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Men's Fashion: How to Wear a Cardigan This Fall

Posted October 08 2019

As the temperature gets cooler and outer layers become more of a necessity, consider wearing cardigans! These unique articles of clothing are more versatile than you realize, and aren’t just for the grandpas of the world. 

Read on to learn how to wear a cardigan with effortless confidence. 

History of the Cardigan 

In the mid-19th century, James Thomas Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan, was known for styling himself in a fur-trimmed sweater coat. Brudenell’s sweater, which soon became known as the cardigan, came into popular knowledge after he acted as commander of the Light Cavalry Brigade during the Crimean War.  

Throughout the years, cardigans have come into and gone out of popularity. In the 1950s they became popular in the form of letterman sweaters and golfing attire. Frank Sinatra frequently wore the sweater as casual attire. 

In the 1970s, it was popularized again by Mr. Rogers, cementing its appearance as a conservative, grandfatherly piece of apparel. In the 90s it revived again when Kurt Cobain wore one and it was featured in The Big Lebowski.  

How to Wear a Cardigan

Depending on how you choose to wear your cardigan can make all the difference in your appearance. Cardigans can be worn to the office, for a day at the park, or to a casual date night. Follow these guidelines to optimize your look. 

1. Good Fit

One of the most important things to remember is to find a cardigan that fits you perfectly. You don’t want your cardigan to be too baggy. When it’s fully buttoned, the v-neck of your cardigan should fit close to your body without gaping open if you lean over. 

It should be able to cover the waistband of your pants without extending past the tops of your back pockets. Anything longer will give a more feminine appearance. 

2. Thick or Thin

Cardigans come in a variety of materials and thicknesses. Thinner cardigans are lighter and can be layered more easily. Thicker cardigans can’t be layered as easily and can usually only act as outerwear. 

Generally, thicker cardigans with patterns have a more casual appearance. A classic cable knit is the most popular chunky knit. Thinner cardigans with solid colors can be worn under suit jackets, giving you a more traditional, dressier look. 

3. Always, Sometimes, Never

Follow this rule for your cardigan buttons–the same rule that applies to 3-button suit jackets. Always button the middle button, sometimes the top button, and never the bottom button. You don’t want to button the bottom because you want the material to circle comfortably around your waist. 

If there are more buttons, another rule of thumb is to keep the middle button fastened along with the buttons directly below and above it. 

4. Formal Look

The great thing about cardigans is that they can act as both casual and formal pieces of clothing. For formality, copy the Italian sprezzatura look, which is all about looking tailored and well-coordinated with minimal effort.

To do this, wear your cardigan in place of a blazer or beneath your blazer. Use a tonal color palette in browns, creams, greys, and mochas for a subtle ensemble. Cashmere of a nice blend Merino are the most appropriate and comfortable fabrics for this style of Cardigan. 

The look of thin cardigans beneath suit jackets helps soften up the look. You can also use them in place of a vest or waistcoat in a 3-piece suit. 

5. Casual Look

Wearing your cardigan in a casual look is effortless. They pair well with almost any shirt you own, such as tees, Henley’s, button-downs, and polo shirts. You can pair cardigans with button-downs by choosing bold colors and patterns that differentiate the shirt from your cardigan. 

For a business casual look, wear your cardigan over a shirt and tie, either buttoned up or hanging open. 

6. Colors and Fabrics

Deciding on fabrics and colors is simpler than what to wear with your cardigan. A good rule of thumb is to stick with solid earth colors for both business and casual occasions. Some color ideas are black, brown, navy, tan, beige, grey. 

For fabric, choose the kind that goes best with the season and occasion. Traditionally cardigans only came in wool, but now there are a variety of options to choose from. 

Thick cable knit cardigans give a laid-back, outdoorsman appearance, while fabrics such as cashmere or merino have a sleeker, modern appearance. Of course, you can also choose the fabric based on the season–light fabrics for summer, heavier for winter. 

7. Cardigan Styles

Besides fabrics and colors, there are a few styles of cardigans to choose from depending on the occasion and season. 

Longline cardigans have a relaxed appearance and are great for spring and summer, or transitioning from summer to fall. The fabric of these cardigans is usually lightweight with designs that include waterfall and cowl necklines. 

Shawl collar cardigans are chunkier and warmer than longline cardigans. You can think of them as a replacement for a bomber or denim jackets. 

Button-up cardigans are what you probably think of when you hear the word cardigan. It’s recommended to opt for small buttons, as large ones can appear childlike. 

Rocking Cardigans with Confidence

Cardigans aren’t just meant for Mr. Rogers or your grandpa. These are versatile, practical pieces of clothing that can be as casual or formal as you desire.

Learning how to wear a cardigan is about experimenting with colors, patterns, fabrics, and layering. Just a few tweaks can make you look as sophisticated as the Earl of Cardigan.

Ready to dress in new styles for the season? Check out our new arrivals today!

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