The shawl collar sweater used to be synonymous with the term “grandpa sweater,” and ill-fitting versions used to be the norm. Over the past few years however, they have been updated into flattering silhouettes and cool patterns which look just as cool on the streets of Soho in the fall, as they do curled up in front of the fire at home on a cold February morning.
Originally a military based, versatile sweater option, which allowed for buttoning of the shawl during cold spells, the garment has been worn by several stylish men around town. The likes of Steve McQueen and The Dude from The Big Lebowski likely had the most impact on bringing it to the forefront, and you can actually still buy The Dude’s special version today!
Many of today’s also carry a signature fisherman cable style, which adds to the heft of many versions you’ll need to keep yourself warm. Other, simpler patterns may have more versatility for under or over other blazers and jackets, though. Whatever your style preference, you can pick up a couple for different options below!
1. LL Bean Signature Mapleton Wool Sweater
This option is about as classic as it gets, and LL Bean has made a cozy, thick version that can act as its own jacket, or will wear well at home on a cold night. This one is very bulky, so while it can be worn with other outerwear, that outerwear has to be very roomy in order for it to work. So wear it well into November over an oxford cloth shirt, chambray shirt as pictured below, or a thin merino sweater and enjoy the coziness. Then, use it like a flack jacket against the cold under your favorite pea coat when the colder seasons start to settle in.
2. Bonobos Cotton Cashmere Shawl Cardigan
BEST FOR LAYERING
Bonobos has been consistently providing great menswear over the past few years, and this thin layering sweater is a great example thereof. With a thick ribbed collar and thinner knit in the body of the sweater, this could be layered under a blazer, a jean jacket, and perhaps even a suede bomber, it all depends on the vibe you’re going for! By itself, this shawl cardigan also looks quite good and will get plenty of wear, but the benefits of this one are in its versatility in layering. This particular navy blue would look great with a sharp grey trouser and white oxford cloth shirt underneath it, paired with a camel topcoat and a good chukka boot.
3. J.Crew Wallace & Barnes Cable Shawl Collar Cardigan
J.Crew has maintained its hold on reasonably priced prep staples for years now, and they’ve been able do so just with pieces like this on. The soft, faded green of this particular sweater is what brought it to this list, as it’s a great option when you want mix things up a bit. Wear this one with a lived-in tee, some light wash jeans, and a pair of simple sneakers while on your way to watch football on the first chilly day of the fall. Bring it back out with chinos over a waffle shirt as it gets colder, and enjoy the compliments on this cool color not likely spotted on many this season.
4. Faherty Totem Cardigan
BEST FOR THE SLOPES
Faherty is a newer brand on the scene that has been putting out great products with a sort of California Vibe. This particular black-and-white pairing has a Navajo-inspired design that would look perfect for your upcoming ski weekend trip, or just when you’re trying to look like you do that kind of thing. Throw this one on with a simple grey shirt, faded black jeans, and a pair of cap toe lace up boots for the full effect. Hot Toddie optional.
5. Pantherella Cashmere Dress Sock
Drakes is a luxury tie brand which has recently forayed into other menswear options, including this chunky ribbed cardigan in a toasty lambswool. Created as part of a collaboration with Todd Snyder, one of our favorite menswear brands, this is a very luxurious, warm, and well made option that will last just as long as the price tag entails it should. The vibe with this one is off-duty spy — think Colin Firth’s character in Kingsman — so wear it with a pair of brown tweed trousers, some tortoiseshell glasses, a crisp button down and some slippers. Maybe even some red cashmere socks!
6. Rag & Bone Cardiff Black Merino Shawl Collar Cardigan
BEST FOR CITY DWELLERS
Most urbanites likely have a closet that looks pretty monochrome — grey, white, and black clothing essentials are popular for easy wardrobe rotation. This sweater is a perfect addition to just such a wardrobe, or really anyone who wants a trendy, chic look. Rag & Bone has been consistently churning fashionable options which look good on weekends and for date night — so throw this on with some tan suede chelsea boots, your favorite black jeans, and a black shirt, and then head to brunch at that place with the $17 Bloody Mary’s.
7. Brooks Brothers Nordic Pattern Shawl Collar Cardigan
BEST FOR THE HOLIDAYS
An over-the-top ugly sweater pattern has its place and all, but let’s rein things in a bit shall we? This Brooks Brothers Nordic pattern shawl sweater checks the box for the “ugly sweater” party, without it actually being ugly. It’s got a cool, celebratory vibe that will take you from an office holiday party to eggnog with friends and family in a snap. Throw this one on with grey flannel slacks, a thin cream crew neck merino sweater, and your favorite fuzzy slippers.
8. Banana Republic Cream Shawl Collar Cardigan
BEST FOR TRAVELING
Banana Republic sweaters are going to do the trick for a budget option. They’re of good enough quality to keep you warm, and will be a nice option for travel as you won’t care so much if you spill wine all over it. The cream color is very versatile, and will look good with a myriad of options. Wear this one with your stretchy jeans and slip on sneakers at the airport, and wrap yourself up in it as a blanket on the flight.
9. Pendelton Original Westerly Sweater
BEST FOR FANS OF ‘THE BIG LEBOWSKI’
“Let me explain something to you… I’m the Dude. So that’s what you call me.” Feel free to make this statement with every room you walk into while wearing this piece of classical movie history, that actually also looks great with casual options. This looks good lounging around in sweatpants like El Duderino if you were so inclined, or with your broken-in jeans running errands around your neighborhood. The zip front and reduced collar make it unique to these other options, and the pattern is eye catching from a few blocks away! White Russians, anyone?