How to wear a Cardigan

by Jamie
John Mayer Does Very Right by the Dude Sweater

With the number of styling options to choose from, sometimes styling a cardigan can be a tricky task. Taking on both a casual and formal look, the cardigan has become a staple piece that, like your jeans and shirts, can be worn to fit with any occasion. 

The cardigan has gained the reputation as something for the grandpas of the world – a comfy piece that’s best suited for sitting by the fire and complaining about the weather. Despite the fact it’s become a cliche, there are ways to break it free from it’s old fashioned constraints and take it to new stylish heights. If you’re wondering how to wear cardigans in a fashionable and modern way, then look no further than this handy guide. We’ll cover everything, from different types of cardigans, to how to achieve that perfect layered look. There’s no reason the cardigan can’t come out triumphant in the styling game, and we’ll show you how.

How to Wear a Cardigan – Men’s Styles

So first off, what is a cardigan? If you’re not sure on exactly what it is then it’s going to be hard to style it properly. Cardigans cover a range of styles and can be worn loosely, with no buttons or zips to fasten it up, leaving you with a clean open design, or buttoned up to give a clean, slim finish. Despite the range of styles it can be difficult to know what to wear with a cardigan. Anything too brash and you can look like you’re trying too hard, and anything too simple and you run the risk of just looking dull. Luckily with so many styles of cardigans to choose from, there are ways that you can easily bridge the gap between simplicity and style to create a look that’s perfect for you.

Longline Cardigan

The longline cardigan is the perfect transitional piece from spring to summer and is perfect for easy, chilled days out. The structure of a longline cardigan makes it a relaxed and casual look, and can ideally be styled with a slim-fit top and skinny jeans for a simple, alternative vibe. The fabric is generally super lightweight and designs often incorporate ‘waterfall’ and ‘cowl’ necklines, so you can experiment with textures and designs to see which one suits you best.

Shawl Collar Cardigan

Think of the shawl collar cardigan as an alternative to your insulating bomber or your not-so-snug denim jacket. It’s usually made in chunkier, warmer design than say, the longline cardigan style, and its thickness makes it best suited to casual combinations such as plain tees, raw denim jeans and simple trainers.

Button-up Cardigan

Style a button up cardigan wrong and you’re heading straight into grandpa territory, but get it right and this practical design can also add a little style to your look, along with some protection from the elements. Keep the buttons small and modest, as anything to large or embellished can come across as a little ‘kiddy’, and can spoil the sleek look that can come from these designs. A lot of people like to use their button up as the third part to a three piece suit, and if you match it up right, and keep the fabric of the cardigan light and simple, it can add a touch of casualness to your look.

Chunky knit Cardigan

A chunky knit cardigan is the perfect casual piece and easily enables the wearer to play around with colours and geometric patterns. Because of its punchy, stylised look, this cardigan is great for throwing over simple pieces and taking centre stage. Buy an upscale one in cashmere or merino, or keep things budget friendly with a wool mix for a rugged feel.

Fabrics and Colours

When you’re working out how to rock the cardigan look, deciding on colours is really the simplest part.   Black, browns, plums and khaki’s are perfect for winter, whereas burnt orange, mustard, tan and beige will brighten up your spring/summer wardrobe. Any embroidery other than a logo is generally a no, and applique is a definite no. Keep in mind that some colours are appropriate for certain occasions, and others aren’t. So if you’re getting ready for a first date, it’s probably best to save that bright red cardi for another time.

Colour palettes aren’t the only things to consider when dressing for the seasons, fabric is hugely important. Traditionally all cardigans were made from wool, but since the cardigan has become a go-to piece for every season, there are now fabrics suitable for all seasons. If you’re a fan of the traditional look, then wool offers a a few options. You could go for a classic thick cable knit in a rough, natural weave or opt for a slightly sleeker design in something like merino or cashmere, which has a finer fibre.

