Best men’s knitwear for winter 2021: Jumpers, cardigans and more

·10-min read
 (Harley of Scotland)
(Harley of Scotland)

“Brrrrr!” you exclaim as you button up your pitifully threadbare cardigan and wonder yet again why you haven’t invested in a swanky new piece of knitwear for the frosty months ahead.

Yes, it’s that time of year when it dawns on most rational people that a handsome woolly jumper is one of the most wondrous achievements of the human race. Equally wonderful is that each year, as the frigid winds begin to blow in, so too does a vast flock of highly covetable sweaters and cardigans. And you’re truly spoilt for choice this season. There’s anything and everything, from luxurious classics with a twist by Inis Meáin and Johnstons of Elgin, to dazzling urban party pieces by edgy London labels Charles Jeffrey Loverboy and Wales Bonner.

Before you reach for your credit card, a few words of demystification for those confused by knitwear textiles and yarns. While natural fibres such as wool are generally softer, warmer, more durable, eco-friendly and hypoallergenic, don’t discount synthetic materials. Man-made fibres such as acrylic can be added to wool to make it more durable, help it keep its shape and even make it softer sometimes.

If you want the pinnacle of strokeable softness, break the bank with cashmere, although you’ll be visiting the dry cleaner more often if you want to look after it properly. Merino wool tends to be softer than lambswool, but this can depend on the quality of the yarn used. Meanwhile, for those with very sensitive skin, mohair might be a little prickly.

Wherever your winter mood might take you, these are the tried-and-tested 13 best pieces of knitwear you should invest in this season.

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Oliver Spencer Talbot roll-neck jumper in Ferne Black

Best for: The only black roll-neck jumper you need this winter

If you don’t own a chunky roll-neck, you are simply not living. Class! Warmth! Functionality! Jazz! London Fashion Week regular Oliver Spencer’s Talbot midweight jumper has it all. Woven from 100 per cent extrafine wool, this is almost the perfect boring black roll-neck, but it’s the contemporary little touches that make you want to pull this on again and again. Check out those cheeky rust-brown stripes on the cuffs.

Ooh look, there are little thumb holes in the cuffs too ‑ even cheekier. And then there’s the contrasting cable-knit panel across one half of the chest. Pop this under a jacket or blazer when you mean business, or pair with almost any style of trousers for playtime. It feels like it will last you comfortably through a fair few winters too.

Buy now £195.00, Oliver Spencer

Scotch & Soda chunky multicolour rib-knit sweater

Best for: The go bold, but not too bold, jumper

Looking to underline your style cred but not scream it out like a desperate wannabe? Then this subtly cool creation could be your best winter friend. Woven with wisps of hazy neon colours, it’s an understated crowd-pleaser. We took it to one of our favourite bars and were treated to a steady stream admiring remarks all night long.

A sturdy blend of wool and acrylic, it’s definitely not quite as soft to the touch as some of the other knitwear here, but it feels great on. In fact, its feel-good factor is so addictive you might find yourself spending most of the next few months in this beauty.

Buy now £155.00, Scotch & Soda

PS Paul Smith multi ombré stripe mohair-blend sweater

Best for: The happiest jumper on the block

The grey days and dark nights can exact a toll on our joy and spirits. Thankfully, that bastion of British menswear Paul Smith has just the jumper to blow the blues away. It would be a hard man who didn’t cheer up just a little in this playful set of ombré stripes. Made from a lightweight blend with plenty of soft mohair, this sweater’s fuzzy feeling is both literal and emotional. Among all the testers, each and every one of us stood there palming the sleeves and smiling. You’ll be hard pushed to find more fun, fluffiness and downright fabulosity in a piece of knitwear this season.

Buy now £200.00, Paul Smith

Johnstons of Elgin Aran integral neck cashmere jumper

Best for: The ultimate winter knit

Way up in Scotland they know a thing or two about crafting top-notch, super-warm knits ‑ well, you’re not going to take a January amble through the Cairngorms in any old thing, are you? And there’s no better place to begin than Johnstons of Elgin, who has been making incredibly good clothing ‑ all with natural, renewable, biodegradable fibres ‑ since 1797. That’s somewhat ahead of the curve on sustainability.

But what make this the “ultimate” jumper, you ask? For starters, it’s 100 per cent cashmere in a Donegal-style yarn ‑ that means you get gorgeously contrasting flecks of colour. And we mean , textural, fine cashmere in a heavy enough knit to keep you perfectly toasty. This, make no mistake, is a supremely strokeable piece of clothing. Pop it on and prepare to feel like the most cosy, lucky Highlander that ever lived.

Buy now £575.00, Johnstons of Elgin

Uniqlo 100% cashmere turtleneck jumper

Best for: The affordable cashmere one

We say if you want a decent luxury cashmere pullover for less than £100, Uniqlo is your first port of call, where as in other stores, you’d be fortunate to find a cashmere beanie for this price. Yes, you can get finer cashmere if you have deep pockets, but this is still as smooth as you like.

