Anyone who still finds cardigans fusty, rigid or unbearably twee needs only to look to the cardigans of the past few seasons. Admittedly, the cardigans that trended a few years ago were thin, conservative sweaters that you might have worn with a simple button-down. But these days, designers have been putting their own unique twists on the style, resulting in wacky animal print sweaters, oversized preppy styles or beefy numbers that can stand in for jackets. Some of our favorite cardigans are the kinds of sweaters Kurt Cobain might have worn. Others, the Dude might have abided by. Some would suit Steve McQueen, and others A$AP Rocky. What they all have in common is that the best cardigans in 2020 are laid back, tough and just plain cool. Wear them with a tee and sweatpants around the house or layer them with a denim shirt and a pair of corduroys to embrace the outdoors and enjoy wildlife (even if the “outdoors” is your block and “wildlife” is your terrier).
Beyond a style perspective, cardigans are just plain practical. The button-front makes a cardigan easy to take off, so you can easily remove it when you get inside or throw it back on when you feel cold. Wear your cardigan buttoned when you want to look dressed up or unbuttoned for a more casual look. There’s basically no limit to how you can style a cardigan, and it gets even better when you have a few in your rotation. That’s why we’ve rounded up some of our favorite styles, including classics from brands like Pendleton and LL Bean and designer options from brands like Sandro and Needles.
1.Entireworld Fisherman’s Cardigan
We’d argue that there’s a spot in your wardrobe for every cardigan on this list, but if you had to get just one, this would be it. It’s made from superfine wool, giving it a luxe look without it feeling itchy. The boxy shape, dropped shoulders and ribbed texture give it a laidback look that works great over a graphic tee, but it’s not so fashion-y that you can’t wear it to meet the in-laws. The pink color is sold out, but the emerald, camel and gray colors are all classic options that will suit any wardrobe.
2. Pendleton Men’s Original Westerley The Zip Up Sweater Cardigan
Pendleton is America’s most iconic wool mill, and the Westerley cardigan has taken on a life of its own thanks to it being worn by the Dude, as played by Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski. If the tan and brown color is a little too on the nose, get it in gray and white. The sweater has a zip front instead of traditional buttons, and the rolled collar makes this wool sweater a cozy but laid-back option.
3. LL Bean Cardigan
BEST SHAWL COLLAR CARDIGAN
LL Bean makes sweaters for doing stuff in. This beefy cardigan has a thick shawl collar to keep your neck nice and toasty, while the ribbed texture adds extra warmth. It’s made from 100% lambswool and costs just under 100 bucks, making it a premium option at a modest price. Two patch pockets on the hip are great for keeping your hands warm or storing your essentials in. Colors include natural, navy, charcoal and russet.
4. Uniqlo Merino V-Neck Cardigan
BEST FOR LAYERING
If you’re looking for something simple and classic, this cardigan for Uniqlo is a great option. It’s made from 100% merino wool, a fabric that’s prized for being soft and temperature-regulating. It’s thinner than many of the other options on this list, making it great for wearing under a blazer. It comes in classic colors like camel, navy and gray.
5. State Cashmere V-Neck Cardigan
If anything, this is the year to indulge and pamper yourself in soft cashmere. For the price, State’s cashmere V-neck cardigan could be considered more of a necessity than a dose of self-care. It also comes in nine other shades.
6. Sandro College Wool Striped Cardigan
This cardigan looks like a 60’s Yale yearbook come to life, in the best way possible. The classic burgundy Bordeaux color is enlivened by the addition of ribbed, striped panels across the front. The sweater comes in gray and blue as well, all of which have the same white, blue and black trim detail. Lean into the preppy influence by wearing it with penny loafers, but keep it modern by styling it with a graphic or plain tee.
7. Abercrombie & Fitch Pattern Shawl Cardigan Sweater
Before it was a mall mainstay for mean teenagers, Abercrombie was the go-to outfitter for adventurers. This cardigan nods to that history. The thick texture and shawl collar will keep you warm, and the interior pockets make this already cozy sweater even better. The moose and tree motif make this a stylish sweater for winter, whether you’re trawling through the backwoods or wandering around Bushwick.
