J. Crew Rugged Merino Wool Shawl Collar Cardigan – $94.50 ($138)
About the Author: Jason P. spends his days working in the creative marketing department of a big telecom company. He also does a bit of real estate investing on the side. He believes in curating a timeless, classic wardrobe with subtle modern touches for today. He and his wife love hiking with their dog and shopping at local small businesses and antique stores when they travel. Jason is a practitioner of muay thai and traditional boxing, and his favorite drink is a hoppy New England IPA.
When brands try to do too many things, or create styles or product lines for too many trends and new looks, they get themselves in trouble. In the last year or two, J.Crew has re-focused on heritage-inspired American style. For many, this re-focusing has led to a welcome resurgence for the brand.
Few things are as classically heritage-America as the shawl collar cardigan. Especially in this “rugged wool” makeup, it evokes visions of relaxing in the outdoors with falling leaves and crisp, cool autumn air. Perfect as a comfortable, cozy top layer roaming around the house, woods, or about town after a hard week of work.
*crunch crunch crunch*
So that’s what I did. I popped this sweater on, and took a fall walk in the woods to see if this cardigan embodies the new J.Crew and classic American style.
J.Crew nailed it. This shawl cardigan hits on all the right marks stylistically. The “rugged” description is apt: the marled carbon color is visually interesting, and the ribbing of the knit helps to show both the depth and texture of the fabric AND the color. The shawl tapers nicely from top to bottom without finishing too deeply on the chest.
Shawl is substantial and thick without being overbearing or feeling heavy.
A nice, thick shawl at the neckline looks good and masculine, and ending the taper to the first button at mid-chest ensures the sweater doesn’t look overly elegant. Smart choice from J.Crew to opt for a more natural-looking, leather-ish button to carry on that rugged look, instead of standard plastic, faux-horn, or some other material. Excellent work from J.Crew on this build.
Fit & Finish
For reference, the sweater is shown here in a size medium on my 5’7″ 180lb frame. My chest is about 44″ across. J.Crew sizing has been a bit nutty as of late. I’ve had items show up in a medium that fit like shrink wrap, Larges that fit like XL, and now this cardigan that fits dead on perfect. This is, quite literally, my ideal fit. Sleeves run a bit long for me, but that’s not uncommon as I’ve got some not-average proportions. But this is a casual, rugged wearing sweater so it doesn’t bother me at all. You may feel differently, but I urge that to not be a deterrent for you. If you have normal, non-gorilla proportions, this should fit true to size for you.
Size medium on Jason who is 5’7″, 180lb, with a 44″ chest.
The overall build quality is superb. The buttons are tightly attached. Not a single loose string or seam. Tight, even gauge in the wool blend throughout. The shawl is substantial and thick without being overbearing or feeling heavy. For a “rugged” shawl cardigan, the worst case scenario would be a wispy, wimpy collar. No issues here. This is an exceptionally well built sweater from top to bottom.
J.Crew’s website calls this a blend of merino wool and nylon, with no mention of the % of each. Vague. Thankfully, the size tag on the neck of the sweater provides the details: 60% merino wool, 40% “polyamide.” I don’t know what polyamide is, but the effect is a soft fabric that drapes well without being completely unstructured.
60% merino wool, 40% polyamide knit. Classic leather buttons.
I’m guessing the mysterious component (searches “polyamide” and discovers it’s the method in which the nylon is created and provides durability? Neat.) is what provides the integrity needed for that slight structure.
Available in either Marled Carbon (shown throughout this post),
Marled Almond, or Marled Navy.
Marled Marled Marled! Rugged Rugged Rugged!
Typically, at this price point of $138 at full price, I expect 100% natural fibers. However, the fabric is indeed aesthetically rugged, while maintaining excellent softness and comfort. Even a fabric-snob like myself can appreciate the materials on this sweater. TL;DR: this sweater just feels darn good.
J.Crew may have the sub-$100 sweater of the season. Yes, you’ll have to wait to get it on sale for that price, but J. Crew has been running lots of promos and codes lately. Noticeably more so than their competition. Even at full price (*gasps*… let’s hope they don’t start getting excluded from codes), this is a sweater that will last for years of fall and winter wear. And in this never-out-of-style American heritage aesthetic, you can find comfort knowing – and wearing- a sweater that will look sharp forever.
Note: Boots shown in the header image at the very top of this post are the Danner Mountain 600. Excellent hiking boots built in a waterproof suede upper, amply-cushioned EVA midsole, and super-grippy Vibram outsole.