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Wardrobe Essentials: The Casual Sweater

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They say you can’t buy style; that style is somehow inherent within a chosen few. What you can buy, however, is a really good basic sweater — maybe, just maybe your road to style doesn’t have to be so long and torturous after all.

Since their invention, casual sweaters have never gone ‘out of style’. The garment’s modus operandi may have sidestepped from the blood, sweat and tears of the sports field to the equally competitive world of fashion, but wherever it has found a home it has always been the most respected of guests. Whether you are an established Hollywood actor, respectively raking it in, or the man on the street (i.e. the rest of us), the same applies: the casual sweater is a solid staple for any modern gent’s wardrobe.

Despite having been elevated to the catwalk in recent seasons — Raf Simons, Acne, Kenzo and Christopher Kane have all offered covetable examples — the sweater’s origins are rooted in far humbler settings. Sports brand Russell Athletic is often credited with manufacturing the first jersey cotton sweaters as early as 1926, when the then owner developed a top for his son to wear for football practice, which was less restrictive and thus substantially more comfortable than the traditional woollen tops worn by players at the time.

sweater 1

Since those beginnings the sweater has remained essential to any sportsman’s attire, while transitioning successfully to both the high-end and high-street fashion spheres. Be it on plumbers or poseurs, carpenters or crooners, there is rarely a moment in the day where the sweater looks or feels out of place, making it a versatile and timelessly popular choice among us gents.

The casual sweater, as the name would suggest, is intended to be worn casually. That is not to say, however, that it cannot be worn, for example, with a summer shirt and a lightweight pair of chinos. In fact, the wardrobe basic really made its name in the 60s thanks to those clever sporting stars of Ivy League colleges across the US: styling the sporty piece within their smart/casual approach (more on that later), they were able to remove the sweater from the locker room and present it within a veritable fashion context.

sweater 2

It is imperative, if you are looking to buy this small measure of style, that the sweater is worn correctly. Too baggy and you will look like a wannabe rapper – 50 Cent, Eminem et al are hardly renowned for their sense of gentlemanly style. And if you want to gain the respect of your peers, teaming with a pair of tracksuit bottoms should really be reserved for the gym. We’re talking about refining the sweatshirt as part of a mature look here. You are a grown man — act like one.

So on that note, take a quick look at a few ways in which you can make the casual sweater your own this summer and beyond.

Ivy League

The preppy look, as we English would certainly call it, manages to merge the elegance and pristine polish of well-to-do students with a sense of youth and playfulness typical of the teenagers that gave rise to the style during the 60s. Lightweight jackets, casual shirts, beige chinos and deck shoes are the key ingredients to ensuring that even if you have never thrown an American football in your life, you still look as instantly iconic as those college kids did way back when.

harrington dark jacketsweatshirt loopbacktartan slim fit

stones slim chinostrimmed burgundyboat classic shoes

Urban Playground

Be it in London’s Shoreditch, New York’s Willamsburg or Melbourne’s St Kilda, there may not be a playing field in sight but the sweaters will be out in abundance. Teamed with a pair of loose fitting shorts (usually plain black), a good pair of sport socks and a Nike or New Balance trainer, and you’re all set. Oh, and don’t forget the backpack that you don’t really need but finishes things off nicely. You big hipster, you.

mesh black jacketslevis crew sweatshirtsmesh black shorts

ribbed white sockstrainers nikeclassic herschell

Everywear

The sweater is predominantly great for its ease and accessibility as a style statement, to be worn anywhere and everywhere. Nothing quite embodies this as well as a classic jersey sweater, a reliable pair of jeans and your beloved Converse. Not too try-hard and not over-thought. As long as you get the cut of your sweaters and jeans right, you can’t really fail with this look.

rib jerseyblue ace jeansplimsolls converse

italian brown beltsasos clubmastersmart leather watches

Best Of The Rest

The traditional sports sweater is known for that lovely light grey wash and while this is a personal favourite, there is a huge range of colours to choose from this season. Here’s a peek at some of MFM’s top picks.

remi washed jerseydudley jerseylever cross sweatshirts

rake crew sweaterecrus sweatshirtsmarled sweatshirts

acne blues sweatshirtsred jack vintagemid grey sweatshirts

Conclusion

This is an indisputable classic, not to mention a comfortable option bound to please – both physically and aesthetically speaking. Reliable for its versatility, the casual sweater can pretty much be worn as part of any well considered outfit, helping you cross over from sporty to stylish with impressive ease.

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Robbie Canale
Robbie Canale

Robbie Canale is a freelance writer and stylist with a passion for football and fashion, two genres he knows should never go together! He has contributed to publications including Harper's Bazaar Arabia, GQ Dubai and Pickles football magazine.

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