8. COS Knitted Cardigan
This sweater from COS updates the cozy cardigan and gives it a modern, minimalist edge. It’s available in navy and black, and pairs perfectly with dressy trousers and a crisp white T-shirt. The snap buttons combined with the shirt-style collar and knitted fabric make it something of a hybrid between a jacket, a knitted polo and a cardigan. But despite its Frankenstein construction, it’s a surprisingly versatile and classic-looking piece.
9. Needles Intarsia Mohair-Blend Cardigan
BEST DESIGNER OPTION
This cardigan from Needles looks like it was made from the fur of a psychedelic sheep. But despite its unusual colors and design, it’s a surprisingly wearable piece. Pair it with faded jeans and suede boots, navy chinos and loafers or even dress pants, as long as you keep the rest of the outfit simple and let the cardigan do the talking, it’ll be a piece you reach for as often as your standard beige cardigan. This sweater is made from a blend of mohair, wool and nylon and is made in Japan.
10. J. Crew Lambswool Sweater-blazer
Part cardigan, part chore coat, part blazer, this option from J. Crew is a versatile piece for those times you need to look good but a suit jacket is too dressy. This sweater is made from lambswool and has a three-button placket, so it’s a cozy piece you can throw on any time. The notch-lapel, patch pockets and classic color make it look like a dressed-down version of your favorite blazer.
11. Saint Laurent Intarsia Knit Cardigan
Under Anthony Vaccarello’s direction, Saint Laurent menswear has moved from heroin chic rocker to urbane boho city dweller. His wool cardigan with its intarsia knit trim is a sweater you could live in. The slim silhouette lets this cardigan be used instead of a blazer for fancier events. The shawl collar is slim, it has two front pockets and for eye appeal, there’s a sprinkling of sequins topping the intarsia pattern.
12. THISISNEVERTHAT Green Argyle Cardigan
BEST SPORT INSPIRED
Honestly, this looks like a golf sweater on steroids, which is probably why we like the oversized argyle cardigan. THISISNEVERTHAT’s a Korean streetwear brand that marries a tongue in cheek attitude with avant-garde styling. Their oversized acrylic sweater is like the grandchild of the “Old Man’s Golf Cardis” they wore back in the 80s. It’s fresh and fun.
13. 032C Pixel Cardigan
MOST POST PUNK
O32 Pixel’s a Berlin-based culture mag and a streetwear brand. This sweater looks like it was inspired by the Beach Party movies of the 60s. Although the brand says it was inspired by the 80s band, Die Tödliche Doris, it really has an Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon beach bonfire vibe. The slightly oversized cardigan is made from a wool blend and has ribbed cuffs.
14. ASOS Design Knitted Leopard Cardigan in Fluffy Yarn
Fluffy, fuzzy cardigan sweaters are in, we’ve established that. So, if this is the fluffiest, fuzziest cardigan sweater, could this be one of the best men’s cardigans out there? It even has the abstract animal print thing going on. Whether or not it is the best, it’s a cozy sweater that wouldn’t look out of place at your local pub or when you’re binging Netflix.
15. Stussy Mohair Mask Cardigan
BEST SURFER VIBE
Surf brand Stussy has channeled the joys of summer with this brushed mohair sweater. The abstract masks that populate this cardigan look like surfboards. With its ribbed cuffs and waistband, it’s a cardigan that can keep you company throughout any season.
16. J. Crew Rugged Merino Wool Bird’s-Eye Shawl Cardigan Sweater
One of the reasons people flock to J.Crew is that they get what people want. Mainly clothing that’s well-made, lasts forever and always looks in style. Their take on the classic Nordic cardigan goes urbane with a bird’s-eye print and stripes.
17. Altea Bottoni Geometric Shawl Collar Cardigan
BEST REINTERPRETATION OF A CLASSIC
You can’t not include a Southwestern print cardigan sweater when doing a best men’s cardigan roundup. The iconic print goes hand in hand with cardigans. Altea Bottoni’s version is made from a luxe alpaca and wool blend. Unlike Western-styled cardigans of old, this style is streamlined, not bulky.