How To: Wear Cardigans As Outerwear

(all text in burgundy in clickable)

With the yo-yoing temperatures in the northeast this winter, it can be difficult to decide whether or not to pull out the heavy coats. On a regular day, many guys don’t spend too much time outside during a workday (unless they work outside), so the need for a heavy coat is not always there. Mix it up this winter and swap out that heavy coat for a chunky knit cardigan. Yeah…..that’s right! CARDIGAN. If Mr. Rodgers, your grandfather and Macklemore can rock a cardigan with no problem, so can you.

The key to donning a cardigan as a piece of outerwear is to go with the heavier knits. The cardigan that you’ve been wearing as a layering piece is probably a thin gauge, fine merino wool or cashmere and offers minimal warmth. If you’re looking for something that will give you some substantial warmth, ditch those thin cardigans and invest in heavy knits.

Style Tips:

  • When pairing a with “dressy”/work looks, waist coats add the illusion of  wearing a three piece suit, with the cardigan acting a your suit jacket (see 1st look).
  • The thicker the knit, the warmer the cardigan. Before selecting your cardigan, ask yourself, “How long do I plan to wear this outside?”
  • Thicker knits are stiffer and can limit mobility upon the 1st few times you wear your cardigan. After a few wears, the stiffness will subside and the piece will be less rigid.
  • Patterns: if the pattern of your cardigan is busy (see the 3rd look) keep the rest of the outfit pretty understated. Think of that cardigan as your “statement piece” in your casual look.
  • Sleeves: most sleeves are longer than your actual arm length. You can roll the excess sleeve fabric under to a length that is personally pleasing (see sleeves on the 1st two looks)
  • Belted Cardigan: This style is not for everyone. Gives off the vibe of sitting by the fire and smoking a pipe (if that’s what you’re going for). The length of this style is longer than the traditional cardigan and would be great to wear for long distance travel because of overall comfort. You gotta have some balls to wear this one. Remember this is NOT a house coat.
  • Choose your style battle wisely. If weather conditions are windy, even the heaviest cardigan may not protect you from the cold.
  • Cable knits are typically the warmest of all knit cardigans.

1. All Business

Onassis Clothing Weber Cardigan - Men's Style ProHand Knit Cable Weber Cardigan by Onassis Clothing – Essential Navy Custom Waist Coat & Trousers by IndochinoCooper Brogued Wingtips by Fin’s For Him – Mulberry Leather iPad Case by Logan Zane

Onassis Clothing Weber Cardigan - Men's Style Pro

Onassis Clothing Weber Cardigan - Men's Style ProMaroon Knit Tie by Nautica

Onassis Clothing Weber Cardigan - Men's Style ProRose Gold Watch by Michael Kors

2. Belted Cardigan For Travel

Onassis Clothing Belted Cardigan - Men's Style ProBelted Knit Cardigan by Onassis Clothing (available in store at Soho NY location 71 Greene Street)

Onassis Clothing Belted Cardigan - Men's Style ProMaroon Knit Turtleneck Sweater by H&M

Onassis Clothing Belted Cardigan - Men's Style ProRose Gold Watch by Michael Kors

Onassis Clothing Belted Cardigan & Tote Bag- Men's Style ProLeather & Canvas Weekend Tote by Onassis Clothing (now available online & in store) – Snuff Suede Allen Edmonds Neumok Wingtips

3. Everyday Casual

Sabir In Topman Cardigan FullJacquard Knit Cardigan by Topman – 508 Jeans by Levi’s – Tan Boots by Asos

Sabir In Topman Cardigan Half 2Button Down White Oxford Shirt by Frank & Oak

Sabir In Topman Cardigan DetailsTan Leather Gloves by H&M

Photos by Marina T. Peele @CantWinkLefty

Continued Thanks For Reading,




Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Fabrics, Outerwear, Sweater, Work Wear

Author:Sabir M. Peele

Founder & Creative Director of menswear style & lifestyle blog Sabir serves as an independent brand consulting working with brands like GQ, AskMen, Indochino & Z Zegna (among others). Selected as #GQFall Best Dressed in 2013 & one of Esquire Magazine Best Dressed Real Men in America in 2010. Follow @MensStylePro on Instagram/Facebook/Twitter. Email with your inquiries.

