When it comes to cold-weather style, there’s one rule to remember: you’ve got to be in knits to win it. Choose the right autumn/winter knitwear and you’ll be bullet nipple-free and look like you’ve got icy style wrapped up. Plus, your mum will be able to stop worrying about you getting ill. Not all knits are created equal, though. For every lust-worthy jumper style there are nine other sad and shapeless options ready to take your style stock sub zero. We’re knit-pickers about this kind of thing, so we’ve compiled this season’s ultimate knit list, so you can make light work of hunkering down for the cold days ahead.
The Roll Neck
Thankfully, the roll neck jumper is no longer treated with mild suspicion – it’s been fully claimed back from the likes of Steve Jobs and the Milk Tray Man. Its benefits are brick-through-a-window obvious: cold necks are a thing of the past when wearing one and if anything’s going to give you stealthy Bond vibes, it’s this northwards creeping knitwear. The roll neck’s triumphant resurgence is all part of a re-evaluation of the decade taste apparently forgot. “The seventies trend that we’ve seen coming through recently has made the roll neck a must-have knitwear shape for the season,” says James Lawrence, head of menswear design at ASOS. “Look for jewel tones and wear them underneath shirts [or suede jackets] for a truly retro look.” This design isn’t just a no-brainer for its form and function, it’ll pair well with everything in your wardrobe too. Aim for a mid-weight weave for maximum usage then wear with a suit and Chelsea boots to switch up your routine work look. Go casual on the weekend by teaming with slim-fit jeans, trainers and a wool overcoat.
The Cable Knit Jumper
If the cable knit jumper was good enough for fishermen on choppy seas, then quite frankly, we fancy our chances wearing one on the way back from the pub. The cable knit may have been edited and repurposed time and time again, but essentially you need to look out for the three Cs: crew neck, chunky and cream (although other colours look ace, too). Don’t try to pigeon hole the cable knit crew-neck though, it won’t stay in its lane and it’s all the better for it. “This design works well for all ages and styles, thanks to the sheer volume of choice available,” says says Damien Paul, head menswear buyer at MatchesFashion. Insulating and durable, a cable knit makes for a smart winter wardrobe investment. Decent options are found at all price points so whether you’re skint or splurging you can cop a cable knit. Wearing one is a doddle, too. It’s one of those heroic menswear pieces that can be chucked on with jeans and trainers or dressed up with a shirt, tailored trousers and monk-straps. Don’t try to go athleisure with it, though: when jogging bottoms are recruited the cable knit starts emitting walk of shame vibes.
Once the unofficial uniform of America’s college elite, thankfully the shawl neck cardigan has gone global, meaning you don’t need an eye-wateringly high IQ to wear one. Wearing a cardigan, at least a standard issue one, can have a tendency to get a bit geriatric in the wrong hands, but you’ll have no such issue with a shawl collar. Play to this preppy design’s strengths by teaming a navy version with a Breton T-shirt, slim tan chinos and black penny loafers. A camel shawl collar cardigan, meanwhile, will pair handsomely with a denim shirt, slim white jeans and black boots, torpedoing the myth that men can’t wear lighter colours in winter. While you want a thicker gauge for shawl necks, don’t discount thinner V-neck styles, which work better for clean, Scandi-inspired outfits. Keep them in simple block colours over white tees, with jeans or pleated trousers.
The Graphic Knit
While we’ll always be fanboys of pared-back and versatile knitwear, your bog-standard grey, navy and black sweatshirts aren’t likely to make menswear headlines. Luckily, minimalism’s grip on the way men dress has eased and an explosion of inventive knits have hit the market – attention seeking has never looked so good, with patterns, motifs and slogans all trending. If you’re apprehensive about giving loud knitwear a spot in your line-up this season, rest assured that it’s been thoroughly road-tested by the likes of Ryan Gosling and Donald Glover. Their verdict (and ours): it works.
