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There aren’t many times of year I love more than the cold, crisp start of winter. Sure, it came a little late this year, leaving my winter layers in the closet for longer than expected.

But now that the temperature has dropped a few degrees, it’s time to break out those cold-weather style essentials.

V-neck and crewneck sweaters are great for layering, but if you want a piece with a more rugged edge, look no further than the shawl collar cardigan.

It’s versatility is it’s greatest asset. It can evoke a classic outdoorsman style, or it can be a bit dressier—you can’t go wrong.

It’s also been a men’s style staple for decades, and it’s seen a resurgence as of late thanks to modern-day style heroes like Daniel Craig—both on-screen and off-screen.

And certain brands are doing it better than ever. In combining great texture, modern fit, and a great price, the Bonobos Italian Wool shawl collar cardigan nails it across the board, successfully combining a chunky knit and a slim fit.

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Brands like Old Navy are also refining the style in nice ways (especially in that burgundy color), but for my money, the heather grey of the Bonobos cardigan will get the most play in my wardrobe.

Now that you’ve seen some options that will work from the outdoors to the office, on to the next questions: How exactly do you take care of this thing, how should it fit, and what are some cardigan outfit ideas? Read on.

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Fit and Care

Although most shawl collar cardigans are a thicker wool-blend knit—like this J. Crew shawl collar cardigan — the knit shouldn’t compromise the fit you’re looking for.

Since the shawl cardigan can be layered under jackets or worn on its own, you should be looking for a piece with high armholes, trim sleeves (preferably with enough room to accommodate an Oxford cloth button down) and a fit that hits just below your belt line.

While mixing up silhouettes and layering is certainly a trend at the moment, wearing a long, droopy cardigan will always look sloppy. That is, in this writer’s humble opinion.

As far as care goes, washing wool-blend sweaters can sometimes get a bit tricky. Hand-washing and spot-cleaning is one ultra-safe option, while (as recommended by JackThreads) dry cleaning is a more expensive (and even safer) alternative.

Just don’t toss it into the dryer on high heat. That will cause shrinkage, and that’s one thing you don’t want from a cardigan.

Color

Color is also important to keep in mind when purchasing and washing—look for a versatile option like heather grey, and you can pair it with everything from shades of blue to burnt orange and beyond—and that will make for hassle-free dry cleaning or spot-cleaning.

Now that we’ve covered care and color, the temptation is to go crazy and throw a bunch of new gear in your cart. We’ve been there. These things are perfect to build combinations around.

Before you rush in though, take a look at these options below, find the things you already own, and start building from there.

1. Old Reliable

Five Ways To Wear a Shawl Collar Cardigan - How To Wear a Cardigan

The best—and perhaps easiest way—to wear a shawl collar cardigan is similar to how you wear a V-neck sweater. Pair it with an equally durable chambray shirt and some sturdy denim for a look that’s versatile and rugged.

It’s a combo that can be worn to the office on a casual day, it can be worn out and about when running errands, and—thanks to the sleek nature of the black boots—it’ll fare nicely for everything from a first date to a concert.

The Dr. Scholl’s boots in particular are perhaps the most unexpected part of this get-up—who knew they made men’s boots? But paired with pieces you already have on-hand, like a thick-stripe sock, blue denim and a sharp black watch, this outfit can go just about anywhere.

2. Rustic, Refined and Ready to Go

Five Ways To Wear a Shawl Collar Cardigan - How To Wear a Cardigan

Outfit number two mixes things up with a “high-low” look. The slim khaki chinos could be considered business-casual, while the faded indigo henley (also from JackThreads) and brown leather sneakers will take things into new territories, and both are also priced just right.

This is again a casual outfit that works in several situations—grabbing beers with buddies or watching a game doesn’t mean you can’t look put together.

The striped socks also add a nice shot of color without being too zany, and the blue dial of the watch plays nicely off the blue henley. This outfit is made for weekend coffee runs and beyond, and that’s a very good thing.

3. Fighting the Chill

Five Ways To Wear a Shawl Collar Cardigan - How To Wear a Cardigan

When you’re looking to change up your weekend or weekday layering, look to some unexpected color combos to do so. The heather grey of the cardigan grounds both the navy windowpane shirt and the dark green corduroys nicely, although this outfit could also work with some slim burgundy corduroys.

The brown Chelsea boots add a refined air to this outfit for a good price from Jack Erwin, although some sturdy winter boots could also fare nicely.  And in the instance that you just want to rock the cardigan on its own, dependable leather gloves, sturdy socks and a solid merino watch cap all serve to keep you warm and stylish.

4. Wearable and Winter-Ready

Five Ways To Wear a Shawl Collar Cardigan - How To Wear a Cardigan

Where the above outfits have skewed more rugged and less refined, the shawl collar cardigan can certainly be dressy too, as long as it’s paired with like-minded staples.

The white dress shirt is crisp and thanks to the slightly wider collar, it stands up to the thick knit of the sweater. The tan patterned tie is also a change of pace from a solid knit tie, although that would also work.

Bonobos is famed for the fit of its chinos, and their ongoing expansion into everyday office staples is also welcome – in a seasonal fabric, those navy wool trousers are going to work just fine.

Brown leather boots or wingtips could certainly work here, but black and navy is a slightly underrated style pairing that adds some serious sharpness to an outfit, particularly with simple dress socks and a clean watch.

5. Double The Layers, Double The Warmth

Five Ways To Wear a Shawl Collar Cardigan - How To Wear a Cardigan

When it’s just too cold to wear a shirt and cardigan, but you don’t want to lug around a jacket, layer up with some reliable style staples. A garment-dyed jersey henley in a classic white color is a foolproof pairing underneath a shawl cardigan, and the chambray shirt adds some extra edge.

The Todd Shelton natural chambray shirt is definitely worth it, because the fit is on-point, and it can even be customized.

The khaki chinos mix things up yet again as an alternative to sturdy raw denim, and they’re a nice high-low style combo with moc toe boots (that Color #8 leather is beautiful). Top off this outfit with some more Daniel Craig-inspired style that’ll also keep you warm – this look is ready-made for a night at a speakeasy or an on-foot bar crawl, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Wrapping up!

Although a shawl collar cardigan naturally leans more rugged than a lightweight merino cardigan without a shawl collar, it’s a natural style pairing for tons of versatile pieces that you probably already have in your closet.

And when combined with rugged and unexpected combos and colors (like navy and deep green), it can really stand out in the right ways. It’s got added functionality and a silhouette that’s proven pretty timeless, too.

Don’t let the low price fool you – speaking from personal experience, this JackThreads cardigan is solid, sturdy and stylish. Try a few of these combinations out and see how they work for you. With so many options, it’s hard to go wrong.

Tell Us: How do YOU wear your shawl cardigan?

Can’t wait to hear from you in the comments below.

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