man wearing black zip up cardigan

How To Wear A Cardigan: A Comprehensive Guide For Men

Men can use the versatile and classy cardigan sweater to style a range of outfits. It is a must-have wardrobe item that can be dressed up or down for any occasion. For work, guys can pair it with a suit for a semi-formal look, and for a casual chic style, they can combine it with a trendy shirt, chino pants, and sneakers. Cardigans come in various styles and colors and can serve as light jackets. These knitted closet staples are always comfortable, warm, and elegant.

Cardigans are commonly worn over shirts and under-suit jackets instead of a vest to keep the tie in place when the jacket is taken off. It can be worn in casual and formal events and any season but is commonly used in cooler weather. Here’s a comprehensive guide on how to wear a cardigan as men.

What is a Cardigan?

A cardigan is a knitted sweater worn like a jacket with an open front. It usually comes with buttons and can either be knitted or woven. However, if the garment is tied, it is considered a robe, while those with zippers can still be called a cardigan. Currently, there is a fashion trend for cardigans that have no buttons or zippers and are designed to remain open.

A pullover or sweater differs from a cardigan as it has no front opening and must be pulled over the head. Like cardigans, they can be hand or machine-knitted and made of various materials such as wool, cotton, or synthetic fibers.

It’s worth noting that cardigan sweaters are still in style and very versatile. You can pair them with jeans or khakis; some styles can even work to cover a shirt or for a chilly night with shorts. They’re a great choice to stay warm without the bulk of a larger sweatshirt or a crew neck sweater.

Brief history and versatility of cardigans in men’s fashion

The cardigan sweater’s history can be traced back to the mid-1800s during the Crimean War when James Thomas Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan, popularized it. In 1824, Lord Brudenell joined the 8th Regiment of Dragoons as a Cornet. He bought several promotions and rose to the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1832, serving in the 15th Regiment of Dragoons, also known as the King’s Royal Irish Regiment.

Lord Brudenell, who led the Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War, is associated with the cardigan sweater. The sweater is said to be modeled after a knitted wool waistcoat worn by British officers during the war. According to legend, the garment gained popularity due to the event and Lord Cardigan’s fame after the war. Brudenell also invented the cardigan after his coattails accidentally got burnt off in a fireplace.

As a British military commander in the war, he started wearing this type of sweater, which led to its widespread use in popular culture and its association with his name.

The cardigan sweater gained popularity in the 17th century among French and British fishermen as it proved to be very useful in keeping them warm during cold weather at sea.

How to Wear a Cardigan?

man wearing cardigan

Men can try out various styles and cuts for cardigans, which can be classic and fashionable. Choosing the appropriate cardigan for the event and properly accessorizing it with the right shirt, pants, and shoes is crucial to achieving the desired appearance. To flaunt your fashion style uniquely, you can experiment with different men’s cardigan styles to create innovative outfits.

Exploring the various styles and designs available

There are several cardigan styles and designs in the market, and you can experiment with different looks. You can choose a statement piece in bright colors or a classic, timeless cardigan that will become an essential wardrobe staple.

  • Fit – When it comes to styling a cardigan, one of the key details to look out for is fit. Ensure that your cardigan properly fits over your dress shirt and still falls nicely around the shoulders and arms. It should be neither too tight nor too loose, as it has to look sleek and neat without making you appear bulky.
  • Casual Look – For a casual look, pair your cardigan with a T-shirt or Polo shirt and jeans for a laid-back look. Choose a blazer or dress shirt underneath the cardigan for a more formal style, and coordinate it with slacks and dress shoes. You can also add a belt to give the outfit more sophistication and put together an effortless look.
  • Color – When selecting the cardigan’s color, make sure you pick one that will go well with other colors in your wardrobe. Opt for neutral tones like beige, gray, navy blue, black, or white that match almost any outfit. Choose vibrant tones like blue, green, and red to create a bolder look or a classic plaid for more of an old-school vibe.
  • Accessorizing the Cardigan – Adding accessories to your cardigan is a great way to enhance any ensemble. You can experiment with pieces such as ties, scarves, pocket squares, or lapels to give your look a unique touch. A belt is also an excellent way to define your waist and add flair to your outfit. Ties are great for formal events, while scarves can create a more relaxed appearance for informal gatherings.