It comes with a generously large turtleneck and is astoundingly well-fitting. If you don’t like the rather suave camel brown hue we’ve selected, go for a banging red or a whole host of other colours. Or push the affordable boat out, buy two and that’s you sorted for the next year or more.

Buy now £89.90, Uniqlo

Wales Bonner George zipped cardigan

Best for: The one that says ‘urban trailblazer’

If south Londoner Grace Wales Bonner isn’t on your radar, shame on you. Besides being on the latest Powerlist of most influential black Britons, she’s also one of the young designers Anna Wintour is most excited about, no less. And this natty cardi is the epitome of Wales Bonner’s Afro-influenced sportswear aesthetic. Knitted from superfine merino wool with just a touch of Spandex to give it a sporty spring, this is what we call highly elevated streetwear. It could also be your ticket to fashion credibility.

Buy now £395.00, MatchesFashion

Inis Meáin reverse carpenter’s jacket

Best for: The traditional reboot

And now for something rather different, uniquely traditional, and surprisingly modern. And hailing from somewhere incredibly remote: the Aran Islands off the wild west coast of Ireland. Inis Meáin already had a jacket based on one worn by one of the island’s carpenters: a “chore coat”, as it was known, but this is no lowly piece of knitwear.

This year they’ve reinvented it in reverse, which means you get the fat, intricate seams on the outside, making it look fantastically rustic and cool at the same time. Woven with a reassuringly heavy, tight mix of cashmere and merino wool, it’s also exceeding luxurious and warm. On top of that we love the extra little details like flecks of red and yellow in the wool and the buffalo horn buttons. If we dare say so, this might just edge out the others here as our favourite.

Buy now £408.00, Inis Meáin

Harley of Scotland Nordic and Shetland jumpers

Best for: The Shetland and Fairisle ones

They say Nordic, we say Fairisle... whatever you call them, Harley of Scotland produces cracking sweaters. And the Aberdeenshire family business has been doing so since the great grandfather of the current owners began knitting fishermen’s socks almost a century ago. Besides being beautifully traditional, 100 per cent natural and properly warm, what sets Harley apart is that its knits are seamless, meaning a smooth, flattering shape and zero-waste to boot.

We adore this Nordic number ‑ get it a size too big and wrap yourself up in a cuddly woolly wonderland. If you cringe at Christmas jumper season, this is one you’ll actually love for the whole winter. And if you’re after a brilliant workhorse of a sweater at an even more reasonable price, the mossy green Shetland piece with tiny golden flecks will see you right.

Nordic sweater, £120

Seamless Shetland in Pineshadow, £76.50

Buy now £120.00, Bosie

Scotch & Soda cable-knit sweater

Best for: The cool cable guy one

Another go-anywhere gem from Scotch & Soda, which has dozens upon dozens of eclectic knitwear styles this season. Apart from the on-trend golden-green yarn, we love the collision of different cable knit styles on this. The buttoned mock neck also adds an extra nod to individuality. Made from a stretchy, lightweight wool, alpaca and synthetic mix, you’ll be able to slouch from home to office to pub in this without overheating yourself. Handy for those who like to keep their knit on all day.

Buy now £195.00, Scotch & Soda

Charles Jeffrey Loverboy Homefront ombré-knit cardigan

Best for: The party-perfect cardigan

If you’re familiar with the blast-of-colour-in-your-face clubber aesthetic of Charles Jeffrey, you’ll know that this is really quite subdued for the Glaswegian designer. It’s from the Gloom collection, but will cheer up any party this coming season. Not that you’d ever be going to a dull affair if you had this kind of fashion taste. Knitted with mohair, merino and nylon in a relaxed fit, it’s a fuzzy slice of cutting-edge fun.

Buy now £385.00, MatchesFashion

Connolly Fairisle drop back car vest

Best for: The one that takes the layering cake

What the fiddles is a “drop back car vest”? you’re thinking. Well, Connolly’s 143-year history is tied up with the automobile industry. It produced the leather that graced the seats of Rolls-Royces, Bentleys and Aston Martins. It also upholstered the famous seats in the House of Commons and even the Queen’s Coronation coach. Basically, it’s a classic British brand. Then at the turn of the millennium Connolly branched out into luxury clothing and they are on to a winner with this gilet. Knitted in 100 per cent Loden wool, which is much denser than normal wool, this can be layered with a trad Brit look or mixed up with something a little edgier. Oh, the “drop back”? We think you can tuck it under your bottom while driving your convertible to keep you a little warmer. Other answers on a postcard please.

Buy now £300.00, Connolly

Mr P space-dyed wool-blend sweater

Best for: The 21st-century modern luxe one

It might be the online emporium with more Tom Ford, Prada and Rick Owens than you can throw a Gucci belt at, but Mr Porter has another trick up its sleeve: its own luxury label, Mr P. And it’s really rather lovely. This rusty-hued, two-tone sweater is our pick of the knitwear.

Spun with a plump, squashy wool blend, this is another one than feels highly pleasing against the skin. It also has a canny digital innovation: scan the QR code on the label and you can learn more about the piece’s provenance. Wherever it came from, we’re taking it all over town this winter.

Buy now £230.00, Mr Porter

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