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15 Stylish Shawl Collar Cardigans That’ll Help You Channel Your Inner Steve McQueen

Protect your neck with a knitwear staple cool guys have been turning to for generations.

Steve McQueen wearing a shawl collar cardigan Silver Screen Collection/Getty Images; Farfetch

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As dress codes casualize and tailoring grows ever softer, a great deal of attention has been paid to sweater-jacket hybrids. While often treated like a new phenomenon, the principle has existed for over a century in the form of the shawl collar cardigan.

The style can be traced back to James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, who aside from giving his name to the button-front sweater is most famous for leading the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade in the Crimean War. According to legend, Cardigan designed the garment as a means to keep his hair unruffled while getting dressed, or as a jacket alternative after losing a pair of tails to a fireplace.

No matter its origins, the cardigan eventually picked up a shawl collar that allowed it to stand in for a smoking jacket at social occasions and enjoyed vogue among American college students in the 1920s. Like many Ivy-style staples, it migrated from campus to Hollywood and would be seen hanging nonchalantly from the shoulders of such menswear legends as Steve McQueen and Paul Newman (it may be most readily associated today with Brian Cox in Succession).

The classic shawl collar cardigan, with braided leather buttons and two front pockets, has changed little since that time. But that doesn’t mean we’re not open to new interpretations. From luxurious cashmere takes on the original to oversized belted iterations that could pass for proper outerwear, we’ve rounded up 15 of the worthiest shawl collar cardigans on the market below.


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