Summer is fading into the distance and fall is right around the corner, before you know it the air will be crisp and it will be sweater season once again. But as that time approaches, we’ll ask you the all-important question, how’s your sweater game looking? Still relying on the same stretched out, ratty looking pullover from 4 years ago? We can’t imagine that thing is fit for a night out or the office. So, it’s probably time for some upgrades. From updated styles, fits and fabrics, to fresher colors, and more, sweaters have become more versatile than ever. Let’s put ‘em to work this fall and winter; here’s how.
Find The Right Size And Fit
No matter what fabric you’re buying or what style you’re looking at, finding the right size and fit is always key. Too small and you risk looking like that ridiculous guy at the club (yeah, you know the one), too big and you’ll look puffy and sloppy, not to mention you’ll make layering a chore. So, with hopefully everything else in your wardrobe, keep things trim but not tight. You’ll also want to consider what you’ll be wearing over and under it too.
In the event you come across a sweater that isn’t just the right fit, be wary of alternations. It’s not as easy as a suit or pair of pants because sweaters are knit. Sweater alterations are not unheard of, but they can cost you more money than it’s worth, especially if an expensive fabric is involved. Again, it’s best to find the proper size and fit from the jump, rather than risk a costly alteration.
Pick A Fabric, Any Fabric
Not all fabrics and knits are created equal. Some are best for warmth, some are more dressy, while others can be light, luxurious and wearable across several seasons. In the end, we recommend a mix of knit styles to conquer every occasion. Also, keep in mind that blended fabrics can offer you the best of both worlds and give you a better sweater than one with just a single type of fabric.
Cashmere - Considered the Holy Grail of knit fabrics, cashmere is super soft, lightweight, but still manages to keep you warmer than you’d expect. Due to the rarity of its source, a quality cashmere piece can be pricey but affordable options are becoming increasingly more available. Cashmere also makes an excellent blending component because it offers warmth and softness without weight.
Cotton - Because cotton tends to hold heat for less time, cotton is great for the early, transitional parts of the seasons or more temperate climates. Cotton knits can come in a variety of weights and styles so a wide swath of options are available, whether you’re looking for something dressy or casual. Cotton is also often blended with cashmere to achieve an ideal blend of softness and warmth, without a high price tag.
Wool - This fabric has heft, which is reflected in the types of sweaters that use wool. One of the oldest sweater fabrics, wool requires a great deal of care as fibers can get easily damaged from dryer heat and rough handling. Wool offers a variety of weights as well, from fine and light merino to heavier versions ready for the toughest of winters.
A Style For Every Occasion
There are plenty of different ways to rock a sweater, so here’s a quick breakdown of the most popular types, and how to pair them the right way this season:
V-Necks - Usually paired best with button-down shirts, but versatile enough for t-shirts and layering the v-neck sweater is the swiss army knife of the knit world. When it comes to proper collar depth, though, the rule is the same as it is for t-shirts: never go too low. Seriously.
Pair With: Dressier chino and denim looks, layered with suits and blazers.
Crew Necks - The most ubiquitous of sweater styles and a casual staple, crew necks are great as a standalone piece. The crewneck is ideal with a t-shirt underneath or solo but a collared shirt can be worn as well.
Pair With: Casual looks with chinos and denim.
Cardigans - Despite what you may think, the cardigan can handle everything from a crisp t-shirt to a dress shirt. It also can be the most dressy sweater so it’s an optimal choice if you want to layer under a sports coat or suit jacket. It’s a timeless piece that should be in every man’s closet.
Pair With: Layered with suits and blazers or any denim or chino look.
Half Zippered- At home with all manners of casual Friday and relaxed dress code offices, the half zip style is a great mix of polish and ease. Easily layered and taking a tie well, zippered styles are truly a 7-day-a-week option.
Pair With: Dressier looks with slacks and chinos, or denim and a blazer.
Proper Cleaning and Care
The way you care for your sweaters will depend on the fabric type, although all sweaters usually come with care instructions. All wool or all cashmere varieties should be dry cleaned whereas blended options and cotton can be washed at home. When washing at home, it’s best to use colder water, a gentle cycle and detergents that are formulated for delicate fabrics. Once they’ve been washed lay them flat to dry so they don’t stretch and lose their shape.
When storing your sweaters, never hang them on hangers, they’ll only get mangled and lose their shape. Always fold and store on a shelf or in a drawer for maximum life and minimal damage. If you’re having them dry cleaned, they should know to fold them over the hangers but it’s always smart to ask, just in case. Cedar blocks in your closet can help deter moth damage when you're storing them during the warmer months, but if you've got a small hole or two, don't worry, it's a relatively simple fix that a tailor can do. If it's any bigger than an inch though, it's probably going to be a tough fix and you might consider retiring that sweater.