Mister Rogers, Chandler Bing, The Dude—the cardigan’s connotations are many, and most aren’t celebrated style icons. The association-laden knitwear has not typically been considered a serious feature of a grown man’s wardrobe, but that’s changing. This fall, designers from Florence to Los Angeles are shaking the cardigan free from its pop-culture stigma and presenting it in a new light: a laidback layer that effortlessly ties an outfit together. Easygoing as they are, cardigans aren’t just for grandpas and slackers anymore.
Somewhat surprisingly, the style’s roots are in the military: James Thomas Brudenell, the seventh earl of Cardigan, was a foppish aristo who outfitted his regiment in knit waistcoats to elegantly endure inclement weather. After he led the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War, in 1854, the earl’s invention became all the rage with everyone from factory workers to society gents. Fast forward about a century, and button-up knits were a mainstay on Ivy League campuses, golf greens and soda shops across the US.
The cardigan’s mid-century golden era largely accounts for the style being written off as juvenile, geeky or, at least, something to be worn when unmistakably off-duty. But coincidentally, the cardigan renaissance is pretty perfectly aligned with how we’re dressing for work today. A suit or blazer for #WFH is ambitious (if you go there, hats off to you). But a cardigan? It’s as cozy as a bathrobe but entirely appropriate for a day of Zoom calls. Even beyond the house, cardigans embody the smart casual dress code that’s been adopted by offices from coast to coast. Oh, and did we mention transitional weather? Cardigans have a lot to offer on all sartorial fronts for fall.
From shawl-collars to zip-ups, we’ve rounded up a range of the 11 best cardigans to buy now.