First… there’s nothing wrong with a hoodie. And despite what the above image may indicate, no one is making the case for guys everywhere to trash their collection of hoodies. That said, if you’re the type that’s open to elevating your look, even just a little bit, when dressed down? Then these alternatives to the ubiquitous hooded sweatshirt are worth exploring.
All of the below hoodie-substitutes offer many of the same advantages of a hooded sweatshirt (i.e. easy to layer, casual, comfortable) yet will look a bit more aesthetically appealing to most. Think more purposeful, and less just rolled-outta-bed. Again, these are just suggestions for alternatives. So if you’re on team hooded-sweatshirt, don’t get your strings in a twist.
#1. Shawl Collar Cardigan or Pullover
- Target Goodfellow & Co. Cotton/Nylon Shawl Cardigan – $24.48 ($34.99)
- J. Crew Rugged Cotton Shawl Collar Cardigan – $79 (often on sale)
- A&F Wool Blend Bomber Sweater – $48 (not a true shawl, but close enough.)
- Lands’ End Stripe Linen Cotton Texture Shawl Pullover Sweater – $44.97 ($89.95) w/ POLAR & 1792
- Banana Republic Cable-Knit Shawl Cardigan – $133.99 ($155)
- Old Navy Cotton/Nylon/Wool Textured Shawl-Collar Sweater – $35.97 ($49.99)
As close to a hoodie as it’ll get, yet you ditch the extra bulk of a hood, and replace it with a more streamlined, yet still neck protecting shawl collar. Besides, 99% of the time the wearer of a hoodie isn’t actually wearing the hood on his/her head. So is it really that much of a feature you need? These cardigans are often made from wool, but cheaper cotton versions work too. The cardigan style almost always swaps out the zipper of a hoodie for something more classic, such as buttons or toggles. Something you’ll want to have for around the house/apartment.
#2. V-neck Sweater over a Slim Colored T-shirt
- UNIQLO Merino V-Neck – $29.90
- J. Crew Factory SLIM Merino V-Neck – $19.99 FINAL w/ ADD2CART ($39.99)
- Amazon Essentials 100% Cashmere V – $65.00
This combination gets a bad rap for really no good reason. Sure, self-proclaimed style aficionados abhor a visible white undershirt under a sweater or button up (yet even then, when it’s a decent looking white tee at the base, it can be done)… but this isn’t that. And remember, you’re not going to address the United Nations in this getup. We’re looking for hooded sweatshirt alternatives. It’s casual, but still a little more put together. Use your favorite slim-fit, plain (no graphics), complimentary color tee, and layer it under a well fitting, merino or lambswool V-neck sweater. Wear with jeans or chinos.
#3. A Crewneck Sweater with a little character
- J. Crew Factory SLIM Fit Cotton Cable Fisherman-Knit Sweater – $57
- Target Goodfellow & Co. Cotton/Nylon/Wool Striped Sweater – $17.48 ($24.99)
- GAP Merino Wool Blend Snowflake Sweater – $26.39 FINAL w/ DEAL ($69.95)
- Huckberry Scottish made “Shaggy” Shetland Wool Sweaters – $120
- H&M Premium Quality Textured Knit Cashmere Sweater – $99 ($129)
Think elbow patches. Or bold stripes. Or maybe it’s made in a knit or a texture you wouldn’t normally reach for. You get the drift. There’s nothing wrong with a plain crew of course, but often those extra details dress down the sweater. And if you’re replacing a hoodie, that means you’re already pretty dressed down.
#4. Button Mock Neck Cardigan or Pullover
- Bonobos Lightweight Wool Button Mock Sweater – $75.60 FINAL w/ BULLSEYE ($128)
- J. Crew Marled Cotton Mockneck Cardigan Sweater – $108
- J. Crew Donegal Wool Mockneck Cardigan Sweater – $74.99 FINAL w/ SALETIME ($198)
- Old Navy Mock-Neck Button-Front Sweater – $15.17 ($49.99)
Like a shawl collar, but easier to layer under outerwear. Plus, like a hoodie, it protects your neck with a collar that goes all the way up. Okay, maybe not all the way to the tip of your chin, but most of these provide plenty of warmth for when the temps get extra frigid.
#5. Long Sleeve Polo Shirt
- B.R. Silk Cotton Cashmere Tipped Sweater Polo – $65 ($89.50)
- Topman Long Sleeve Texture Polo – $55
- J. Crew Italian Merino Wool Polo Sweater – $89.50
- Bonobos Superfine Merino Silk Sweater Polo – $82.60 FINAL w/ BULLSEYE ($138)
Not everyone’s style, but a long sleeve polo (or heck, even a rugby ) is plenty casual, and still loses the bulk of that hood hanging off the back of your neck. Bonus points if you can find retro-versions like the tipped collar options above. That’ll look great with jeans, or, on the golf course once it thaws out with some plaid golf pants. Meanwhile, if you like soccer? Consider picking up your favorite soccer team’s goalkeeper jersey. Many have collars like a rugby, and all will be made of a super comfortable & breathable technical fabric.
#6. Fisherman’s Sweater or Thicker Henley
- Armour Lux Wool Fisherman’s Sweater – $144.98
- Bonobos Merino Henley Sweater – $47.60 FINAL w/ BULLSEYE ($118)
- Brooks Brothers Stripe Jacquard Crewneck Sweater – $64.80 ($108)
- J. Crew Lambswool Thermal Henley Sweater – $49.99 ($79.50)
- Deauville Wool Sweaters x Massdrop – $74.99 FINAL (currently unavailable)
It’s the buttons… baby. Crewneck sweaters with buttons on the shoulder were originally worn by French onion & garlic merchants crossing the channel to sell their produce in England. Why buttons? Because they used to have extremely tight mock-necks that you couldn’t just stick your whole head through. They were knit this way to keep the cold spray of the ocean out, and the warmth of the person wearing it in. Since your head is bigger than your neck (no, really… I swear), the wearer would put it on unbuttoned, then button up the shoulder to wear the neck would then be encased in sheepswool. Now it’s just a design detail, but unbuttoning the button close to the collar really does seem to help it lay easier over a t-shirt, if you’re the type who likes wool, but doesn’t like the itch on your neck. For the Henley? It’s a classic look that’s been adapted in recent years into sweater form. Think warmer, thicker fabrics, and less underwear-like thin/wispy-ness.
#7. A more casual sportcoat (Knit, Workwear, or Rumpled Chino)
- J. Crew Unstructured Shawl-collar Workwear Jacket in English Wool – $328
- J. Crew Unstructured Ludlow Blazer in Navy Stretch Cotton-Linen – $168
- Banana Republic Merino Wool Sweater Blazer – $100.80 when 40% off ($168)
- Target Goodfellow & Co Deconstructed Knit Blazer – $49.99
- EXPERSS Slim Navy Double Knit Blazer – $198
These are not your grand-dad’s yacht club blazers. These are the super comfortable (by wear or by design) sportcoats that can look good with a t-shirt or henley… as well as an OCBD. These are the types of blazers that look just as good wrinkled as pressed out. And a lot of brands have been expanding into “workwear” type sportcoats, as shown above with the shawl collar, English wool option J. Crew cranked out this season. Could you wear a hoodie over that henley? Sure. But the sportcoat looks terrific too.
This post originally ran in 10/2015, but has since been updated with current product suggestions.