Why Wear a Cardigan?

In the past, a man wearing a cardigan might have been associated with retirement. However, fashion brands like Studio Nicholson, The Elder Statesman, and Ami Paris have updated the cardigan’s look to make it more stylish. Marks & Spencer has seen a 90 percent increase in cardigan sales for spring, possibly because the weather is between seasons. The green “preppy” style is trendy, and Marks & Spencer plans to release more styles in the fall.

The zip jumper has been traditionally seen as a masculine status symbol donned by prominent figures such as Mikel Arteta (the current manager of Arsenal FC), David Beckham, and professionals working in the city. On the other hand, the cardigan is increasingly being used as a symbol of soft power.

Cool Weather Apparel

Young men should consider wearing cardigans as a cool-weather garment option. Despite common pullovers and V-neck sweaters, cardigans are often overlooked and can be both fashionable and practical.

Stylish Apparel

Men should consider wearing cardigans to stay warm and stylish in cooler weather. Many younger men are missing out on the benefits of this versatile garment, which can elevate their image and keep them cozy. It’s time for more men in their twenties to embrace this classic fashion piece.

How to Choose the Right Cardigan for Men?

When choosing the right cardigan for men, it’s crucial to consider what style best suits your body type and skin tone. The key is to get a cardigan that fits well on your frame while staying fashionable. Consider the following when selecting a cardigan:

Fit and Size

The fit and size of a cardigan are crucial, much like a jacket. However, cardigans are flexible and can adjust to your body shape. It’s best if the shoulders fit well, the cardigan tapers from the chest to the abdomen, and widens slightly around the waist. While cardigans come in different lengths, they should always be long enough to cover the waistband or belt to avoid looking like you’re wearing your little brother’s clothes.

Material and Fabric

folded textiles

The fabric and material of a cardigan are also essential considerations. Materials like wool, cashmere, cotton, and acrylic can be used to make a cardigan; however, the type you choose will depend on your lifestyle. Wool is most suitable for cold weather, while lighter materials such as cotton or synthetic fibers are best for warmer days.

Color and Pattern

The color and pattern of a cardigan can also help you stand out from the crowd. Guys should try to pick colors that complement their wardrobe and personal style. If you want something more vibrant, consider opting for prints or bright-colored stripes to make your outfit pop.

Button or Zipper Closure

When it comes to fashion, details matter. The closure on a cardigan should be considered when selecting one for your wardrobe. Button and zipper closures are stylish and functional; however, the type you pick will depend on the look you’re trying to achieve. Zipper cardigans are ideal for formal occasions, while button-down styles are more casual and laid-back.

Popular Types of Men’s Cardigans

Once you’ve chosen the right cardigan for your body type and personal style, it’s time to explore the different types of cardigans available.

V-Neck Cardigan

The V-neck cardigan is a stylish and minimalistic option for men’s clothing. It works well for office attire since it leaves space for a necktie. The V-shape design also draws attention to the face, making it popular among actors and artists. To maintain modesty, choose V-necks that are only a few inches deep.

Shawl Collar Cardigans

The shawl cardigan has a bulky stole collar that wraps around the back of the neck and shoulders, serving as a built-in scarf. It is typically made of thicker materials, making it ideal for keeping warm during the winter and adding sophistication to any outfit. Buttoning up the cardigan would enhance the elegance of jeans or khaki pants.

