The bleak winter months aren’t the best for motivation and getting dressed when it’s still dark outside is nobody’s idea of festive. There is some sartorial good news though, as with winter, man’s second-best friend comes back into rotation.
We’re talking about knitwear – good ol’, reliable and always-cosy knitwear. While you might have your roll necks, crewnecks and V-necks all sorted though, one style making an unlikely comeback is the half-zip sweater.
Not long ago, it was the preserve of middle-aged golfers and style-phobic political advisors, who rather obscured the half-zip’s merits. Now it’s being remade in luxe fabrics and styled in interesting ways and there are good reasons as to why it should be a mainstay within your wardrobe. Allow us to break it down for you.
The Case For A Half-Zip Sweater
It could be argued that the half-zip sweater is one of the most overlooked pieces of knitwear out there. Excellent for trans-seasonal wear and as a mid-layer during winter, it was born in the sporting arena.
The style dates back to the 1930s with the advent of the zip, which, of course, allows the wearer to expose and protect their neck and adjust and regulate body temperature, and was often worn by runners during that period. It’s traditionally made from natural fibres such as wool, cashmere and cotton, but man-made options like fleece are also popular if you’re looking for something that’s a bit more casual.
In recent years the half-zip sweater has been adopted by both the luxury set as well as streetwear brands (often one and the same these days), so it appeals to all sorts – from financial consultants to football casuals. Most half-zips come in easy to wear tones – greys, navy and neutrals – which gives them immense versatility. In one of these shades it’s far from a statement piece, and as a result can be worn with more outfits than you might first think.
How To Wear A Half-Zip Sweater
At the far casual end of the spectrum, there’s clear harmony between a half-zip sweater and denim or chinos, both of which should be kept dark in colour to avoid treading in off-duty CEO territory.
Working it in with those kinds of trouser options will set up a relaxed weekend look that can be smartened up easily if need be. If that’s not your vibe, you throw on a roomy overshirt or suede jacket, or even a gilet for a workwear-inspired look.
Half-zips look particularly good when worn beneath a tailored overcoat, in shades of navy and grey, on weekends or nights out. Because a large proportion of half-zip sweaters come in those reliable colours, it can help create a tonal look that’s hard to fault.
Alternatively, there are lots of neutral and soft tones out there, so if you’re wanting to add a bit of contrast to your look, you know what to do. When worn with formal garments, a half-zip sweater will downplay the dressy side of things due to its inherently casual nature. This makes it a particularly useful option in this day and age considering dress codes are becoming more relaxed.
Half-zips are generally thin enough to be worn under a jacket, so if you’re heading to work and don’t want the fuss of taking a coat with you, it’s an alternative. When left undone, the half-zip can still show that you’re dressed smart and are wearing a shirt and tie – if your office requires it – but if the temperature is biting-cold, you can zip it up and keep your neck warm.
Key Brands For Half-Zip Sweaters
If you were to single out one thing Ralph Lauren has always done well, it would be the basics and the touch of casual elegance that comes with them. Across its portfolio – from its entry point of Polo to its top tier, Purple Label – half-zips can be found in a range of price points and materials, which partly explains why customers keep going back to the brand time and time again.
Brunello Cucinelli is like the Ferrari of the luxury menswear world, such is its prestige and quality. Based in Solemeo, Italy, it’s always paid great attention to fit, which is the first and most crucial component when trying to achieve style. But fabrics are another focus, and whether it’s cashmere or the finest merino wools, there’s an obvious level of extreme comfort that comes with wearing the brand, making Cucinelli’s half zips amongst the finest in the world.
Reiss may not have the heritage or access to unrivalled fabric as some of the brands on this list. But for unbeatable quality to price ratio, it’s tough to beat. Expect muted colour options and soft, merino wool, which is featured throughout Reiss’ range of knitwear, including its zip neck jumpers. Their slim fits ensure they work well under tailoring, or on their own as part of a casual weekend look.
Founded in 1919, Champion is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to sportswear. It’s known for its reverse-weave cotton knit, which is both soft to touch and shrink-resistant – always a bonus. While it’s known for the classics, there are plenty of fun and contemporary options that are bold in colour palette, and there are often collaborative efforts too. Look out for pieces designed alongside Supreme, with which the brand often works.
Another heavy-weight of Italian luxury, Loro Piana is also a fully-fledged cloth mill and it weaves and knits most of its fabrics in-house. This gives it complete control over the entire process and allows the brand to experiment and use only the most precious raw materials for itself. It specialises in cashmere but likes to work with baby cashmere which is even softer, if you can believe it. Each product is designed to be extremely comfortable, and its half zips are no exception.
With a Royal Warrant from HM Queen Liz, and all its knitwear made in the UK, John Smedley is about as British as you can get. Founded in 1784 and based in Derbyshire it controls its entire manufacturing process – from spinning to finishing, cutting to sewing – which means that there’s little room for error and a quality product is always guaranteed.
One of its hero items is the half-zip sweater in merino wool, which has been crafted with years of experience and knowledge from an expert design team.