Men who spend more time than they’d like in a collar and tie might be pleased to learn that this winter there is an alternative. The notion of wearing knitwear with off-duty and formal tailoring is having a revival and channels a freer, more relaxed style.
The look was originally championed by Italian designer Nino Cerruti in the late 1960s, and taken up by a burgeoning jet-set. His eponymous fashion house, now helmed by creative director Aldo-Maria Camillo, has contemporised the tailoring/knitwear combo by pairing innovative knitwear styles (such as the Col Chemine, £375, a poloneck/shirt hybrid) with, for example, an elegant jacket. “I have always been a fan of knitwear, so it’s natural for me to imagine a cocktail jacket worn with a cashmere and silk poloneck,” says Camillo, adding, “Knits in dark green, burgundy or charcoal are also a sophisticated alternative to black and white.”
Tom Ford is another big proponent of this trend. The label presented an all-black ensemble in its autumn/winter shows where a cashmere/silk poloneck (£860) was worn underneath a silk-and-velvet jacquard jacket (£4,740). The look is more outré, almost Bond villain-esque, when the black poloneck is worn under a purple jacquard jacket (£4,740), or an ivory one (£860) paired with a fuchsia-velvet shawl-collar jacket (£4,760).
Another dramatic take on the trend comes from Gieves & Hawkes, which combines a cropped officers’ mess jacket (£3,250) with a black wool cable poloneck (£250). “I felt we needed to show alternative evening options that broke the formality of strict tailoring,” says creative director Jason Basmajian. “This look is younger, fresher and more comfortable.”
But the trend is not restricted to polonecks. Round-neck knits are also key. With a small scarf loosely knotted and slipped inside the neck, the effect reminds me of an off-duty 1930s Hollywood star. Tonal variations between jumper, scarf and suit make the look even more striking – as seen at Valentino, where a grey faux-fur scarf (£110) was tucked inside a charcoal wool knit (£680) and worn under a textured smoky herringbone and Donegal tailored suit (£1,500).
Master of laid-back luxury Bottega Veneta also showcased subtle knits under tailoring to striking effect in its autumn/winter fashion shows. A mélange cashmere shawl-neck jumper (£650) in ardoise (slate grey) was shown under a suit. A more radical choice would be its multicolour dip-dye wool knit (£760), which makes a statement with or without a tailored jacket.
Similarly, Paul Smith’s oversized mohair houndstooth knit (£180) in olive and slate looks as smashing on its own as under tailoring. Mohair was also seen at Saint Laurent in the form of a zebra sweater (£755) – rather flamboyant alone, but somewhat tamed when peeping from beneath a jacket. For more knitwear with strong prints, Mr Porter is very much behind the trend and is carrying a cache of interesting pieces. One of the highlights is Michael Bastian’s grey, white and black cashmere poloneck (£700), which looks super under grey tailoring.
This season, too, knitwear specialist John Smedley has added a dressier poloneck to its collection called Judson, in silver or camel/cashmere silk with a slight shimmer. Its best poloneck to pair with suits during the day is the Belvoir (£135) in tawny brown, silver or a new racing green.
I love this new knitwear and tailoring pairing. However, I must caution readers attending establishments or events with formal dress codes. I recently strode confidently into Harry’s Bar on London’s South Audley Street – with How To Spend It editor Gillian de Bono. I was wearing a three-piece suit and rollneck, and was refused entry for failing to adhere to the strict shirt-and-tie rule. I was eventually obliged to don an overcoat – collar up, fugitive style.