The shawl cardigan has a bulky stole collar that wraps around the back of the neck and shoulders, serving as a built-in scarf. It is typically made of thicker materials, making it ideal for keeping warm during the winter and adding sophistication to any outfit. Buttoning up the cardigan would enhance the elegance of jeans or khaki pants.

Button-Front Cardigans

The button-up cardigan is a stylish garment that enhances your appearance and gives you a polished look. For men, it is advisable to select a well-fitted cardigan that suits their body shape. To achieve a sleek and flattering look, guys may pair a black cardigan with jeans or chinos. Alternatively, you can choose brighter, more lively, and daring colors.

You can wear a collared or buttoned shirt underneath your sweater to enhance your appearance. Pairing a silk-cashmere blended cardigan with a well-fitted suit can make your outfit more friendly without sacrificing the formal, authoritative, and masculine look. You can play with different materials, blends, and colors to achieve the desired outcome.

Zip-Up Cardigans

A full-zip cardigan is a stylish option for a fall or winter sweater that is easy to wear. You can take it with you on a camping trip as an outer and inner layer on a cold winter day. It’s great for layering over an Oxford button-up, T-shirt, or casual shirt and will keep you warm in cold temperatures.

For the best style outcome, don’t wear it with slim fitted jackets or faux-fur coats. Instead, it’s better to pair it with a loose double-padded sheep denim coat and jeans.

Chunky Knit Cardigans

If you want to stay warm and look stylish at the same time, a chunky knit cardigan is a great choice. Whether hanging out with friends or going on a date, it will complement your outfit. You can pair ribbed and fisherman-knit sweaters with trousers, chinos, and jeans to achieve different looks.

Wear a chunky cotton cardigan with a dressy t-shirt and fitted jeans to upgrade your streetwear-inspired outfit. Pair cable-knit cardigans with trendy pants and nice shoes to achieve a classy yet effortless look. A knitted sweater in neutral shades like black, gray, or navy blue is perfect for a smart style.

Longline Cardigans

A longline cardigan is a comfortable and stylish option that can reach your mid-thigh or ankles. It can come with buttons or a loop-and-tie closure, but men usually wear it open. To create a fashionable contrast, you could wear it with tight jeans, a slim-fit crew neck t-shirt, or a scoop-neck cotton shirt for a trendy appearance.

Men can create a slimming effect by wearing black skinny jeans and a bright, longline cardigan over a cotton t-shirt. This type of cardigan is versatile, coming in lightweight fabrics and different weaves, and can be worn in various seasons, transitioning easily from summer to fall and winter to spring.

Lightweight and Thin Cardigans

Lightweight and thin cardigans are ideal for warmer weather. They can be worn over a t-shirt or collared shirt to achieve a stylish yet relaxed look. A thin cotton cardigan in a neutral color is perfect for those who prefer to keep their clothing minimalistic and low-key. You can also choose one with interesting details like stripes, darts, or elbow patches to make your outfit look more sophisticated.

A lightweight cardigan can also be a layering piece over a simple white T-shirt and jeans when the weather cools. For colder climates, you may opt for thicker wool or cashmere blends in deeper shades like navy blue or black.

Styling Tips for Wearing Cardigans for Men

Once you’ve selected your cardigan, it’s time to focus on styling it. Here are some tips to help you create the perfect look:

Casual and Everyday Looks

A cardigan can be a fashionable addition to a casual outfit when paired with jeans and a T-shirt. By wearing a fitted cardigan with classic jeans and sneakers, you can achieve a relaxed yet stylish look that is perfect for hanging out with friends or going on a casual lunch date. Alternatively, you can create an urban vibe by pairing a long cardigan with fitted jeans and trendy shoes.

You can pair a scoop neck slub shirt and leather boots for a cool metropolitan look. You can style a henley shirt with trainers if you prefer a laid-back vibe. During colder winter days, you can wear an infinity scarf that matches the draped-on look of the longline.