Cashmere is a common material used in knitwear, and due to its complex production process it’s the most expensive material to purchase. However if you’ve got the cash to spare a cashmere cardigan is a wise investment and has the benefits of being both warm and breathable, making it an ideal piece for a layered look, or thrown over a simple outfit for a summer evening.

If cashmere is a little out of your price range, then a good cotton cardigan will never let you down. The breathable material can be fashioned into thick or thin designs, and you don’t have to worry about hand washing them every time they’re stained like cashmere designs.

The Right Fit Cardigan

When deciding on the right fit for your cardigan you need to work out not only what’s comfortable for you, but also what kind of look you’re going for. Loose, relaxed fits are good for laid back outfits, and would work well matched with something simple but tight fitting, like a pair of skinny fit jeans, in order to achieve an interesting contrast in fits. A tighter, more streamlined fit would work well with something like a suit or looser fit trousers.

Regardless of what design you’re going for, there are some basic rules on how a cardigan should fit. Even if you’re going for a loose fit style, the seam connecting your torso to your sleeve should run across your shoulder blade, ensuring that you don’t look swamped by your cardi.

What to Wear with a Cardigan

So you’ve seen the various types of cardigans, but what should you wear with them? With so many looks to go for, here are just a few of the ways you can style these versatile pieces.


We’re delving into the smart-casual crossover with this formal wear outfit. It’s perfect for evening drinks, a trip to the theatre or even a night out. A crisp white shirt is essential to this look, and you can stick to a simple oxford shirt for a classic look, or experiment with a grandad collar for something more complex. Team it with some smart, slim fit chinos and some tasseled loafers for a clean, finished look.


If you’re just heading into town to run a few errands, or to treat your girl to a little brunch, the long line cardigan is the perfect accompaniment. It gives a chilled, relaxed vibe and is perfect teamed up with a pair of slim fit or skinny jeans, a simple white T-shirt and some simple slip on trainers.


As we’ve already discussed, cardigans have broken the barriers between smart and casual wear – yippee for you office boys. We’ve created a work-wear masterpiece and it’s giving us so many midweek feels. A simple, slim fit cardigan paired with a clean suit and finished off with a classic pair of lace up shoes is going to add style and sophistication to your office wear.


Layering is bringing so much game to knitwear right now. Your outfit is too good to be covered up with a coat, so just stick on another slim layer on instead and rock it on a whole new level. Chuck on a standard tee for your first layer, for the second add a simple denim shirt and finally throw on your favourite chunky knit. Finish it off with some black denim jeans and some classic black boots.

Cardigan Outfits for Men


Accessories to Match with Your Cardigan

Accessories are almost as important as your staple pieces and they can help set a tone and tie the whole outfit together. Simple accessories like caps and bags can help add a simple element of style to your look, where as bolder ones like bow ties and patterned sunglasses can bring about a more unique look.


A Little Bit of History

The cardigan you’ve been wearing with your skinny jeans, tailor fit trousers and brogues was once accompanied by double breasted tunics and shoulder straps. That’s right, although this piece seems like a modern essential you’ve actually got a 18th century Earl, James Thomas Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan, to thank for it. The British Arm Major General led Charge of the Light Brigade at a doomed Battle of the Balaclava during the Crimean War. British officers from as early as 1854 wore a knitted woollen waistcoat, which was subsequently, named the cardigan.

Your Quick Guide on How to Wear a Cardigan

  • It’s all about the fit – thin and fitted, loose and chunky is the motto. Any style should come in at the waist slightly and cover your belt.
  • Button’s are key, not too much fuss and the last button is always undone.
  • Just keep folding, don’t use hanger to avoid the awkward shoulder dimples.
  • If there’s a whole lot going on with the pattern keep the rest of your outfit simple.
  • When your chunkier knits begin to pill give it the once over with an electric lint remover.
  • Colours are pretty extensive; three things to consider are, skin tone, season and occasion.

On that note

We’ve given you a run down of different types cardigans, how to style them for every season, a snippet of history and a four-look starter kit and so all you gotta do is stick to the rules and you will be a man of many knits.

Feature image from Pinterest

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