Can knitwear be sexy and dangerous? Yes. As well as keeping your kidneys warm and your Mum happy, a cosy jumper can look cool as hell, as several style icons have proven.
The movie star: keep it simple
Most of the great movie stars— including action heroes like Steve McQueen, perennially cool comedians like Bill Murray, and serious dramatic actors like Richard Burton, James Dean and Jack Palance — have been spotted wearing woolly jumpers, and still oozing cool. Having chiselled features helps, but keeping the rest of your outfit simple is also key. For movie star vibes, try a classic style like a cable-knit or shawl collar in premium lambswool with chinos and boots.
The sophisticate: layer a sweater under suiting
Aesthetes as credible as artist Jean-Michel Basquiat and fashion designer Valentino Garavani layered their knitwear under suiting for a slick, refined look.
If you want to try this, choose a simple style like a V-neck or crew-neck in a lightweight knit, such as 100% merino or a linen/cotton blend. Because you’re mixing textures — cotton shirting, matte suiting and fuzzy knitwear— it’s best to keep colours uniformly neutral or dark.
If you’re bringing knitwear into a formal or semi-formal context, it needs to be in top condition (see below for how to care for your knitwear), with no nubbling, stains or holes.
The rock star: pair with floppy hair
Floppy-haired guys can take their cues from rock stars like Mick Jagger or Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus, who rocked their jumpers onstage, paired with long, fetching haircuts. To borrow from their playbook, pair jeans and sneakers or boots with a buttery cashmere or alpaca-blend knit in whatever shade of the rainbow takes your fancy — with dark sunglasses, of course.
Bob Charles won the British Open in 1963 in an elegant button-down cardigan. Designer and race car driver Bruce McLaren favoured V-necks for his off-duty appearances. Shackleton’s fearless crew wore big jumpers on their Trans-Antarctic Expedition. These well-groomed legends gave knitwear a sheen of heroism.
HOW TO CARE FOR YOUR KNITWEAR
Laundering can take its toll on knitwear, as hot water can shrink it dramatically, and when it’s wet, wool can be permanently stretched out of shape. Avoid washing your knits by hanging or draping them in a well-ventilated spot to set free any lingering odours, or spot-clean them gently with a wet wipe or damp face cloth.
But if your jumper flat-out needs a wash, handwash it in lukewarm water with a wool detergent . You could even take your knitwear into the shower with you and wash it there.
Lather gently to avoid straining fibres — about as tenderly as you might wash an elderly dog — then rinse until the water comes away clean, and squeeze out excess water, without twisting, stretching or wringing.
Roll your jumper up in a towel and squeeze or press it gently to remove more water, then lie it flat to dry, ideally on top of a drying rack or in your hot water cupboard.
Any nubbling can be removed carefully with fine scissors or a razor blade — it’s best not to attempt this while wearing the garment.