Combine a snug marbled cardigan with gray chinos and a crew neck t-shirt to create a more stylish weekend look. You can leave the cardigan open and wear low-profile dress sneakers. If you want a smarter casual look, button up the central buttons, leave the top and bottom ones undone, and wear dress shoes with no-show socks.

Smart and Dressy Outfits

Men should opt for fitted and structured styles to achieve a semi-formal or smart casual look with a cardigan. Choosing high-quality materials such as high-count micron cashmere, silk blends, mulberry silk, and Pima cotton is recommended to elevate the look.

Pair a cardigan with a high-quality button-up shirt, well-fitted pants, and leather dress shoes to create a professional or formal look. During fall and winter, choose neutral colors; in spring and summer, opt for faded pastels if you’re a guy.

Pair leather-strapped dress watches with black, white, and brown cardigans to enhance your semi-formal attire. Alternatively, Swiss-made stainless steel sports watches can add a touch of sophistication to your champagne, light pastel, and cable-knit outfits.

Seasonal and Weather-Appropriate Styling

In the summer, you can pick lighter fabrics like cotton, linen, and rayon for breathability. The lightweight fabric circulates air freely around your body and keeps you always comfortable. You should also opt for lighter colors, such as beige or gray when styling a summer outfit with a cardigan.

During the cooler months, choosing heavier fabrics such as wool, cashmere, and flannel is best. These materials are perfect for keeping you warm during winter and autumn. Darker colors are also better when cardigans are selected for colder seasons since they absorb more heat.

How to Wear a Cardigan Without Looking Old?

To avoid looking outdated, you should explore various styles of cardigans and select the one that suits your wardrobe. The popular options include a shawl collar, a longline, a chunky knit, and a button-up. For men, tan, grey, black, and blue cardigans are versatile and can complement most outfits. If you prefer a classy look, opt for fitted cardigans with buttons. On the other hand, loose and longer designs offer a relaxed appearance.

Wear jeans or chino pants, a polo or T-shirt, sneakers, and a cardigan if you want a casual outfit. Wear a fitted pair of chino pants, a button-down shirt, a belt, leather dress shoes, or boots for a more stylish smart, or business-casual look. You can also wear a cardigan with your suit instead of a vest or waistcoat. Remember to fold your cardigan to maintain and avoid stretching around the shoulders rather than hanging it.

Care and Maintenance of Cardigans

Proper care is required to ensure your cardigans maintain color and fit and last longer. This includes avoiding just throwing them in the washing machine.

Read The Label

It’s important to read the label on cardigans before washing them, unlike other clothes where you may get away with not doing so. Not following the care instructions on the label could cause your cardigans to shrink and fade. Take care of your cardigans by reading the label for information on how to wash, iron, dry, or dry clean them.

Avoid Overwashing

Regularly exposing your wool cardigan to too much water will wear it down and lose quality. To keep it safe, wash it every five wears. However, spot-cleaning usually does the job. Since your body does not sweat as much in winter, you don’t need to wash your cardigan as often. Nonetheless, if you spill or stain it, wash it immediately.

Fold the Cardigan

folded cardigan

To keep your cardigans in good condition, it’s important to fold them instead of hanging them. Hanging them can cause stretching and loss of shape. So fold them neatly and store them in a drawer or on a shelf after washing and drying.

Wear a Shirt Underneath

Wearing multiple layers in winter is common to stay warm. Cardigans are effective in keeping people cozy, but wearing a t-shirt underneath can protect the cardigan. The t-shirt acts as a barrier, reducing sweat and odor from reaching the cardigan. This preserves the cardigan, requiring less washing.

Wash By Hand

It’s best to wash your cardigan by hand instead of using a washing machine to prevent it from shrinking. Use cold water and a non-bio detergent, and let your cardigan soak for 30 minutes before rinsing it with cold water. Gently squeeze out the water and then roll the cardigan in a towel to remove any remaining moisture.

