For the love of cardigans

Why do we love cardigans? Where do we start? Straight off the bat, they are great layering pieces for this time of year because you can wear them buttoned or zipped up on cold days, or loose and breezy on warmer ones. But moreover they slide into just about any and every genre of menswear you can think of. Prefer your style minimalistic - there's a black cardigan for that. Or more into a workwear aesthetic? Have you met our chunky zip-through styles? Or maybe you're after something preppy but not obviously so? How about a sportswear-inspired cardy?

ARAN CARDIGAN IRVINE NAVY/MULTI

ARAN CARDIGAN
IRVINE NAVY/MULTI

ARAN CARDIGAN IRVINE CHARCOAL/MULTI

ARAN CARDIGAN
IRVINE CHARCOAL/MULTI

Our Aran style being the most preppy of the collection, woven in an extrafine wool with a colour-panelled back in the season's tones. Channelling late '70s collegiate style, it comes in two colours - charcoal and navy - and looks great worn over a casual shirt with fishtail trousers for an Ivy League look.

Its versatility is evidenced by just how broadly it has been appropriated down the years. The cardigan has been passed between many different cultures and sub-cultures, each weaving into the cardigan's fabric their own aesthetic quirks and preferences. These days, it's the turn of luxury streetwear and loungewear to adopt the cardigan, the latter crafting it in soft jersey fabrics in favour of woollen yarns, making it an altogether more casual, sportswear-influenced piece.

Steve McQueen shot by William Claxton

We can look back at the many incarnations of the cardigan and see the upside in all of them, from the Ivy League preppy standard of the early 20th century, to the grungy, angst-ridden styles of the early 90s, each very different but each very cool in their own distinct way. There's the leather-buttoned shawl collar style that Steve McQueen worn when photographer William Claxton documented his road trip up the Californian coast to Carmel. Then there's the grungy olive green number that Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain wore when performing a live set for MTV’s Unplugged in late 1993. It sold in auction in 2015 for $140,800, then again in 2019 for $334,000 - not a bad return for a cardigan constructed from “a blend of acrylic, mohair and Lycra with five-button closure (one button missing), with two exterior pockets, a burn hole and discolouration near left pocket and discolouration on right pocket.” (It has also never been washed.)

ZIP THROUGH CARDIGAN INGRAM BLACK MULTI

ZIP THROUGH CARDIGAN
INGRAM BLACK MULTI

ZIP THROUGH CARDIGAN INGRAM RED MULTI

ZIP THROUGH CARDIGAN
INGRAM RED MULTI

This season at Oliver Spencer, we've adopted a little something from many different cardigan aesthetics to create a number of contemporary styles that fuse comfort with classic style in a discernibly modern way. We've kept our Ingram zip-through styles chunky for use throughout the winter as outerwear in their own right, or equally as a cosy knit to hunker down at home in. They comes in two colours - red or black - and feature tonal and contrast colour-blocking.

The Kenmore cardigan is a new edition to the collection, inspired by the loungewear/sportswear aesthetic that so many of us have incorporated into our wardrobes over the last 18 months. We've cut it almost in a trucker jacket silhouette, so it's slightly more cropped than a classic cardigan and features a defined foldover collar. But because it's constructed from super soft organic cotton jersey, it feels and functions more like a traditional loopback sweatshirt.

TILSON CARDIGAN CAREW NAVY

TILSON CARDIGAN
CAREW NAVY

TILSON CARDIGAN CAREW TURQUOISE

TILSON CARDIGAN
CAREW TURQUOISE

TILSON CARDIGAN CAREW BEIGE

TILSON CARDIGAN
CAREW BEIGE

Our Tilson cardigan is woven in a lighter gauge wool, making for easier layering. It takes it cue from a vintage Ivy League aesthetic thanks to the classic fold-down collar. We’ve woven it in extrafine wool too for a really soft handle. It's perfect with any of our trouser styles or denim, or even lounging around the house in with jogging pants.

 

The cardigan through time

As with a great deal of modern menswear, the genesis of much of it comes from a military heritage, and the cardigan is no different. History points at one man, a pompous, egotistical, and arrogant piece of work by the name of James Thomas Brudenell, the seventh Earl of Cardigan. A lieutenant general in the British army, he was purported to be wealthy, seductive man overly concerned with his public image. Some evidence suggests he spent £10,000 a year outfitting his regiment in new uniforms. But about that ego - in 1854, at the ripe age of 57, Cardigan led the imfamous Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War. It was a monumental disaster, but one that anyone with an ounce of self-awareness would have swerved in the first place. 

Cardigan, like many others stationed in the cold vestiges of Crimea, wore a knitted, wool waistcoat into battle. By some stroke of luck, he managed to ride out as far Russian enemy lines before realising he had massively underestimated the task at hand, and abruptly reversed course. He returned to London ahead of his troops and, before the truth of his back-pedalling was revealed, he enjoyed a hero’s welcome. While his stint of fame didn't last too long, the popularity of his knitted cardigan skyrocketed, quickly becoming a utilitarian staple in the wardrobes of the rich and poor alike. 

It wasn't until the 1920s that the cardigan became popular once again, with Ivy League types incorporating it into their wardrobes right through to the 1950s, when it reached peak-preppiness. At the same time, Coco Chanel was instilling her own cropped twin-set version into the hearts, minds and closets of women all over the world. 

KENMORE JERSEY CARDIGAN HARRIS TEAL GREEN

KENMORE JERSEY CARDIGAN
HARRIS TEAL GREEN

KENMORE JERSEY CARDIGAN HARRIS WASHED BLACK

KENMORE JERSEY CARDIGAN
HARRIS WASHED BLACK

 

KENMORE JERSEY CARDIGAN HARRIS OATMEAL

KENMORE JERSEY
CARDIGAN HARRIS OATMEAL

 

Today, you can find all manner of cardigan styles to suit your personal taste. It's a brilliant garment, especially in the winter when you are moving from cold outdoor climates into warm indoor ones, where a quick button-up/down can help you acclimatise that much quicker. Style-wise, the chunkier versions make for great outerwear pieces on days when the rain relents, whereas the fine knits are perfect for layering over a shirt and under a jacket. 

 

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published