It’s not just pattern that gets our enthusiastic seal of approval though, brands like Coach, Sandro and Masion Kitsune have shown that cartoony, graphic designs are just as appealing when you’re in double digits as they were as a five-year-old. Don’t discount fluffy designs either, going furry will stand you in good stead in a sea of lacklustre knits. “Fluffy yarns instantly make a somewhat basic crew jumper into something special that can be worn in numerous ways, from smart to street,” says Lawrence. Plus if you’re lucky, the right people will want to touch you. The golden rule for wearing an interest knit? Keep the rest of your outfit simple. Black is your safest bet. Recruiting black jeans, boots and a leather jacket will let your knit speak for itself and save you from looking like you’re trying to be random AF.
The Oversized Jumper
When the weather’s grim outside, bigger is most definitely better when it comes to knits. More good news, too: an oversized jumper will mask a multitude of sins, meaning if you’ve given the gym one too many swerves you can still look perfectly presentable. Don’t take the oversized trend too literally though: two sizes up does not an oversized jumper make. The best oversized jumpers feel clearly designed. Look for shoulder seams that fall lower, and voluminous sleeves and hems that drop but retain their shape. An oversized jumper can be used for experimental winter layering, with a roll neck underneath or cropped jacket over the top, edging your layering game into advanced territory. Alternatively team with contrasting slim jeans for a relaxed look, or go full-throttle mod and wear with a thick, green parka and Chelsea boots. If you want to give Kanye (or Cobain) a run for his money, this is the knit for you.
The Half-Zip Sweater
Zip-up sweaters were once the kind of thing that were strictly confined to house wearing, parked on the sofa and covered in Wotsits dust. Now though, they’ve shaken off their slovenly past and are big news among menswear heavy hitters. “A key trend is the use of zips in place of buttons, and the zip-up sweater is key to nailing this look,” says Paul. “Lanvin, Raey and Brunello Cucinelli have all created on trend zip-ups.” So it’s got the backing of some of the biggest names in the game and it’s bloody brilliant at killing the chill. Ergo, there’s nothing not to love. Throw one on over a shirt and under an unstructured blazer to add a twist to your business-casual getup; with your roll neck underneath for a contemporary approach to layering; or try teaming a zip-up cardigan with tapered joggers and a bomber jacket. When it comes to colour, stick to light neutrals and earthy tones which are easily matched with pretty much anything in your wardrobe. Netflix and chill will need to get a new knit to rely on.
The Knitted Polo Shirt
Polo shirts, even the knitted ones, are usually reserved for spring and summer but they deserve a spot in your rotation all year long. As well as boasting easy layering, a fine thread of mid-century elegance runs through the style, one that lends knitted polos well to dressed-down tailoring. Not that you have to keep them at the business-casual end of your wardrobe. Carry the Dickie Greenleaf connotations into your weekend by wearing yours under a Harrington jacket or layer up your knitwear by slipping one under a thicker cardigan. If your style is more Paul Weller, channel the mod look with some jeans or check trousers. Knitted polos carry autumnal colours well, so look out for burnt oranges and deep greens as well as the usual neutrals. Look for long sleeves and an open collar for a modern take.
The Merino Crew-Neck
The crew-neck T-Shirt is often and justifiably described as a hero of men’s fashion. We’re here to argue that its knitted counterpart deserves the same status, given that it’s every bit as wearable, and a little bit warmer to boot. Unshowy but often refined, a crew neck jumper takes on more of a luxe sheen when it comes in merino wool, because the material’s soft, fine fibres give them shine and breathability. It slots perfectly between blazer and shirt but also works solo with tailored trousers or slim-fit jeans. A quick word to wide: if you’ve not exactly been counting the calories lately, a merino knit won’t hide the evidence. They tend to be slim cut and hug the body. Just saying.
The V-Neck Sweater
V-neck jumpers once fell into one of two opposing camps. They were either the centrepiece of boring 9-5 uniforms, as uninspiring as strip-lit offices, or statement clothing favoured by Gucci types and capital-L Lads from the early noughties who wore theirs down to the navel. Fortunately, menswear has since found a happy medium. A fine-gauge V-neck in a neutral colour is a versatile layering piece for smart-casual offices, working well with dark denim as well as more tailored trousers. A striped shirt underneath adds some interest, especially if you leave it untucked to dial down the formality. Alternatively, go a little more directional with a cricket-style jumper. Worn loose with nothing underneath (okay, maybe a vest) your look will channel a kind of rule-breaking preppy vibe.