Getting your layering game right for winter is crucial for two reasons: you want to stay warm and clothes are fun. But before you look to down jackets and tweed topcoats, don’t skip the all-essential sweater. Once you’ve got your base layer figured out, the next step is the mid-layer. These are the ones you should know.
The only way you can go wrong with a crewneck sweater is if your head goes through an armhole. Its simplicity is surpassed only by the humble t-shirt (and maybe a scarf), which makes it a great candidate for any outfit. It’s like the center square in Bingo. Start out with a mid-grey, navy or black one in merino or lambswool before moving on to more advanced moves like intarsia knits or mock necks.
The V-neck sweater has drifted back from the sidelines and we’re all for it. Though its popularity might wax and wane, it remains a perennial classic. Wear it tailored with a crisp button-up layered beneath. Channel refined relaxation with a roomy-not-slouchy version with your white tee of choice peeking over, chinos below.
Beloved by Mr. Rogers, Alan Watts, Coco Chanel, Steve McQueen, Kurt Cobain, and early aughts emos such as myself, the cardigan is an open-style sweater. Buttoned up, zipped up or belted shut, cardigans come in all different flavors with all variants of collars and fabrics. Its roster of notable fans is proof positive of its versatility, whether you’re hosting a children’s television show, sitting front row at Paris Fashion Week or crying in your bedroom with “Tell All Your Friends” blaring.
Sweater vests, to the jest of Demetri Martin, are also back. They come in all sorts of iterations from v-neck to crewneck to button up and more, sweater vests are arguably better at showing off layers than either cardigans or pullovers while allowing its wearer a wide range of motion. Try it out full-on Doug Funnie style with a simple tee underneath, wear it with a sport coat or even layered with a cardigan.
Turtlenecks — along with mock necks and roll necks — are a great way to frame your face. Want to show more neck? Reach for a mock neck, the turtleneck’s little brother. Or take it back to the J.Crew’s classic roll neck for something more rustic. Go Campbell’s chunky with a pom-topped beanie, jeans, duck boots and a drive to an upstate cabin. Take it uptown and pair a slim iteration with a tailored suit. Or, turn up the J.Crew prep and throw on a denim shirt underneath with little collar peeping out to see if winter’s gonna last another six weeks.
Zippered sweaters are pretty straightforward. They’re sweaters. With zippers (1/4, 1/2, Full). They’re great if you also prefer jeans with a zipper versus a button fly and come in a few different lengths like the turtleneck and its variations, from full zip to half zip and even quarter zip. You could style this the same way you would any other sweater, but maybe the best move is to opt for a beefy knit and wear it like a jacket.
Now we step into the part of the sweater world where specific fabrics get recognized. Cable knit sweaters add a textural element beyond the fabric’s material itself. Cable knits — sometimes called Aran or fisherman sweaters — are made using cable needles which help in raising yarns in specific patterns to achieve crossing textures on the surface of the fabric. Also known as Aran or fisherman sweaters, the knitting style is native to the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland. They’re said to have been used to identify drowned seaman with their intricately patterned knits. The journalistic integrity of that story is questionable, but the sweater style is inarguably stylish. Classic versions will come in the natural color of the sheep’s wool, a creamy white — oat milk, if you will. Think of them as a cable knit sweater with more history.
Rooted in Shetland knitwear, Fair Isle sweaters are heavily associated with the holiday season and skiing. They’re loud and speak for themselves, so it’s best to keep everything else simple if you want the pattern to shine.