Here in the Philippines, the cardigan is more often worn as a fashion statement instead of as a necessary piece of clothing used to keep warm in colder climates. Unlike other fashionable outerwear like turtleneck sweaters and trenchcoats, Filipinos can get a lot of mileage out of cardigans because it’s lightweight nature makes it comfortable to wear the whole year ‘round. Which is great, because layering is an effective way to up any man’s style game.
The cardigan’s versatility means you can use it to easily upgrade or downgrade your outfit if you know what you’re doing. We know though, that despite how hard the “mandigan” has been trending the last few years, many guys still feel scared of wearing it in the fear that’ll it make them look feminine. Which, granted, can happen if you don’t know how to pick and style your cardigan.
Since we think a cardigan should be a staple of every man’s wardrobe, Style Panic’s head stylist Margeaux Jerushka doles out some tips and tricks when it comes to wearing cardigans for any and all occasions.
On choosing cardigans
Traditionally, cardigans are knitted wool open-front sweaters. Nowadays though, cardigans come in all sorts of lightweight fabrics. But no matter what material your cardigan is made of, good quality should always be kept in mind when buying one. Jerushka advises that before you make your purchase, you “rub the fabric together and see if there is some pilling forming on the surface.” For the uninitiated, pilling is when little round balls of fiber form after rubbing the surface of your clothes. They signify that the sweater in question is poorly made, and you’ll more than likely have a ratty and worn-looking cardigan after just a few wears. So if pilling occurs, drop that cardigan like it’s hot. No use buying one that will fall apart after hardly any use, after all.
Of course, even if you don’t see any pilling, your personal comfort should also be a consideration. “Feel the fabric against your skin and make sure it feels comfortable enough to wear throughout the day without feeling scratchy or too hot,” the stylist tells us.
Unlike women who can get away with cardigans of all shapes and sizes, guys usually stick to more or less the same fitted silhouette when wearing the mandigan. It should be comfortably snug, Jerushka says, explaining that the cardigan should be “loose enough around the armholes and sleeves for it to be layered over a dress shirt without looking too tight.”
To flatter your trim shape, pick cardigans that have a “slight tapering around the waist when the buttons are closed,” the stylist adds. For length, they should at least slightly cover your belt.
Be aware though, that since many cardigans are made from stretchy material, it’s ridiculously easy to mistakenly stuff yourself in something that’s a size too small. So always make sure the fit is right. Trust us, guys don’t looks half as good in tight cardigans as the ladies do.
Like mentioned before, cardigans are versatile. They can be used to frame and highlight the bolder prints and colors of the rest of your outfit, or they themselves can be the statement piece that will catch the eyes of those around you. Jerushka advises us on how to build a cardigan collection:
“One must definitely have a few cardigans in lovely neutral colors such as gray, navy, and green, but get them in interesting fabric textures or knits and patterns such as houndstooth, stripes, or argyle. Once you have a good number of basic colors, go and get some in bright or bolder hues and trendier details.”
Spice up your boring three-piece suit by replacing your vest with a cardigan. Jerushka breaks it down for us: wear a dress shirt and tie, add a fine knit cardigan over them, then throw on a light blazer on top; pair with slim suit trousers and suede oxfords. If you want to avoid looking too stuffy, leave the last bottom button of your cardigan unfastened.
When you want to dress smartly for work but don’t want to bother with a jacket, wearing a cardigan is a great alternative. Pull one on over your dress shirt, preferably one buttoned all the way up and tucked in to avoid unnecessary bulk, and combine with slim chinos and dressy chukka boots. The tie is optional, though Jerushka notes that you can get a relaxed look if you go tieless and unfasten the second button of your shirt.
The right cardigan easily straddles the line between too formal and too casual, which is perfect for relaxed date nights. Jerushka gives us this easy four-part formula that will surely prove to be a hit with your date every time: cardigan + chambray shirt + slim khakis + brogues. For extra pogi points, unbutton the cuffs of your shirt, fold them up, then push (don’t roll) the sleeves of both your shirt and cardigan up.
You don’t need to be going anywhere special to wear cardigans, so don’t hesitate to throw one on even if you’re just hanging out with friends. Look effortlessly put together with a thin knit longline cardigan, plaid shirt, inner round neck shirt, leather belt, slim jeans, and rugged boots. For a more rugged approach, Jerushka tells us you can do a messy tuck with your plaid shirt (that is, tucking in the front but leaving the back hanging out) as well as a messy fold with your jean cuffs. For something a little more streetstyle, slip on a zipped cardigan over a plain shirt, ripped skinny jeans, and minimalist sneakers. Top it all off with some accessories, like a necklace and beanie/baseball cap.
Remember gents, cardigans aren’t just for the ladies. In fact, here’s a bit of trivia you can throw at all the naysayers: the cardigan, like many menswear staples, came about because of the military, and only worn by the manliest of men. So really, there’s no reason to be afraid of putting one on.
For more on this and other style tips, follow Margeaux Jerushka on Instragram.