How To Wear A Men’s Shawl Cardigan: 5 Outfit Ideas

by Team EG  |  in Style Tips

Have you seen our other popular Five Ways To Wear One articles?

The shawl cardigan is a great addition to any man’s smart, sharp, casual wardrobe. Here, we’re gonna show you five different outfits to try out, so you have plenty of options next time you’re stuck and unsure how to wear it.

There aren’t many times of year I love more than the cold, crisp start of winter. 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 something with a more rugged edge, look no further than the shawl cardigan.

Its versatility is its greatest asset. The shawl cardigan can evoke a classic outdoorsman style, or it can be a bit dressier—you really can’t go wrong.

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

Before we get into the outfits, let’s start with the obvious: Which shawl cardigan should you buy?


Men’s Shawl Cardigan Options

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Our Pick: Spier & Mackay Chunky Cardigan

Spier & Mackay is an awesome menswear line based in Canada. They make all the classic men’s wardrobe staples at surprisingly wallet-friendly prices.

Check out the article I published on Spier & Mackay suiting here.

Their focus on fit, materials, and construction quality (especially considering the prices) are incomparable. They’re the first store I look to when I need anything in the smart casual to formal realm.

Spier & Mackay Shawl Cardigan

This chunky cardigan is made from soft Australian merino wool featuring a beefy double shawl collar and rib knit weave. The result is a cozy yet elegant look that exudes Steve McQueen cool.

Shop Spier & Mackay

We’ll be referring to this sweater in all the outfits below, but know that the other cardigans I list here are awesome alternatives if something else strikes your fancy.

L.L.Bean Ragg Wool Cardigan

Here’s a great option from L.L.Bean. This 100% lambswool shawl cardigan has a standard plain stitch, and the mid-weight knit is warm without the excess bulk and weight.

grey cardigan sweater mens llbean
L.L.Bean Ragg Wool Shawl Cardigan

This 100% lambswool shawl cardigan has a standard plain stitch, and the mid-weight knit is warm without the excess bulk and weight.

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L.L.Bean is an easy choice when you’re looking for tried-and-true menswear. More traditional in fit, yes, but for some stuff (like chunky cardigans) that’s a good thing.

J.Crew Merino Wool Shawl Cardigan

J.Crew has a pretty good merino wool shawl cardigan. It’s classically styled with a shawl collar, button placket, and patch pockets.

The cloth is a slightly heftier wool / nylon blend that’s soft yet drapes nicely. I prefer more substantial shawl cardigans over the thin, slinky versions (ew).

tan sweater jcrew mens shawl cardigan
J.Crew Merino Wool Shawl Cardigan

A classically styled shawl cardigan. The merino wool cloth is a slightly heftier wool / nylon blend that's soft yet drapes nicely.

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Most things I’ve owned from J.Crew have lasted a long time, so if you take care of the garment (e.g. not washing and drying on high), you should be good.

And because it’s J.Crew, you can probably find a 70% off coupon somewhere. In fact it’s probably advertised right on the product page.

Dehen Shawl Sweater Coat

Dehen 1920 is a family company making heavyweight apparel out of their factory and studio in Portland, Oregon. I first discovered them at the American Field pop-up in Brooklyn last year.

I tried on a few wool shackets and an incredible leather baseball jacket. Everything I touched was awesome. I wanted to buy it all 😅

olive green cardigan sweater jacket dehen
Dehen 1920 Shawl Sweater Coat 2.0

Dehen 1920's shawl sweater coat 2.0 is made in the USA (Portland, Oregon) from a heavyweight 100% wool fabric, and features a substantial shawl collar, foldback cuffs, and waxed canvas elbow patches, among many other small, delightful details.

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Their shawl sweater coat (2.0 version) is made from a heavyweight 100% wool fabric, and features a substantial shawl collar, foldback cuffs, and waxed canvas elbow patches, among many other small, delightful details.

If you’re looking for a more rugged shawl cardigan with a slight workwear aesthetic, Dehen’s version is the way to go.

L.L.Bean Signature Cotton Fisherman Shawl Collar Cardigan

I have this same fisherman sweater, but in a caramel-colored crewneck version instead of the shawl cardigan style you see here. Really substantial cloth—almost too heavy, to be honest.

