Menswear – Knitwear?

posted in: Style advice | 5

A jumper is not just for Christmas

Colin Firth in BJ diary
Colin Firth. With Reindeer


Jumper giving is part of Christmas. If you received one this year,  I hope it is the sort of thing that you can incorporate into your wardrobe and wear all year round. Regular readers know my views on novelty ties, cuff links and cumberbunds (I ask you!). So I don’t need to say what I think about novelty jumpers. Although we have a whole day dedicated to wearing ridiculous jumpers for charity (you can always give money without joining in) men should, as a rule, abstain from wearing such items in the workplace.

However men do struggle somewhat with knitwear in general. Let me see if I can give some help.

Jumpers at work

Choose a high quality fine knit – merino, cashmere or a blend with silk, cotton or fine wool. Do not, under any circumstances, buy acrylic. Choose a plain deep or neutral shade. Colour can be fine, but probably best for an accent rather than having too much going on. Fine gauge knitwear from companies such as John Smedley is fine for more relaxed business situations.  There are three options for wearing knit wear at work.

  • over a quality T-shirt
  • over a shirt (with or without a tie)
  • against the skin

Now, argue with me if you please, but I think a jersey over shirt and tie, or over a formal shirt, looks like a fifth former, or someone from the Allotment Society. There is, to my mind, a culture clash going on. The jersey is soft and yielding, whereas the shirt is a little bit stiff. So if you want to wear a jumper I would only wear it against the skin, or possibly a T-shirt if the jumper has a V neck. But a round neck, turtle neck or polo is probably better under a jacket or with smart trousers. If you want to wear a shirt and tie, and feel a bit cold, put your jacket back on.

If you are slim and stylish you do not necessarily need something underneath. But here Housing Officer Gareth has chosen a sharply tailored pair of cream trousers with a navy V neck and navy suede monks’ buckle shoes. His round glasses and large watch complement the outfit which is both smart and relaxed.

Man in dark sweater and light trousers
Gareth at Phoenix Community

Choosing the right shape and fit

With a jumper, fit is everything. Too big risks looking silly, like a little kid in his brother’s clothes. Thick about where the jersey ends. You don’t want it too long if your top half is longer than your legs, and vice versa.

But too small and figure hugging is really unpleasant, especially if you are a bit fat. Because most jerseys are rather soft they will ease their way around a paunch and make it look even bigger than it actually is. Even if you have a toned, worked out physique, parading it ostentatiously in a tight sweater is a turn off. Leave something to the imagination, please.

Even if the fit is OK remember that a jumper may expose more than a shirt. If you are a man with fatty pecs please put your jacket on. On an older man like Simon Cowell, it would be better to have a layer underneath so that the nipples are not exposed.

Cowell in light grey jumper
Simon Cowell in jumper

If your shoulders slope (like Simon) wear a set in sleeve style. If your shoulders are very square a set in sleeve will emphasise them, so consider a Raglan sleeve jumper.

Knitwear types

Daniel Craig is a knitwear type. He likes to wear the cardigan (with a shawl collar and without), V neck, round neck, against the skin, over a shirt, over a shirt and tie, and comedic. He obviously likes a sweater and does the full range. But I can’t help preferring him in a dinner suit. He just looks messy, or rather over-wrapped. What do you think?


Anything chunky, hand knitted or patterned in any way is best kept for the weekend, and outdoors at that. Teamed with jeans or casual trousers, boots and a leather belt. This lovely Icelandic hand knitted sweater in blue, cream and green, suits Nick’s muted colouring.

Man in Icelandic sweater
Nick Mawley in Icelandic sweater


At weekends, when you just want to unwind and relax jerseys are the perfect garment. They don’t constrain you and they are warm and cosy. I love hugging a man in a nice soft cashemere. Here is Gus in a hooded cashmere weekend jumper from Cos. And Ted, at the top, in a handknit. Yummy.

Man in a silver cashmere hoody
Gus in a jumper





5 Responses

  1. Juliet

    Oh my husband had to break your rules and had an “allotment society” v-neck in charcoal grey for the purpose! His office in Victoria never warmed until 5pm on a Monday so jersey and jacket was required all day.
    I’m having great fun catching up with your posts as I only found your blog a couple of weeks ago, by the way.

  2. Stephanie

    Funny! I tend to be a “no rules” person, so I think the right person can make anything work. That said, the thing I dislike the most aesthetically in regard to the men’s sweater is when they wear them too tight to show off their gym physiques. It’s really tacky. I have a couple of colleagues who do it and I want to alert them that it makes them look insecure/in need of attention.

  3. Sewniptuck

    Couldn’t agree more with your Cowell comment! But my kids were laughing about man boobs until I pointed out that it’s slack skin, comes w age and even their extremely fit Dad could be accused of having them. Dark jumpers with a vest under would be so much better. Love your blog and especially the men’s critiques – men have such limitations in the wardrobe don’t you agree? I’m wanting to make my son a man skirt – reckon he could pull it off and he might just wear it!

Leave a Reply