blazer, over a shirt and tie or even between a casual shirt (think flannel/denim) and jacket.

Knits On Knits On Knits: 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 do with it, what’s the point?

Mix things up by layering it over other lighter weight knits. Why not combine it with a pair of casual tweed/cord trousers 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.

Alternatively, substitute the crew neck for everyone’s new favourite piece: the roll neck.

Lookbook Inspiration

Men's Shawl Neck Cardigan Outfit Inspiration Lookbook

he by mango winter 2013banana republic aw13zalando aw12he by mango spring 2013he by mango winter 2013Massimo Dutti AW13pepe jeans ss14J.Crew AW14massimo dutti may 2012he by mango aw13he by mango ss13el burgues ss14paul & joe ss13reiss aw13he by mango ss14
Key Styles
  • Selected Textured CardiganSelected Textured Cardigan
  • Selected Cardigan With Shawl NeckSelected Cardigan With Shawl Neck
  • Ashland Men’s Jacquard Shawl Collar CardiganAshland Men’s Jacquard Shawl Collar Cardigan
  • Marled Heathered Shawl CardiganMarled Heathered Shawl Cardigan
  • Joseph Shawl Collar CardiganJoseph Shawl Collar Cardigan
  • Double Knit Striped Shawl CardiganDouble Knit Striped Shawl Cardigan
  • Reiss Molton Button Shawl Collar Cardigan GreyReiss Molton Button Shawl Collar Cardigan Grey
  • River Island Navy Cable Knit Pocket CardiganRiver Island Navy Cable Knit Pocket Cardigan
  • Textured CardiganTextured Cardigan
  • Rake Bi-colour Cotton Cashmere-blend Cardigan 189176Rake Bi-colour Cotton Cashmere-blend Cardigan 189176
  • Topman Navy And White Mix Yarn CardiganTopman Navy And White Mix Yarn Cardigan
  • John Smedley Sherwood Merino Wool And Cashmere-blend CardiganJohn Smedley Sherwood Merino Wool And Cashmere-blend Cardigan
  • Levis Shawl Collar CardiganLevis Shawl Collar Cardigan
  • Topman Oatmeal Shawl Collar CardiganTopman Oatmeal Shawl Collar Cardigan
  • Slowear Zanone Striped Shawl-collar Cotton CardiganSlowear Zanone Striped Shawl-collar Cotton Cardigan
Final Word

So there you have it. Hopefully I’ve explained my reasoning behind selecting the shawl neck cardigan as an essential piece for spring layering and given you a few ideas on the different ways it can be incorporated into your current 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 do you own? How do you wear yours once the weather picks up?

Let me know in the comments section…

Matt Allinson