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Ditch the Hoodie—It’s Time to up Your Sweater Game

We can talk up the perks of a good sweater all day long, but we won’t bore you with the details.

Whether you’re looking to stay warm during the harsh winter months or need a shield against frigid AC systems when the temps rise, a man’s wardrobe is nothing without a supporting cast of well-made sweaters.

The Lightweight

If you want a lighter layer that’s breathable, affordable and as comfy as your college sweater, look at cotton for inspiration. The fabric of our lives can sometimes outshine cashmere and heavy wool—it’s not itchy, and during your day to day, you won’t feel stressed about potential snags that can ruin your investment sweater.

Brooks Brothers’ Supima Cotton is a nice, seasonless option. Chocolate or burgundy cords can ground this piece more into fall months, while a pair of tan chinos can cool things down for springtime. Or opt for this Land’s End Supima Cotton Cardigan. The fine-gage weave prevents pilling, and the just-the-right-weight fabric will take you through the seasons.

The Snuggler

Now cotton and merino wool work well as a layering piece that provides decent quality for a relatively minimal price, but sometimes you need something extra warm. Wool is one of the best natural materials out there for helping you retain heat, even as temps fall rapidly.

For staying warm in style, there’s a line between comfortable and sloppy. Take this Vince Marled Wool Cardigan. This piece is a heavier weight, with ribbed cuffs and hem—bound to keep you warm through the colder months. This shawl cardigan from EIDOS is a real splurge, but its slouchy cotton-cashmere is sure to keep you feeling luxurious—whether you stay in or go out.

The Statement Piece

While flashier patterns aren’t the most versatile piece In your closet a sweater that steps out of the expected dark colored pullover category stands to provide a little more excitement than your average sweater.

Sweaters like this one from Nautica adds some texture to a basic work sweater, while this one by Comme des Garçons is more of a playful piece, which still works with a range of clothing from jeans to black pants and a denim jacket.

Taking the Sweater to Work

Probably your best bet when taking the sweater to the workplace is to keep things muted. Think black, a deep chocolate brown, navy or a deep hunter green. For example, a solid V-neck sweater is the perfect option for more traditional workplaces. It’s slim-fitting and works perfectly with a polo shirt or a button up.

Everlane’s cashmere V-neck is a super versatile option. It comes in five different neutrals, and you’re sure to want them all.

Crew necks, do well on the job, too. It’s true, they do feel slightly less formal than V-necks, but still top off a collared shirt quite well. A lightweight crew neck can be found at all price points—J Crew and Uniqlo are good sources for affordable pullovers that’ll last you a couple of seasons.

Strangely enough, cardigans are considered a casual sweater—but it’s a good choice for laxer offices. A cardigan is an elevated alternative to a hooded sweatshirt, and coupled with nicer jeans or chinos, gives off an effortless sophistication.

In both cases—traditional office or laid-back co-working space—a ski sweater or a fisherman sweater won’t make a good impression. These options are more functional pieces better suited for outdoor activities rather than day to day life.

Pilling Problems and How to Stop Them

Now, we can’t talk about sweaters and not mention the P word, pilling. A sweater woe that plagues pieces at every price point, it’s hard to avoid this ill-fate, no matter how careful you are.

Fabric has a lot to do with predicting whether or not a sweater will pill or stand the test of time. Tighter fabrics tend to avoid developing pills—as the individual fibers stay closer together—like a soft chain mail. A nice quality cotton or merino wool sweater will last a long time with proper care. Fluffy knits of cashmere, on the other hand, despite the price, will pill like crazy.

Putting sweaters in the wash can exacerbate the issue—the fibers rub against each other and other items in the load. Flip the sweater inside out when washing and, dear god, don’t put it in the dryer.

And if you’ve got a bunch of sweaters covered in balls, defer to Martha—she knows how to handle pillage.

How many sweaters does a man need? Our inclination is to tell you to buy a few well-made basics. Maybe a couple of crewnecks, a couple of v-necks, and a couple of cardigans. You probably don’t need a closet full of boiled wool fisherman’s sweaters—but it’s up to you.

Building up any part of your wardrobe has more to do with your life—are you required to dress up on the regular or if you can get away with living in your pajamas. In either case, the sweater is the underrated staple that pulls any outfit together and adds a dash of warmth to the mic.

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