Five Ways to Wear One: The V-Neck Sweater

by Beau Hayhoe  |  in Smart Casual

When temperatures start to drop in the fall and winter months (at least for those of us who live in cooler climes), there are certain essentials every guy should reach for.

With cold weather outside (and potentially warmer weather inside an office building or similar work location), layering is definitely key.

There are few pieces that strike the right, classic balance between functional, easy-to-layer, and stylish quite like the V-neck sweater. Available in a plethora of colors, it can quickly become a piece that sees heavy rotation as part of a personal uniform.

Which Fabric?

With sweaters, there are many, many types of fabric out there, possibly making it confusing as to what you should pick up.

Cashmere is by far the priciest and perhaps most delicate of all, but provides great quality and soft texture. Cotton-cashmere blends are decidedly less pricey. Merino would seem to strike a nice balance between the two–not too expensive, not too delicate, and available in slim fits from stores such as J.Crew and Express.

How About Fit and Care?

bondSkyfallFit and care of sweaters is probably even more important than with a regular article of clothing.

With sweaters available in trimmer fits across the board, it’s always a good idea to reduce any extra fabric that could be hanging around baggier models of V-necks.

For example, looking for a sweater with high (but not too restricting) armholes can slim down fabric through the body and arms. If necessary, size down! A great template for how a V-neck sweater should fit can be seen on Daniel Craig to the right.

Care itself can be complicated, too. Some sweaters are safe to machine-wash, whereas others (like that expensive cashmere option mentioned above), are only suited for hand washing or dry-cleaning.

Some merino sweaters are generally safe to throw in a lighter load with like colors. As always, the care label itself could provide the most accurate instructions. Most prefer to hang-dry their sweaters in order to reduce wear and tear on the fabric through heat. This also reduces shrinkage of the sweater itself.

(Ed. note: Care of knitwear is highly debated, and you will find a plethora of different recommendations. Personally, I prefer to hand-wash my wool sweaters, as I’ve read that it’s the agitation that causes shrinking and damage. I also lay-dry my knits in order to avoid shrinking in the dryer or stretching from a hang-dry.)

V-neck sweaters stand out as much for their classic looks as their versatility. By starting with a neutral base, other colors can be rotated in and out of select looks. Check out the outfit pairings below:

1. The Everyday, Cold-weather Uniform


Starting off with an outfit like this is about as plain and simple as it gets in the colder months of the year. The components of this outfit aren’t likely to go out of style any time soon; it’s a polished formula for success that could take you from class to work to the bar in relatively good shape.

Using a neutral white button-down actually provides a crisp anchor for the entire outfit–there’s just something about a white OCBD. Dark denim and desert boots also are style staples that many already have in their closets, but if you aren’t partial to the desert boot look, a sneaker with styling similar to a desert boot could provide just as much polish while throwing in a casual/sporty edge.

2. Cold Weather on the Go


When temperatures really start to drop, that V-neck sweater can still come in handy.

Let’s say you’re heading to a traditional outdoor fall event (bonfire, hay ride, football game — you name it). That V-neck sweater can go all those places while raising you a cut above the crowd. It’s the perfect layering piece for a classic wool pea coat.

Elsewhere within the outfit, keep things classic and simple. A blue OCBD is once again a step in that direction, but the neutrality of the sweater, shirt and jacket allow for some experimentation color-wise with your pants.

Burgundy is certainly a fall-appropriate, on-shade trend – maybe you could give it a whirl here. On your feet, wingtip boots have just enough visual interest to spice up the outfit a bit, although the JCPenney pair pictured have gotten mixed reviews.

3. Casual Day About Town


The biggest asset of this outfit is its functionality. Layers on layers. As a top item, a military jacket can present an interesting conundrum for some;  it’s definitely on-trend, as it shot upward in popularity again last year thanks to James Bond himself, but it’s also classic in that the basic principle has endured for a long time.

The white henley base also adds some contrast – it’s different than layering with a V-neck undershirt, yet the combination works well.

Another key with this outfit is using colors appropriately. There’s definitely the potential for too much overload in terms of similar shades of brown boots and cords, but a darker brown pair of corduroys would definitely work with a shade of brown boots. Corduroys in a slimmer fit would seem to be the best bet to keep the outfit’s lines clean.

4. Cold Weather Business Casual


Once again, the basic template for the outfit stays the same, but there are key variations elsewhere.

A blazer from a place like J. Crew is definitely a splurge, but well worth the price in terms of fit and versatility. It can feasibly work with everything from jeans to chinos, cords and suit trousers.

In my personal rotation, the English wool blazer has yet to see heavy wear, but will definitely get more and more spot duty as it gets colder. The fit falls right in line with the rest of their Ludlow offerings, as well. Dark denim provides a solid anchor moving down the outfit, while grey suede shoes are an excellent fall footwear choice.

Suede itself has a richer texture that pairs perfectly with fall colors and styles, and the brogue details on the Aston Grey shoe make it visually interesting, and yet extremely affordable.

5. Under A Suit


Throwing on a sweater under a suit is a move that could be daring to some, but it’s one that absolutely works when done the right way. This is the perfect situation to try and go tieless with a suit; adding in other casual elements like wingtip shoes helps push the outfit away from being too dressy.

A strong (or light) shade of purple would mesh nicely with the suit’s grey tones, and two differing shades of blue can actually work quite well together (in the shirt and sweater) if you go with a navy option. The jacket and pants on their own make a strong argument for owning a heavier-weight suit for the winter, but a winter-weight blazer could work just as well with suit trousers.

Even something as simple as a V-neck sweater can be mixed and matched a variety of different ways. With so many color and sizing options out there (as well as a variety of price points), finding the right fit for your style shouldn’t be too hard.

Taking risks to mix up conventional items (the sweater) with the unconventional (a military jacket and henley) helps to pave the way toward more distinctive style.

Small steps toward big upgrades definitely pay dividends, and using simple items like the V-neck is one way to get there.

Thanks Beau! Over to you: What are your thoughts about this piece in your wardrobe? Perfect as a layering piece? Or still not too sure?

If you’re all about the V-neck, what do you usually wear with it? Let’s hear it in the comments below.

PS: If you’re reading this in the US, have a great Thanksgiving holiday with your family and friends!