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20 Comments on “How To: Wear Cardigans As Outerwear”

  1. Dominic
    January 28, 2013 at 12:37 AM #

    Love the post. One question though. When it comes to buying jeans how do you determine the right size? I know jeans stretch out so should you size down one inch from your actual waist?

    • January 28, 2013 at 10:13 AM #

      Hi Dominic,

      Thanks for dropping by. In regard to jean sizing, I’m a 32 when measured, but, I fit more like a 31.5. Depending on the brand, if the 31 is available I roll with that. There are some brands that the 32 will fit me well and I will get the waist taken in. I hit a road block at time because some jeans wont fit my thighs (former track runner).



  2. Charlie Ward
    January 28, 2013 at 9:10 AM #

    Love the Topman cardigan! But can’t see it on the website – is it from this season?

    • January 28, 2013 at 10:04 AM #

      I agree. The Topman cardigan is the best look. I’m not feeling the belted cardigan so much. Maybe I’m traditional, but I only like the belted look on trench coats as far as men’s style goes.

      • January 28, 2013 at 10:10 AM #

        Hi Jarrod,

        Thanks for dropping in. In regards to the belted cardigan, it’s definitely not a look for everyone. But, sometimes you need to switch up and try something different. The Topman cardigan look is my favorite casual winter ensemble by far.



    • January 28, 2013 at 10:06 AM #

      Hi Charlie,

      The Topman cardigan is from A/W 12′. It should still be in stores if you head to the nearest Nordstrom.



      • Charlie
        March 19, 2013 at 3:41 PM #

        I’m in the UK and unfortunately it seems to be sold out everywhere, although I’ve found a large on ebay… but I’m usually a medium or small 😦 What size is yours?

  3. Nick
    January 28, 2013 at 9:48 AM #

    Nice post, but I have a little question. Did you roll up your sleeves in de second look and if so how ?

    • January 28, 2013 at 10:05 AM #

      Hi Nick,

      Yup, the sleeves are rolled in the second look. Put the cardigan on normally and then tuck the end under to the desired length.



  4. Kristopher
    January 28, 2013 at 3:35 PM #

    Look 2 dominating this post. Killin it. Turtleneck game strong.

  5. January 29, 2013 at 4:09 PM #

    Nice post man. All three looks are great. I especially like the belted cardigan. Thats a new style trend i’m liking a lot.

  6. January 29, 2013 at 5:40 PM #

    Were those H&M tan leather gloves bought this season? They don’t seem to be on the online store.

    • January 29, 2013 at 6:17 PM #

      Hi Oliver,

      Those gloves are available in store at H&M they are from this past fall.

  7. Sherdil
    February 1, 2013 at 1:39 PM #

    What a great read. You have some serious style mate. +1

  8. February 22, 2013 at 3:40 PM #

    It definitely needs to be the right cardigan. Yours are all great but I’ve seen others that were a bit less successful. What do you do about the lint issue? Any wools/fabrics to stay away from?

    • February 22, 2013 at 3:41 PM #

      Hi Sonia,

      Typically, heavy knits do get linty. Fine Merino & cashmere may have a lint issue, but, invest in a sweater brush.



  9. Derrik Ollar
    February 22, 2013 at 10:28 PM #

    The vest with the shawl collar is wonderful! Great idea. Thanks

  10. February 27, 2013 at 9:38 AM #

    Thanks Sabir! A sweater brush is a great idea. I suppose one could also have a small lint roller handy just in case. I know I’ve been caught without one before 😀

  11. Chris
    July 6, 2014 at 1:15 AM #

    where can I find the belted cardigan at?

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