Thick cotton sweaters tend to be dense and the material can sometimes stretch out and require a wash and dry to get it back to normal. Something to keep in mind. But I still like this sweater and give it a pass.

the ll bean navy fisherman sweater mens shawl cardigan
L.L.Bean Signature Cotton Fisherman Shawl Collar Cardigan

"We've chosen all-cotton yarns for our classic shawl-collar cable cardigan to create the ultimate four-season sweater. The design is vintage inspired, but we've updated it with a slimmer, more modern fit." –L.L.Bean

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The product page suggests improvements have been made to the cloth, so newer models may be less dense and heavy. I’m also into the fisherman-style weave. It’s a classic rugged style with grandpa vibes, but obviously can be worn in a cool way (otherwise we wouldn’t be suggesting it here on EG, cmon)

Wills Cashmere Shawl Cardigan

This cardigan seems to hit all the right notes: chunky knit, wide shawl collar, made with a 70/30 wool cashmere blend, substantial without being too heavy. I also just like the way it drapes: slightly roomy with a more relaxed fit, yet not so relaxed that it looks sloppy.

charcoal cardigan sweater wills men cashmere wool

I prefer my mid-layers to be a bit looser to accommodate for the layers underneath. You can wear this with just a T-shirt and underneath a parka (if it happens to be really cold out).

OK, so 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.

Shawl Cardigan Colors, Fit, And Care

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What are the best colors to wear?

As with most clothes in your wardrobe, finding a versatile color is important if you want to maximize usage.

Medium grey is a solid option, and you can pair it with everything, from menswear neutrals, to burnt orange and burgundy (fall / winter colors).

If you already have a medium grey cardigan but want more options, I suggest other menswear neutral colors: navy, charcoal, olive, tan. Many of the suggested cardigans above come in these colors.

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How your shawl cardigan should fit

Although most shawl collar cardigans are a thicker wool-blend knit—like this one from Wills on Huckberry or the Spier & Mackay chunky 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 relatively high armholes, trim sleeves (but preferably with enough room to accommodate an Oxford cloth button down) and a fit that hits just at or below your belt line.

At the same time, a boxier, oversized cardigan is OK as well. It just depends on how you plan on wearing it. Layering a boxy shawl cardigan underneath a coat may prove difficult or uncomfortable… maybe.

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

How to take care of your shawl cardigan

Washing wool-blend sweaters can sometimes get a bit tricky. Hand-washing and spot-cleaning is one ultra-safe option. Dry cleaning is more expensive and time-consuming, but also a safe alternative.

Whatever you do, don’t toss it into the dryer on high heat. That will cause major shrinkage and can even change the fabric’s hand feel. You don’t want a crunchy, rough, ill-fitting cardigan, so…

Shawl collar cardigan outfit ideas

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Now that we’ve covered everything you need to know about shawl cardigans, from what to buy, how they should fit, and how to care for them… why don’t we get into the actual outfits?

Remember, the chunky shawl cardigan from Spier & Mackay is the example we’re referring to below, but really, you can swap in any of the cardigans we suggest above.

Spier & Mackay Shawl Cardigan

This chunky cardigan is made from soft Australian merino wool featuring a beefy double shawl collar and rib knit weave. The result is a cozy yet elegant look that exudes Steve McQueen cool.

Shop Spier & Mackay

Cardigan Outfit #1: Old Reliable

mens shawl cardigan outfit ideas - outfit 1


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 black work boots in particular are perhaps the most unexpected part of this get-up—it’s all about the mixing of different aesthetics. In this case, rugged with a bit of refined.

A solid pair of work boots, 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.

Cardigan Outfit #2. Rustic, Refined and Ready to Go

shawl collar cardigan outfit ideas for men - outfit 2


Outfit number two mixes things up with a “high-low” look. The slim khaki chinos could be considered business-casual, while the burgundy 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 contrasting black dial with tan leather band plays nicely off the burgundy henley. This outfit is made for weekend coffee runs and beyond, and that’s a very good thing.

Cardigan Outfit #3. Fighting the Chill

mens shawl cardigan outfit ideas - outfit 3


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, 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.

Cardigan Outfit #4. Wearable and Winter-Ready

shawl cardigan outfit ideas for men - outfit 4


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.

Cardigan Outfit #5. Double The Layers, Double The Warmth

men's shawl collar cardigan outfit ideas - outfit 5


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. An off-white waffle henley is a foolproof pairing underneath the chambray shirt, with the shawl collar cardigan being your outermost layer.

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 slightly reddish brown 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.

Which Shawl Cardigan Outfit is your favorite?

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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.

Try a few of these combinations out and see how they work for you. With so many options, it’s hard to go wrong.

Let us know! If you have any questions or comments, hit me up on Twitter. You can also find join other readers on Effortless Gent’s Facebook page, or DM me on Instagram!