No one is saying you need all ten of these styles. Hardly. But like shoes and boots, some styles of sweaters are better for some scenarios, while other styles excel at other times. Sweaters can be one of the easiest ways to elevate an outfit, bridging the gap between casual and formal. We’re going to do a deep dive today about the different types of men’s sweaters, along with some of the pros and cons that accompany them.
- Banana Republic Italian Merino Crewneck – $80
- J. Crew Irish Donegal Wool Sweater – $79 w/ SHOPNOW ($158)
- UNIQLO Extra Fine Merino Wool Crewneck – $49.90
- Wellen “Seawool” Fisherman Crewneck Sweater – $148
- Amazon Essentials Merino Crewneck Sweater – $45
- Bonobos Washable Merino Crewneck – $39 FINAL ($99)
- Target Goodfellow Men’s Cable Knit Pullover Sweater – $35
- Spier and Mackay Shetland Crewneck Sweaters – $78 similar to very top left of post
Pros: The foundation, even though some would say a V-neck should be the first style mentioned (we’ll get to v-necks). Super versatile. As classic as it gets. Can be dressed up or down. Widely available at numerous price points, from cheap to pricey, in tons of different fabrics (from cotton to cashmere). Different styles of knit, from slim and smooth to chunky cable, can totally change the look and feel of the sweater.
Cons: Can be tough to dress way up, since layering over a dress shirt can sometimes look a little restricted. Not always. Just sometimes. Not everyone likes a crewneck depending on the fabric (if you find wool itchy). It’s a pullover, so taking it on/off for layering purposes & temperature regulation can leave you with crazy “I just took my sweater off” hair.
- Banana Republic Italian Merino V-Neck – 90
- UNIQLO: Extra Fine Merino V-Neck – $49.90 (shown very top of post, center, in “beige”)
- J. Crew 100% Merino Wool V-Necks – $49 w/ SHOPNOW ($98)
- Amazon Essentials 100% Merino V-Neck – $44.90
- Bonobos Washable Merino V-Neck Sweater – $49 FINAL ($99)
Pros: The V-Neck is arguably as foundational as the crewneck. Widely available in various fabrics (and often for super cheap), it’s one of the easiest to style with anything from an open-collar OCBD to a suit and tie. V-shape can accentuate athletic frames. It’s an ideal partner for cool to cold weather layering, as shown above.
Cons: Needs to be layered over something (unless you’re a Suitsupply model). Also a pullover, so taking it on/off for layering purposes & temperature regulation can leave you with crazy “I just took my sweater off” hair.
Shawl Collar Cardigan
- Old Navy Cotton Blend Shawl Collar Cardigan – $45ish
- Spier & Mackay Merino Chunky Shawl Collar Cardigan – $178.20 ($198) (shown = size medium on 5’10″/185)
- Wellen Seawool Fisherman Shawl Cardigan – $188
- Tie Bar 90% Cotton / 10% Wool Cable Shawl Collar Cardigan – $75 (shown very top of post, far right, size medium on 5’10″/185)
Pros: Extraordinarily comfortable. Can see extra use as outerwear in fall and spring. House-sweater style chunky knits can feel like wearing a nice cozy blanket. Easy on/off avoids that pullover-sweater-hair situation.
Cons: Some see them as “grandpa” sweaters, although that rep has quickly faded in recent years. Usually more expensive since they’re beefier in fabric and construction.
- Spier & Mackay Merino Cardigan – $78
- Nordstrom Washable Merino Cardigan – $99.50
- Brooks Brothers Merino Wool Cardigan – $118.80 ($198)
- Charles Tyrwhitt 100% Merino Wool Cardigan – $129
- J. Crew Brushed Wool V-neck Cardigan Sweater – $79 w/ SHOPNOW ($158)
- Amazon Essentials Cotton Cardigan – $31.30
Pros: An easy to execute style-move many are afraid to try. Pretty much the perfect layer, since unlike pullovers, you can take it on and off without making your hair look like you just stuck a fork in an electrical outlet.
Cons: Maligned as “Mr. Rogers” style. Which is odd, since Mr. Rogers was about as good as it gets as a human being. Some of us used to think cardigans are frumpy and unstylish. Nothing could be further from the truth.
- Spier and Mackay 100% Merino Turtleneck – $61.20 ($68)
- Banana Republic Ribbed Merino Turtleneck – $120
- Suitsupply Merino Wool Turtleneck – $149
Pros: Oozes “I know what I’m doing here.” Projects confidence and style. Keeps your neck warm in the colder months, and thinner styles layer quite easily underneath suits and sportscoats.
