Cardigans: Sartorial MVPs

For something that has long been associated with school teachers and grandparents, the cardigan has really turned a corner. While it is certainly still a ‘trend’ item, making it acceptable for the fashion conscious young men about town, it has also reclaimed status as an item of evergreen style. The thought of buying buttoned knitwear never crossed my mind as a youth. When I was a mere lad of teenage years, the times of uttering ‘fashion’ and ‘cardigan’ in the same sentence were long gone. Absent from the catwalk and the high street, exposure to these garments was limited to fusty outfitters who retailed heavily patterned versions to quiet academics who matched knitwear to their pipes.

It was certainly overdue a revival, and the high street is now chock full of the things. Whereas before the renaissance, when well fitting cardigans in subtle silk-cashmere mixes, or plain and honest cotton, were damn near extinct, they are now everywhere and it is a great time to purchase a good number of them. It seems people have taken this lovable item to their hearts once more and it’s not surprising. The versatility of a cardigan will make you wonder how you ever lived without one. The low v-neck enables you to wear one with a suit and tie on a chilly winter day and, because they are now available in a vast array of colours, there are fantastic opportunities for tonal matching or complementation.

In terms of smartness and formality they sit almost exactly between a v-neck jumper and a waistcoat; they are certainly more elegant than the former and they are often more charming, in an understated style, than the latter. A dark chalk-stripe suit will naturally look imposing with a matching waistcoat, but for a different look, a beautiful light purple cardigan will bring a different quality to the outfit, not to mention a welcome exhibition of colour.

Cardigans, when manufactured in appropriate materials, can be used all year round. I have a silk-cashmere version that never gets a seasonal relegation; it is constantly in use and I have often worn it, in the heat of summer, unbuttoned with a polo shirt, shorts and espadrilles. On warmer spring days, it makes a welcome change to use a cardigan instead of a jacket; with v-necks, I have never been as comfortable using them thus.

In winter, a cardigan will provide warmth and diversity to even the most staid of staid ensembles. Black is a wise colour choice that will also come in useful on summer evenings, but grey and light blue are two choices which will really stand out; the former looks fantastic with dark slim fitting suits, with a white shirt and a dark striped tie whereas the latter, a lovely winter sky blue, looks wonderful with dark and light grey.

Spring and summer colours of cardigan will veer towards the lighter and brighter; white and creams are classic and are agreeable companions for just about anything, blues, yellows and greens are unconventional, especially in strong tones, and will set you apart from the rest of the ‘cardi’ crowd’, but as they will undoubtedly dominate an outfit, it is best to use them with colours easily beaten by their vibrancy such as navy blue, white, brown and black. Wearing competing colours, perhaps in the form of bright red jeans, will certainly catch an eye but such Lego colouring often looks clownish. Cardigans are a wise investment as, no matter how long the glow of the trend lasts, these items will mark their place in the sartorial ‘value-for-money’ hall of fame.