Chunky. Nautical. Whatever you want to call them, these are the sweaters you’re more likely to reach for at home, and less likely to put on for work or a night out on the town. And they’re terrific. Most often they’re a cardigan with either a shawl or mock neck, and plenty of us have a favorite one of these we wear all the time. They’re the sweaters you WANT to wear, before turning up the thermostat. They’re rugged, maybe a little scratchy, and look smart and masculine. More grown-up than a hooded sweatshirt, but still casual. Here are some of the best looking, but still affordable house-sweaters that should do just fine keeping you warm this winter:
Fair Isle done “right”. By minimizing the number of colors used in the pattern, this thing ends up looking more Scandinavian than traditional Fair Isle. It looks more sleek than dusty. It’s a shawl collar pull over with some holiday character, yet wouldn’t look “ugly enough” at an ugly Christmas sweater party. Nice use of red up by the shoulders. Also available in grey.
Lots of texture with this one thanks to the cable, waffle, and ribbed knits all working together. Mainly acrylic (85%) but just enough wool to keep it from feeling cheap… even though it is, in fact, pretty cheap. Good weight to this thing. Buttons are kinda cheap feeling, but don’t look half bad. Size shown above is a medium.
Works better as a sweater than it does a blazer, but nice all the same. 100% cotton. Made by the “radially transparent” Everlane. Available in green, navy, or grey. Prefer wool and something more traditional looking? Everlane is now making merino wool shawl collar cardigans for $135.
GAP Waffle Stitch Wool Blend Cardigan – $68.60 w/ HAPPY ($98)
All but sold out online, but worth looking for one in a brick & mortar if you happen to end up in one. Made from their durable feeling 55% lambswool / 45% nylon blend. Thick waffle stitch helps keep the heat in and the cold out. Pajama-like comfortable.
WHOA that neck is tall. But, you won’t worry about being cold. And the Italian fabric (80% merino wool / 20% nylon) is quite nice. Leather(?) covered buttons aren’t flimsy in the least, and you can button and unbutton that stovepipe of a neck pretty easily. Not everyone’s style. Not by a long shot. But going to be a good option for some.
Woolovers Fisherman’s Crew $40 – $48 (depending on codes)
A basic crew neck that you’ll pull on over your head instead of throwing over your shoulders and buttoning up, but they’re the real deal. Pure British wool that delivers both good warmth and weight. Full review here. You will have to pay for international shipping costs ($10), so might be worth hanging out for a code that picks up those costs. In the meantime, BLACK10 will save you 10% ($4.80) through Friday the 5th.
Haggar Nylon/Acrylic/Wool Cardigan – $39.99 in store at JCP
Doesn’t appear to be on the JC Penney website (yet? or is it gone already?) but, check in store if you happen to duck in. Surprisingly nice for the money. Might want to size down. That’s a small on 5’10” / 185lbs shown above. Fabric feels like there’s more wool in there than just 25%. Has a good looking, classic, oatmeal/earth tone shade to it in person.
60% poly, 30% wool, 10% nylon. Destined to go on promotion at some point. Four colors to pick from. Hang out for the next free shipping no min. offer and then maybe an additional sale or something, then jump. Great looking texture to that larger knit.
Best in show: Wallace & Barnes by J. Crew Boiled Wool Cardigan – $198
Best in show, but you’ll pay out the nose for it. A total splurge, even when it drops to $138.60 when 30% off. Yet the boiled wool fabric is fantastic. Dense and warm without being too bulky, the knit is tight enough that it’s almost slick to the touch, while still having that unmistakable lambswool texture. Contrasting suede elbow patches. Navy at the cuffs and hem. Super flexible. Has some natural stretch to the fabric without getting misshapen. Unfortunately, out of stock, but you’ve got to think that they’ll get more of these in as winter drags on? Size shown above is a medium.
The major splurge: Bonobos Warwick Lambswool Cardigan – $228
Good grief… that waffle texture. Holy crap… that price. Even during their recent 30% off cyber Monday sale, this thing was STILL going for north of $150. But, with the zipper + buttons and mock neck, it’s just as much outerwear as it is a sweater for around the house. Hoping it hits the sale section in the not too distant future at a nice sized discount, and an extra code rolls along…
The Suggestion: Check your local thrift stores/flea markets
Got the above sweater at a flea market almost ten years ago. Pure shaker wool. Large gauge knit, heavy as hell and just as warm. It didn’t smell, didn’t have any holes in it, and fit great. Had it dry cleaned before I started wearing it, and it’s been a favorite ever since. No, I didn’t earn that letter. But I’ll be happy to wear it as the temps turn bitter. The kind of quality you found decades ago. It’ll probably out live me.