Every Wednesday we’re giving you a deeper look into what makes the minds behind Kempt tick. We call it: The Kempt Five.
If you aren’t already, it’s only a short matter of time before you’re reaching for a cardigan on your way out the door.
Whether it’s a chunky-knit one that can serve as outerwear, or a more finely knit layering piece, the cardigan is the perfect fall-to-winter accomplice. So we rounded up the best new ones on the market right now…
As the warm-weather gear continues to trickle into shops, we couldn’t help but notice this two-tone shawl-collar cardigan from Drumohr sticking out like a sore, overly warm thumb as it recently arrived at Unionmade.
But upon further review, the Scots over at Drumohr had us fooled: it’s a cotton-linen blend that’s knit so loose, you could almost see through it. Which seems uniquely well suited for this time of year. Here’s what else you need to know.
The Story: The legendary knitwear brand was founded in southern Scotland in the 1700s and has been a favorite among Europe’s well-to-do ever since.
Who to Channel: Steve McQueen piloting a pontoon boat; a royal of Monaco on the kind of French Riviera day when socks aren’t necessary but a little extra warmth might be nice.
When to Wear It: Right about now, and anytime a warm day cools off into the sunset as the summer approaches.
Degree of Difficulty: Medium. This is a pretty slouchy garment, so we’d keep this for the breezy-weekend-and-beach-bonfire circuit.
As menswear’s love affair with Italian tailoring runs its course, there’s been a rising trend in rumpled luxury—some have gone so far as to name it “cozy boy.” (In other words, this refined-sweatpants craze is not going away anytime soon.)
Whatever you want to call it, the gold standard of this new menswear subculture has to be Elder Statesman, this year’s CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund recipient. It features a collection of impossibly soft, well-made and exorbitantly priced cashmere. If draping yourself in the finest of hand-knit opulence is your thing, or you’d just like to admire a $3,200 cardigan (er, robe?), here’s what else you need to know.
The Story: The charmed life of knitwear designer Greg Chait has involved interning for Whitney Houston, dating an Olsen and stumbling into a high-level position with jean maker Ksubi. He founded Elder Statesman in 2007, making cashmere blankets for the wealthy—stocking private theaters and jets, that sort of thing—and the rest is history.
Who to Channel: Those Snuggie commercials—but while cozying up on your private jet instead of your lonely couch.
When to Wear It: This isn’t a sweater, this is a lifestyle.
Degree of Difficulty: Low/irrelevant: if you’re spending three grand on a stay-at-home sweater, you’re probably not going to listen to us anyway.
San Francisco’s Unionmade unveiled their Indigo project last year—and it was some groundbreaking stuff. (We even felt the need to take a closer look.)
And they’ve just unveiled round two of the dozen or so collaborations, all garment-dyed in deep blue to produce a sea of handsomeness—from button-downs made in New England, to shawl-collar cardigans, to peacoats made in San Francisco. There’s even an indigo dye kit in case you’ve got something that you think should’ve been part of the collaboration.
If you can even find anything in your closet that isn’t already blue.
The rule of three has been met. Welcome to the robe era, gentlemen.
This one might be the coziest we’ve seen yet—in a chunky-knit wool from Zanone (under the Slowear umbrella, which includes the blogger gold standard of pants, Incotex). It’s also the least outlandish of the bunch—basically just a longer-than-usual cardigan with the option of a belt—which should lend itself to more situations that don’t require a tie.
Depending on how casual your casual Fridays get.
Over the past few years, the shawl-neck cardigan has become a staple in every bloggerly closet come late August—every year, inching its way from slouchy layering piece to sturdy nearly-outerwear.
Furthering the cause is the 1920 Shawl Neck Sweater Coat from Brooklyn men’s shop Smith + Butler. They’ve teamed up with Portland wool mill Dehen, using over three pounds of heavyweight worsted wool that’s naturally water- and stain-resistant (and, to be expected, warm as hell) in each shawl cardigan coat.
For now we’re calling this new breed the coatigan.
In 1966, Life magazine checked in on the street youth of Watts in the wake of riots and another dubious police shooting, and what they found was a surprisingly dapper lot. On first mention, South Central Los Angeles might not immediately conjure images of preppy shawl-cardigans, Wayfarers, rolled jeans and Thom Browne–esque pant hems—but as it turns out, these kids were pioneering the Black Ivy look well before Street Etiquette was on the scene (and doing it in the most unexpected place). A few snaps have been kicking around the blogosphere since appearing on a Brazilian blog, but in the event you don’t read Portuguese, we’ve compiled the entire spread of well-dressed rebels going about their day: admiring the Watts Towers, listening to tunes and preparing a few Molotov cocktails (just in case). One street tough in particular arrives on the scene in Clubmasters, a corduroy shacket and a pinky ring, and it’s got us looking forward to an unseasonably cool day.
Congressmen: While we did not elect you for your fashion sense, and we understand that you are not Senators, please remember that you are representing us in all capacities. So might we respectfully suggest that you ease off the Cosby cardigans and, you know, class it up a bit? (Mr. Frank, we understand you were wearing a cast in the above photo, but that is no excuse for standing in the House Chamber looking like a chilly American tourist.)
As we discussed yesterday, one of the most stylish guys in the House has decided against seeking reelection, so the rest of you are going to need to pick up the slack—and bring it to a decent tailor.
Sometimes, four layers just aren’t enough.
