When the holiday season starts gearing into full swing, my wife usually asks for my wish list. We both understand that in my case this particular list is really more of a lifetime To-Do list than a “what I want for Christmas this year” list.
I often have things on there like “Rolex Submariner” and “Interview Ralph Lauren for the blog”; not exactly presents to whip together in a few weeks. I didn’t get either this year – but I’m still working on them.
There are however several items that I see as luxuries within reason. This led me to come up with a list of items that I think every man should have – I call them the “One Things.” Some are more extravagant than others, but each is classic and useful. I will occasionally profile a piece over the next few weeks.
For my first “One Thing” I chose the cashmere crew neck sweater. The crew neck sweater, or jumper depending on your country of origin, is a classic staple of men’s wardrobes everywhere. It can work with almost any outfit and is easily paired with such opposites as denim jeans or grey flannels.
A good crew neck should have a lightly fitted body and trim arms, but not too tight. The hem of the sweater should sit at your waist with room to allow for sitting, stretching etc., but should not blouse over the ribbed bottom. This is always an unattractive sight and gives the impression that either you’re carrying around a few extra lunches or you borrowed someone else’s sweater. Neither leaves a particularly good impression.
It should fit comfortably over an oxford shirt yet allow for easy movement while still maintaining a close fit. I like my sweater’s arms to either run a touch long so that I can turn back a good amount of cuff or end right at the wrist and allow some shirt sleeve to show. Anything in between tends to look out of proportion.
The neck is an area that merits additional attention. Some makers have neck lines that appear designed to strangle anyone foolish enough to try and stick through their head, while others seem to feel that wide gaping holes are somehow attractive. The ideal is a neck that allows the collar of your shirt to sit comfortably within, while the sweater itself offers a clean, firm neck hole that won’t easily lose its shape. Put another way, when viewed from any angle your neck should not appear constrained.
Regarding fabrics, merino is an excellent material but cashmere is really the gold standard. One- or two-ply is more than enough for the average office dweller. Three-ply cashmere sweaters are often hawked this time of year, but don’t fall for it. Pictures of handsome people frolicking in chilly New England autumns do you no good while you are sweating up a storm in your climate controlled office building – every day.
When it comes to looks, there are several different styles of crew necks; from simple to elaborate. After mulling this over for literally a decade, I have concluded that there are only two really useful styles: flat knit and cabled in solid colors.
A few years ago, during an after-Christmas sale, I came across this beautiful, chunky and very heavy lamb’s wool Irish fisherman style sweater. It was a steal, and I bought it. I quickly realized that I couldn’t wear the thing anywhere except outside on a cold day. It weighed a ton and trapped too much heat. The upshot? Unless you actually are an Irish fisherman or work outside, give this heavy work style sweater a pass.
Thinner cabled sweaters are a much better choice; they’re simply more usable in the real work world. You can find them in every color under the sun; from preppy primaries to English heathers. The same goes for flat knit sweaters. They are incredibly versatile and mix well with different materials. Flat knits in particular are good to have around because they can act as a grownup sweatshirt and adapt well to layering.
So there you have my first “One Thing” recommendation. Stay tuned for more.