Popular Men’s Cardigan Outfit Ideas

Men’s cardigans are incredibly versatile and can be styled for a variety of occasions. It is common for men’s cardigans to have plastic buttons nowadays, but classic and preferred button options are horn, mother of pearl, wood, or leather. If your cardigan comes with plastic buttons, they can be easily replaced. Additionally, wooden toggle closures can be a great alternative for those seeking something different. Here are some popular outfit ideas:

Casual and Relaxed Looks

Wear jeans or chino pants, polo or t-shirt, and sneakers to create a relaxed outfit. Layering it with a cardigan will complete the look. A classic casual look can be achieved by pairing a cardigan with a warm men’s flannel shirt and your favorite broken-in men’s jeans. This combination is both comfortable and casual.

Men can pair skinny jeans and a shirt with a long black cardigan to achieve a simple yet stylish casual look. The shirt can be white or colorful to seamlessly contrast or match the cardigan. A slim-fit cardigan can be worn with a suit for a layered effect. With many ways to style it, adding a black cardigan to your wardrobe is a smart choice for contemporary men.

Smart and Polished Ensembles

Men can pair an open shawl cardigan with fitted trousers and a black t-shirt to achieve a comfortable and stylish smart casual look. A cream-colored heavy-weave fabric gives off a preppy vibe, while earth tones are more countryside-classy, especially when paired with hunting boots, field watches, and oxford shirts. For a dressier option, opt for a knitted sweater in a neutral color like black, gray, or navy blue.

You can wear a button-down shirt under an open cardigan sweater to achieve a smart look. An Oxford dress shirt is your best bet if you aim for a professional business look. It’s essential to make sure that your cardigan is darker than your shirt so that the contrast can make both pieces stand out and give you a clean and handsome finish.

Seasonal and Trendy Outfits

Men can try wearing a thin cardigan with an unbuttoned shirt and leather trousers for a trendier look. This combination will make you look more stylish and current. If you want something different, consider pairing a white T-shirt with dark green cargo pants and a longline cardigan. You can add accessories like watches, sunglasses, and hats to create a unique look.

For the colder months, cardigans are essential for keeping you warm and looking fashionable. Men can pair a chunky knit cardigan with wool trousers and a turtleneck sweater during winter. Add some color with bright accessories like scarves or gloves to make the outfit more eye-catching.

Celebrity-Inspired Cardigan Styles

Many celebrities have rocked the cardigan trend. You can opt for a slightly oversized cardigan with a plain t-shirt and distressed jeans to achieve an edgy look. A blue shawl cardigan paired with a white dress shirt and trousers looks great on Ryan Gosling. Moreover, try wearing a cotton knit sweater over an Oxford shirt and chinos to get David Beckham’s style.

Cardigans can be dressed up or down depending on the occasion, making them a wardrobe staple for men of all styles. You can create any look with the right outfit combinations, from cool and casual to smart and dressy. By following these styling tips, you’ll be able to wear a cardigan with confidence.


Here are some frequently asked questions about how to wear a cardigan for men.

How do you style a cardigan for men?

Depending on the occasion, you can style a cardigan for men in various ways. You can go for a casual look, smart casual, and formal attire. All you need to do is pair the cardigan with different items to achieve the desired look.

Is a cardigan good for men?

Cardigans are great for men as they can be worn in formal and casual settings. You just need to choose the right type of cardigan depending on the season and occasion.

Should cardigans be oversized?

It depends on your preference and the look you’re going for. Cardigans can be oversized, slim-fit, or tailored according to your taste.

How do you wear cardigans with jeans?

You can wear cardigans with jeans in a variety of ways. For a casual look, you can opt for slim-fit jeans and pair them with a fitted cardigan. Try wearing baggy jeans and an oversized cardigan to achieve an edgy look.

Should cardigans be tight or loose?

It depends on the look you’re going for. Slim-fit cardigans can be worn to create a smart look, while loose cardigans are more suitable for casual looks.