Men’s cardigans man up

This humble knit mans up this autumn into full‑blown outerwear, says Tom Stubbs

The Gigi wool and silk Ziggy jacket, £795
The Gigi wool and silk Ziggy jacket, £795

As unstructured tailoring grows in popularity, it makes sense that the cardigan, a previously humble and understated piece of knitwear, is aspiring to the realms of full-blown outerwear, which is why autumn is set to be the season of the cardigan coat.

Oliver Spencer wool-mix coat, £340
Oliver Spencer wool-mix coat, £340
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Specialising in combining knitwear and tailoring, Italian label The Gigi has produced a knitted blazer (£395) in virgin wool with an open-textured herringbone weave. It has attractive horn buttons and a shawl collar, just like a cardigan, and is longer than a typical blazer. “I strongly believe in multipurpose pieces that are neither too classic nor too casual,” says Pierluigi Boglioli, The Gigi’s co-founder and designer. “Comfortable, soft, unconstructed tailoring is at the core of this concept.” The brand’s Ziggy knitted jacket (£795) with patch pockets also has horn buttons, but is ruggedly tailored like a pea coat.

Lardini wool coat, £380
Lardini wool coat, £380 | Image: George Ong
Brunello Cucinelli cashmere and suede bomber jacket, £4,010
Brunello Cucinelli cashmere and suede bomber jacket, £4,010

Other knitted outerwear includes a wool lattice-knit shawl-collar coat (£380) with a simple belt and a ribbed hem by tailoring-led brand Lardini, which drapes beautifully and works well worn over tailoring, and a navy knitted coat (£340) with shawl collar by Oliver Spencer that was styled in the designer’s show with a knitted trilby and ankle-skimming pinstripe trousers.

Missoni mohair cardigan, £1,580. 
Missoni mohair cardigan, £1,580. 
Berluti cashmere cardigan, £4,235
Berluti cashmere cardigan, £4,235

Further examples are truer to the comforting roots of the wholesome cardie, yet long enough to function as casual coats. Good representatives of this are Berluti’s chunkily ribbed cashmere cardigan (£4,235) in rust, and a thigh-length cream alpaca/merino-wool cable cardigan (£707) by John Varvatos. Oversized Yohji Yamamoto cardigans in a thick rib‑knit wool come in several styles. A knee-length version in navy with a high collar (£3,310) has giant turned-back cuffs and the air of a military coat. Another, below the knee and in black (£2,940), is collarless and casual.

John Varvatos alpaca/merino-wool cardigan, £707
John Varvatos alpaca/merino-wool cardigan, £707
Yohji Yamamoto cotton cardigan, £3,310
Yohji Yamamoto cotton cardigan, £3,310

Knitwear even extends to the bomber jacket. The nylon-lined Engadina merino-wool sweater jacket (€2,200, to order) by excellent Milanese rainwear brand Sealup, in charcoal grey with mink-coloured shearling raglan sleeves and patch flap pockets, has vintage looks evolved from a piece in the brand’s archive. Brunello Cucinelli’s take on the knitted bomber is a sporty panelled grey cashmere and suede ribbed bomber (£4,010) with modern popper fastenings.

Sealup merino-wool and nylon Engadina sweater jacket, €2,200
Sealup merino-wool and nylon Engadina sweater jacket, €2,200
Stone Island cotton and polyester President’s Knit jacket, £995
Stone Island cotton and polyester President’s Knit jacket, £995

Another Italian outerwear brand inspired by the knitted bomber genre is Stone Island, a label that is a long-term passion of mine. The President’s Knit (£995, so named because the brand’s president Carlo Rivetti often wears it) evokes the sci-fi vibe of the classic Alien vs Predator film. It has a ribbed exoskeleton-like structure, with an extended cable knit radiating out over the shoulder seams and down the arms. While it is knitted on the outside, an attachable lining means it can function as a jacket.

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Missoni also keeps it casual, with an edgy oversized baseball-jacket style that uses an exaggerated rib collar in a statement sapphire/jade mélange mohair zippered cardigan (£1,580). This sophisticated composition has a great handle, as you’d expect from the knitwear house. It’s clever reworkings like this that are leaving traditional perceptions of cardigans as fuddy-duddy out in the cold.

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