Two Kinds of Sweaters

A solid grey or navy v-neck sweater is said to be one of the most versatile sweaters a man can own, but lately, I’ve been finding them to be of limited use. On the one hand, I like to wear v-necks with sport coats, so long as they don’t add too much bulk underneath. For this, I find fitted thin merinos and two-ply cashmeres to be best. On the other hand, plain v-neck sweaters feel less optimal when worn with just a dress shirt and pair of trousers. It’s a perfectly acceptable semi-casual look, to be sure, but one that I find to be a bit boring. I also think it looks a bit incomplete without a tailored jacket, almost as though the guy left it somewhere.

If you want to wear a sweater on its own, or pair it with a piece of non-tailored outerwear, I’d suggest picking something more textured or patterned. Something other than the solid-colored, smooth merinos or cashmeres mentioned above. An Aran, cable knit, or Shaggy Dog can add some important visual interest, as can the subtle textures of a tightly knit linen sweater or heavy Shetland. I also like buttoned mock necks with jeans or chinos, and chunky turtlenecks with heavy coats, but these styles may or may not be to your taste.

Nonetheless, the idea is simple: if you want to wear a sweater on its own or with a casual jacket, pick something textured or patterned for visual interest. If you’d like to wear a dressier, solid-colored v-neck, one made from a smoother wool, pair it with a sport coat. Again, not that v-necks worn on their own is wrong; it’s just that I think men can do better. 

(Photos from The Sartorialist, J Crew, and an unknown source)