Winter slowly creeps upon us and we must wave a solemn goodbye to summer, returning languidly to school or work for another round. Although for many the colder weather is unwelcome, for me it is a wonderful release for creativity and reinvention clothing wise. With the colder weather comes the opportunity to layer, wrap up and explore a vast array of textures and cosy yet practical fabrics. Also comes the inevitable excitement (although for many a dread) of rearranging our wardrobes, pulling out old favourites and making new additions.
For men knitwear plays a very important role, especially for the majority working over the winter period and trying to keep warm for the commute. Sadly however this attempt is often met by many men through the rather chaotic process of jumping into a pile of old and dingy knitwear, filled with long forgotten Christmas presents, and coming out wearing as much of it as will fit under a suit jacket.
Knitwear is often a difficult area for men in colder weather, it is where many will split into two camps: those wearing that old and lumpy sweater knitted rather clumsily, or wearing many thin layers and pulling on an oversized winter coat. As far as layering goes, it is a technique that requires a knowledge of your own shape and the shapes that work for you. However generally speaking layering is the easiest direction to go, simply wearing an undershirt, thin v-neck sweaters or a simply cardigan over a shirt and a simple pea coat over their suit. Yet when approached in the correct way, wearing a chunky knit or statement sweater can work wonderfully both smart and casual for winter wear.
The essential part of such knitwear is the simplicity behind it. You can easily pair it with a shirt, trousers, shoes, scarf and if needs be a coat. Yet it also works on a casual level, paired with jeans and boots or trainers. The wonderful thing is that the garment covers a lot of you and holds a lot of visual importance, therefore the simple addition can reinvent an entire look.
The main considerations are that of function, style and shape/fit.
- The function of the piece is how and when you intend to wear it. If you require it mainly for work purposes, you will want to go for a more conservative style, usually a simple cut cable knit cardigan in order to show your tie, whilst also looking great and keeping you warm. However if you intend to wear it mainly for casual events, you can go, to name one example, for a slightly more patterned and colourful crew neck design. Obviously the rules here are not hard fast, it depends on what is acceptable for your work place, what you feel comfortable in and your personal tastes.
- The style of the piece is also a key consideration due to the variety that exists. Depending on tastes one can go for a cardigan, v-neck sweater, crew neck sweater, or in the realm of statement knits any adventurous hybrid or design. Obviously choosing one that works for you and your needs is best.
- Shape (and fit) is usually the last consideration when you have found the style you want. Here you can go in two general directions: either you get a fitted knit, or go for slightly oversized and chunky, usually reserved for casual winter wear. Obviously general fit rules still apply, although you can usually be slightly less strict, due to the flexible nature of the fabrics and construction.
- Take note that for sleeve length, slightly longer tends to be preferable. The reason being that unlike a simple sweater that should show your shirt cuff, these knits are intended to cover you, in that you will want them to sit past your wrist, however when pulled straight to cover the majoriy of your hands.
- Please note however that unlike something such as a shirt or blazer, the very essence of the chunky knit or statement knit, means that you can be far more adventurous with fitting rules and styles. However unless you are totally comfortable with exploring these, sticking to more traditional ruling here is safest!
Once you have found the piece, you will want to keep it that way throughout the winter months. The majority of these pieces, for maximum warmth, will tend to be made of wool (or wool blend), which is actually also fireproof (play with fire at your own risk). Here are a few easy to follow rules regarding care:
- Keep the garment clean between wears, lightly brush after wearing it just to stop dirt gathering in between the weave. This is made easier by the very nature of the fabric, given that the weave is usually done with thicker threads.
- Remember that wool is flexible, it will retain its shape however can also be stretched. In order to help keep the shape, make sure not to overwear the garment and give it time to reshape in between wears. Try to use a wide shoulder hanger to help keep the form (wire hangers are for breaking into cars as a makeshift slim jim, not for your cupboard!)
- Do not keep woolen items together and touching, if you have more than one try to seperate them. This helps prevent the garments becoming fuzzy via strands becoming interlocked and tugging at one another.
- Try not to wash the garment too often as this will cause the wool to become weak and shorten the garment life.
- For washing machines try to use a wool cycle, or failing this a cold cycle. However remember that water that is too cold can also harm the wool, often shocking the fabric and causing it to shrink even more than if submerged in hot water. For hand washes try to use room temperature water and gently clean the garment, avoid rubbing the fabric to maintain the strength.
- Always test your fabric cleaner or treatment on a small area just to be safe.
- Never use a dryer unless you intend to give the sweater to a small child.
- When washing a cardigan with buttons or zips, it is often best to make sure these are fully done up. For those of you that have a zipped garment, where the zip seems to have gone wavy, it is as the fabric has shrunk slightly, yet the zip has maintained its full length. By keeping the buttons or zip done up, it helps keep the shape far better.
- Try to dry on a flat surface to help keep the form and prevent odd stretching.
Following these basic rules will help you find and care for that garment you will love for winter and hopefully years to come!
Images courtesy of Asos, Oki Ni and Men's Style.
Images courtesy of Asos, Oki Ni and Men's Style.