Our pal Greg Behrendt is the only standup comedian we know with sartorially-themed tattoos. His great instrumental rock band The Reigning Monarchs plays music that sounds like the soundtrack to an awesome movie that doesn’t exist yet, and they’re raising money on IndieGoGo to make a new record and head out on tour in 2013. To celebrate the holiday, they posted this lovely holiday tune… “God Rest Ye Merry Sweatermen.” Seriously, these guys LOVE cardigans.
Shawl Collar Cardigans
As legend has it, the original cardigan was invented for Lieutenant General James Brudenell, the Seventh Earl of Cardigan. He wanted a sweater that he could put on without ruining his perfectly coiffed hair. So, the front was cut open, buttons put in, and voilà – we have the cardigan sweater. How the shawl collar – a detail originally designed for the Victorian smoking jacket – got mixed in is unclear. Perhaps it’s because both were considered at-home pieces for lounge and leisure. Who knows.
In any case, shawl collar cardigans make for great autumnal sweaters. The elongated line of the collar nicely frames the face while the body of the knit keeps the wearer comfortable and warm. Today, you can get these from a number of companies, and they range from the stratospherically priced to the reasonably affordable.
I’ll start with the stratospherically priced. Even if we’re not able to afford them, they’re fun to look at (and talk about). These tend to be knitted in Scotland and made from multi-ply wool, cashmere, lambswool, or camelhair yarns. Multi-ply means that multiple plies are twisted together to form a thicker, stronger yarn. This gives the sweater more warmth and durability. The yarns are also usually made from longer animal fibers, which means there are fewer weak points that can break and result in pilling. Finally, the weaves tend to be denser and tighter, which helps ensure that the sweater will keep its shape for years to come. The result, while expensive, is something that’s incredibly chunky, plush, and warm. Wear one of these on a chilly morning and you’ll be immediately be impressed with the quality.
You can find such cardigans at a number of traditional American clothiers. Ben Silver, O’Connell’s, Kabbaz-Kelly, and Paul Stuart have exceptionally nice ones. From Europe, there’s Drake’s, Berk, Johnstons of Elgin, and Peter Johnston. Ovadia & Sons also makes a nice, thick lambswool one that’s suitable for someone wanting a slimmer fit. All of these tend to be expensive, but some will go on sale at the end of the season. In fact, Ben Silver has some at 50% off now.
For something more affordable, check out J Crew, Rugby, Brooks Brothers, Gant, Land’s End, Orvis, and Save Khaki (one of which is on Gilt). These tend to be thinner than the ones mentioned above, and will likely have cheap, plastic buttons instead of animal horn. You can swap out the buttons yourself, however, for about $30-50. Finally, you may want to consider the options at Northern Watters, White of Hawick, and Black Sheep. I have no personal experience with their products, but nice things have been said about them across the various menswear forums. And although their websites aren’t terribly appealing, it’s important to separate out marketing hype from quality of clothing. They may just be the right middle point between the over-priced, under-delivered “fashion brands,” and the superlative, but incredibly expensive, Scottish knits.
It’s On Sale: John Smedley
John Smedley is having their end-of-the-season sale. Sweaters are 50% off and begin at $90. They’re a bit expensive, to be sure, but the company makes really wonderful knits. The raw wool is all sourced in New Zealand and then dyed by Zegna. The rest of the work is done in-house by John Smedley in Derbyshire, England. This includes spinning out the yarn, creating the panels, and knitting the final product. The wool is said to be processed through their local spring water, which supposedly gives the fabrics a superior handle. I’m not sure I completely buy that theory, but their garments do feel very nice and last a long time. I bought my first John Smedley sweater over ten years ago and it still looks great today.
Thanks to Jesse for the introduction, and the incredible opportunity to blog at Put This On!
I took some time to think about what my first post would be, and I decided that I would write something that’s a good reflection of what I aim to do in the future - bring a little of own perspective and build on the existing PTO wisdom. Thus, for the first post, I’d like to begin by talking about how to choose a cardigan, something that I don’t believe has been covered here before.
Cardigans are great for when we transition out of Winter and into Spring. They give you an additional layer of warmth for when the sun’s out, but it’s still slightly chilly. As basic as a cardigan is, however, it seems many men still don’t buy the right ones. The most common mistake is buying cardigans that sit too close to your shoulders. Instead, you should aim for ones that fit a bit closer to your collar, so that it doesn’t look like your sweater is about to fall off or become a tube top. This isn’t just a matter of where the shoulder seams sit on you; it’s a matter of how the the opening on the cardigan is cut. I’ve Photoshopped the following photograph to show you the difference.
Isn’t that much better? Here’s another example. The man on the left has a fairly low hanging cardigan, so I’ve pushed it higher up on his shoulders and made them sit closer to his collar. In addition, I’ve taken the opportunity to illustrate a few other stylistic points. First, I’ve given his pieces a bit more contrast by turning his shirt light blue and his tie navy. This makes each of his pieces distinguish themselves a bit more while still maintaining some simple color harmony. I’ve written about the importance of contrast before here, for those interested in reading more about the subject. Second, I took out the skulls and bones motif on his tie, as simple and basic ties are always much better than gimmicky ones. Third, I’ve made his tie a bit wider, because I think they make him look a bit more mature. Lastly, I’ve straightened up the top of his shirt, so that white from under his placket doesn’t peek out. The problem with shirts with all these contrasting details is that they can sometimes highlight a poor fit, so I think they’re best avoided.
There’s a lot packed into the last Photoshop, but much of it is actually old Put This On wisdom. Jesse has talked before about the value of basic neckties, as well as blue button-up shirts. Given his appreciation for classic menswear, I have a hunch that he’d also favor slightly wider ties over skinny ones. In the end, this picture is really just illustrating how much better one can look with some of the tips Put This On has been giving all along; I’m just adding the bit regarding properly fitting cardigans. If you didn’t believe that PTO could make you a better-dressed man, hopefully this is proof.
In the future, I’ll try to do a few more of these Photoshops to illustrate different stylistic tips (including ones you’ve been reading about at this site). I’ll also round up various items you may want to consider for your wardrobe, and talk about things such as tailoring, how clothes are made, and a little menswear history. Hopefully you’ll enjoy my posts, and thanks for having me on board!
These shawl cardigans that our people at Archival Clothing just put out are just beautiful. Spectacular. Golden. Made right, and made in the USA. And a bargain at $180.
My wife sometimes asks me what I might like for a gift, for birthday or Christmas. She’s a little hesitant to shop for me, because of what we’ll call my refined tastes.
This year, I gave her blanket permission to buy me anything from Drake’s of London. Anything.
It’s On Ebay
Circa 1950s striped wool cardigan
It’s On Ebay!
Brooks Brothers Black Fleece Cashmere Cardigan
It’s On Ebay!
Land’s End Shawl-Collared Cardigan with Suede Elbow Patches