This shot comes from Coggles in York, England, where things have apparently gotten cold enough that a gentleman needs a bomber jacket, cardigan, V-neck, shirt, tie and (presumably) undershirt just to walk down the street. And even more surprising, he pulls it off without looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.
It helps that he keeps his baggiest layers on the outside, like the leather bomber, while the trimmer sweater and shirt end up a few layers down. They’re also pretty thin, so he doesn’t have to size up to accommodate anything as bulky as a puffer vest.
And, of course, a sharp enough pair of red shoes will let you get away with just about anything.
The legendary Japanese label Beams+ doesn’t show up much outside of Tokyo, but in recent years the folks at Unionmade have developed a reputation for smuggling their clothes onto American shores.
The latest crop arrived this week, and it’s pretty spectacular, from royal blue cropped chinos to one of the sharpest cardigans we’ve seen all winter. Designers take note: the weave is so loose, you can practically see through it.
It’s not cheap (customs can have that effect), but it’s good news for anyone with a yen for translated Americana… and anyone who happens to be living close enough to SF to see the goods in person.
The Quebecois shop Rooney dipped into a second round of sale-ing this week, with 40% to 60% off a flock of shawl cardigans, a sharp quilted jacket and an unstructured blazer in undyed linen. And since it’s all in Canadian dollars, the dollar signs barely even count. Have at it, folks.
The Swedes have a way with knitwear.
Case in point: one of our finds from Capsule was the Malmö brand Svensson, which combines soft Italian fabrics with a Swedish appreciation for extremely warm sweaters. The result is cozy versions of some of our favorite knitwear, including the shawl collar cardigan and the SNS Herning-style button-up, both coming in under $300.
They haven’t trickled into US markets yet, but there’s plenty of good stuff to be found on their site. Our suggestion: a white sweater in February is legendary stuff.
A lot of great new labels arrived on the scene in 2011—the most we’ve seen in recent memory—so we thought we’d give a much-deserved victory lap to our five favorites. They range from homegrown Italiana to biker-tough outerwear, and they’ve been pulling together some of the most exciting ideas in menswear and making clued-in gentlemen look like rock stars from February on. If you were waiting for a chance to get acquainted, now’s the time.
The ribbed cardigan is having a bit of a moment this winter, but thanks to a timely sale at Coggles, we may have found our favorite one.
It comes from East London’s D.S. Dundee, which means it’s a bit tweedier than your average sweater. See, for example, those elbow patches and downright professorial leather buttons. But mostly, it’s got the same flexible, lightweight rib knitting that’s seeing so many bloggers through the winter.
And thanks to a little sale magic, they bring the whole thing in under $250. Not too shabby.
As the show says, winter is coming.
So naturally, we’ve been pulling late hours getting our sweater game together. And after weeks of careful scientific study, we’ve narrowed the whole knit spectrum down to three key items. Between the three of them, they should cover you for just about any situation you encounter for the next five months—including any fishing voyages you may have planned.
And to save you the late hours, we’ve tipped you off to our favorite pieces in each category. Gentlemen, take it to heart.
Thom Browne made the leap to e-commerce this morning, including everything short of tailoring. (Rightfully, he wants you to get measured in person before you buy a suit.) That means shirts, ties, and, our favorite, the slim cardigans that have become his most distinctive item in recent years. Also, if you had a burning urge for a monolithic leather doctor’s bag, they might be able to hook you up.
For a globe-spanning, multi-billion-dollar luxury brand, Ralph Lauren’s pretty good at keeping a secret.
We’re thinking of their heritage-themed RRL brand, which has been their most coveted and rarely seen collection for almost 15 years now. Unless you were lucky enough to stop through Nolita, Georgetown or Malibu on a regular basis, it was rare to see a whole collection in one place.
At the moment they’re in a Scottish phase, so you’ll find Donegal tweeds and Fair Isle cardigans—but there’ll be plenty more as the seasons roll on. And if nothing else, you’ll find a whole lot of handsome ferrotypes.
With the double-breasted jacket cutting a swath through the italophile blogosphere, we’ve started seeing extra sets of buttons popping up everywhere. The first test subject? The cardigan.
Specifically, this Gant Rugger piece, dubbed “The Doubler.” It’s a bit more narrow than your average DB, but it’s also got some real function to it. Once November starts to show its teeth, the first thing you’ll want on your cardigan is a little extra fabric in front.
Together with another DB cardigan that may or may not be popping up in Jack Spade’s Holiday lookbook, we’re ready to call this one a trend.
We usually favor chunky, nautical-style sweaters—but when your main priority is finding something that will play well with other layers, you may be better off with a slightly slimmer profile.
Archival Clothing unveiled their take on the shawl collar cardigan today, and it’s the opposite number of the loose-knit winterwear brands like Rogues Gallery and Oliver Spencer specialize in. And while it won’t fit quite as well with your watchcap and slicker, it should fit under a blazer with a lot less static.
You can usually count on the best-dressed people at the trade shows to be creative director of something or other. In the case of this week’s capsule show, it was Dan Hendricks of Spiewak, demonstrating Malkovichian intensity and an excellent use of the semi-clubbed collar.
The bean boots are a sign of the slush epidemic that overtook Manhattan this morning, but the watch, tie and tie bar are all prime examples of how well modern workwear does accessories.
Most importantly, he brings a Mr. Rogers-style cardigan into the otherwise rugged mix. It’s a nice curveball, and one of the more neglected items in the winter-layering canon. Our waxed-cotton newsboy caps are off to him.
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