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Item of the week: the retro men's cardigan

By Rachel Douglass


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(From left) Image: Ted Baker, Madewell, Levi's

What it is:

The AW23 season saw cardigans move beyond women’s wardrobes, to now be a staple item in men’s collections, offering the group a casual layer addition. This can be linked back to the item’s origins, as a piece worn by men during the Crimean War in the 1800's. Its name even descends from a British Army general, James Brudenell. The cardigan, also known as a vest, refers to, most often, a knit garment with buttons that close at the front. A particularly striking element of this season, however, is references to vintage styles of the 1900s, seen in the adoption of collegiate styles and chunky cuts.

Image: Superdry

Why you’ll want it:

For men, the cardigan offers a layering alternative to a pullover or hoodie that is a little more elevated in its appearance. This in part is due to the ability for it to give depth to an outfit, allowing for multiple layers to be on show at one time. Materials the item often appears in, such as wool, are also perfect for the colder months, making it a good wardrobe addition in the autumn/winter seasons.

Image: Perry Ellis

Where we’ve seen it:

Men’s cardigans could be seen in a vast array of designer runways for AW23. In reference to eras of the past, Prada exhibited the look layered over an open 70’s collared shirt, or sometimes completely on its own, with a simple shape and pastel colourings. Meanwhile, Sacai’s oversized cardigan donned a bold ombre print, with contrasting colours merging from black to red. Etro offered up a bulky knit, reminiscent of a vintage-shop find, similar to that of Giorgio Armani, who instead stuck with a retro-like collegiate-style vest.

Image: Ralph Lauren

How to style it:

The cardigan is the perfect layer for a man looking to bring depth to his outfit and move away from the typical pullover that is so widely adopted. The look can work over the top of button up shirts, turtleneck tops and t-shirts alike, depending on the style you are looking for. This can also be further defined by the choice of trousers, with tailored pants bringing a more formal look, while oversized jeans can make the cardigan more casual. For the former, add a pair of smart leather shoes, while the latter will work well with sneakers.

Image: Selected Homme

The retro cardigan is a welcome change to the typical winter layers often offered to men. Its resurgence, while possibly linked to the popularity of various past eras, falls in line with the casualisation of the men’s wardrobe and the heavy adoption of the style by designers for their AW23 collections.

Image: Madewell

Similar items available for (pre)order can be found in the FashionUnited Marketplace. You can find them by clicking on this link.

Item of the Week
Ralph Lauren
Ted Baker