From the Sweater Vest to the Cardigan: A Quick Guide to Styling Men’s Sweaters

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As we head into fall, it’s time to get reacquainted with that old standby, your favorite sweater. Perfect for days that are not quite cold enough for a coat but too chilly for just a shirt, sweaters provide a variety of ways to change up your look while keeping warm. In this post, we’ll explore the basic styles in solid colors and when to wear them.

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The Long-Sleeve V-Neck

The long-sleeve V-neck is far and away the most useful, all-purpose sweater out there, equally at home with jeans or dress slacks, an open collar or a tie. With an oxford shirt and crisp pants, it provides a clean look without being fussy. Add a tie for a look that’s perfect for situations when you want to dress things up a bit but a jacket might be too warm. Throw one on with jeans and a tennis shirt, and you’re ready to hop on your bike. The V-neck is available in a variety of weights and fabrics, so stock up on lightweight cottons for early fall and spring, and heavier woolens for winter.

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The Simple Crew Neck

A bit more casual, but every bit as useful as the V-neck sweater, is the simple crew neck sweater. In plain weaves or cable knits, this is the sweater to wear for easy-going situations. The most classic way to wear one is with an oxford shirt, the collar just showing above the sweater. Because of its high-cut neck, you can wear this one with nothing but a T-shirt underneath. It pairs perfectly with jeans, khakis, cords or even shorts. As the temperatures continue to chill, top it off with a burly tweed jacket for a time-tested university vibe.

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The Cardigan

The cardigan, or button-front sweater, functions well as a stand-in for a jacket, especially a big sweater with a shawl collar, such as the one pictured above. Two front pockets give you somewhere to keep your keys and phone. Use this sweater as a jacket, or dress it up with a shirt and tie, a look especially suited for fall cocktail parties. If your office requires a coat and tie, think about keeping a cardigan there to change into while working at your desk. Mr. Rogers knew what he was doing.

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The V-Neck Vest

Sometimes we want an extra layer of warmth with a jacket and tie. That’s where the sleeveless V-neck vest sweater comes into its own. The V-neck works well with a tie, giving it space to show, and the sleeveless construction means there’s no extra material to bind up in the armholes of your jacket, keeping you both warm and comfortable. Thin cotton and heavier wool are both great options for this look, but the most luxurious is soft, thin-ply cashmere. Keep in mind that a V-neck vest is a great way to sneak a hint of cheery pastel color into an otherwise somber winter wardrobe. Pale yellow and soft pink are great color options alongside brown, navy and gray.

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The Sweater with a Suit

In some cases, you might try a sweater with a suit. While generally considered a bit unconventional, it can be done if you consider the proper details and colors. As with a coat and tie, the V-neck vest is your best option here. Given that a suit is more formal to begin with, stick with solid, understated colors. In the photo above, a light gray sweater paired with a darker gray suit keeps this look low-key. A burgundy sweater with a navy suit works just as well.

When it comes to sweaters, there are so many options that it’s hard to cover them all in one post. Think of this as a quick overview of basic styles and shapes and how to style them. Stay tuned for another post on patterns and textured weaves coming soon.

Photo Credits: Getty Images, An Affordable Wardrobe

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