Cons: You’ll get comments. A turtleneck is like a magnet for people to either pay compliments or make snide remarks (see #6 here). Can be difficult to find on the cheaper side that actually looks good and keeps its shape.
Half-Zip / Quarter Zip
- Charles Tyrwhitt Merino Zip Neck Sweater – $129
- Tie Bar Cotton/Cashmere Tipped 1/4 Zip Sweater – $65
- UNIQLO Souffle Yarn Half-Zip – $49.90
- Nordstrom Bird’s Eye Quarter Zip Sweater – $75
- Banana Republic Merino Wool Quarter Zip – $100
- J. Crew Marled Rugged Merino Wool-blend Half-zip Sweater – $55 w/ SHOPNOW ($110)
- Brooks Brothers Fine Merino Wool Half-Zip Sweater – $118.80 ($198)
Pros: A half-zip over a shirt and tie is a pretty well-accepted “cheat” in terms of business-casual formality… as long as the fit is nails. Zip gives a little more room to pull on and off over coiffed hair, much more so than a crewneck or v-neck.
Cons: Can look a little… “Dad”/Manning Brothers (NO ELI! *nsfwish) Zipper teeth around the Adam’s apple… yikes. Zipper in general = harder to dress all the way up.
Pullover Shawl Collar
- Old Navy Fleece-Knit Shawl Collar Pullover – $30ish
- Banana Republic Factory Waffle Knit Popover – $60ish
- LL Bean Marled Heritage Fleece Pullover Shawl Collar – $69.99 ($79)
- Billy Reid Diamond Quilt Shawl Collar Sweater – $228
Pros: Super cozy yet rugged. Warm. A great option for those that don’t like the floppiness of hoodies, but want a little extra protection for their neck.
Cons: Obviously bulky around the neck area, and unlike the cardigan style alternative, not as easy to get on/off for on-the-go layering.
- Banana Republic Merino Sweater Polo – $120
- Old Navy 60% Cotton / 40% Poly Tipped Sweater Polo – $30ish
- Charles Tyrwhitt Merino Polo Sweater – $129
- J. Crew 100% Cashmere Sweater Polo – $168
- Suitsupply Merino Polo Sweater – $119
- Banana Republic Cotton Sweater Polos – $89.99 ($110)
- Spier & Mackay Merino Sweater Polo – $70.20 ($78)
Pros: As easy-wearing as its short-sleeved brother, the sweater polo is simple and straightforward, making it versatile and pairable. While this type is usually a smoother fabric like merino wool, textured options can make layering a lot more interesting.
Cons: Kind of tied to the polo itself in the formality scale. Difficult (though not impossible!) to dress all the way up. Can feel weird to wear a t-shirt or undershirt under, which many will want to do with wool versions.
- Charles Tyrwhitt Merino Hooded Sweater – $89 ($189) limited colors at post time
- Banana Republic Factory Cotton Racking Stitch Popover Hoodie – $60ish
- EXPRESS Felted Merino Wool-Blend Hooded Sweater – $79.99
- Spier and Mackay Merino Knit Hoodie – $106.20 ($118)
- Banana Republic 100% Cashmere Hoodie – $190
Pros: Not the same as a sweatshirt. Often made of merino or even cashmere. Very easy to wear while staying comfortable and not appearing stuffy. Layered under a casual sportcoat it can look trendy but still put together… although some would disagree, as that trend might have seen its day come and go.
Cons: Arguably the least formal, and can sometimes be mistaken for simply wearing a terry/fleece style sweatshirt. Look for slimmer cuts, often without the kangaroo pocket up front, and a little texture always helps to make the style intention more clear.
- Banana Republic Organic Cotton Sweater Blazer – $150
- Faherty Brand Inlet Knit Blazer – $198
- Bonobos Italian Cotton Knit Blazers – $350 (wears much more like a blazer than a sweater)
- Brooks Brothers Wool Sweater Blazer – $178.80 ($298)
Pros: The perfect way to dress up, without really dressing up, and thus can be a nice mental boost on those days when you could use it. It’s also the the best portmanteau in Menswear – ALL HAIL THE “SWAZER.”
Cons: Since it doesn’t have the structure of a traditional blazer/sportcoat… these can sometimes look a little schlumpy. They’re also often expensive. Critics would say these are neither here-nor-there. They’re not dressed up, they’re not casual. But that’s also why some of us love them.