While the best time to buy a sweater may be the end of the holiday season — when many styles are on sale — sometimes you find yourself heading into fall in need of a new sweater or two to keep you warm throughout the season. So if you’re shopping for sweaters, we’ve found some of the best ones for fall. Read on to see our top picks, and to gain a few tips on the best way to shop for and wear your sweaters this season.
The shallow V-neck
An easy place to start, when beginning the search for a fall sweater, is the shallow V-neck. It’s a versatile cut, whether in lambswool or cashmere, and can be worn with a button-front shirt, with or without a tie, with or without a sportcoat, etc. A well-cut V-neck sweater offers an easy way to add some extra texture and warmth to your usual ensemble.
The first order of business when sweater-shopping is to determine your budget. A high-quality sweater numbers among the pieces worth investing in if you’re looking to build a classic wardrobe, and it’s important to figure out exactly how much you’re willing to spend on a sweater. Determining a budget will help you figure out what to look for in your chosen price range, and much of that comes down to what material your new sweater is going to be made of.
On a limited budget, the best sweaters to look for are those made of lambswool, merino wool, or Shetland wool. Lambswool and Shetland wool will generally be more hard-wearing than merino wool, which is a better option for dressier occasions. Ralph Lauren’s merino wool V-neck is a worthy basic, and will layer well over or under many pieces already in your wardrobe. A more expensive merino wool model is from John Smedley, a respected name in the sweater business, offered in both a light gray and a darker gray, black, or navy blue.
If you have more to spend, in the range of several hundred dollars, consider cashmere, like this investment-worthy V-neck from Brooks Brothers. Cashmere is available at lower price points, but a cheap cashmere sweater will usually be deficient in fiber quality or construction. When considering a cashmere sweater at the store, rub the material between your fingers. If your hand comes away with a greasy residue, that’s an indication that it’s poor-quality cashmere coated in an emulsion to make it feel softer. Steer clear of such sweaters, as well as sweaters that combine natural fibers with synthetic fibers, like nylon or acrylic.
The crewneck sweater
Another versatile style is the crewneck sweater. This style, like the shallow V-neck, pairs well with a button-down shirt, though less of it will be visible under a crewneck than under a V-neck. Since the crewneck sweater is one of the most common options, you’ll have a wide range of choices, and you can be particularly choosy about the quality you’re getting and your chosen price point.
Regardless of budget, it’s important to do your best to get the best quality you can at your price point. It can be difficult to tell how well a sweater is made when you’re in the store or shopping online, but you should always look for a tightly knitted sweater. You should also gauge the collar and cuffs for their elasticity, and try to determine whether you think the sweater will lose its shape over time. If you habitually push your sleeves up, for instance, you’ll need to pay special attention to choosing a sweater that won’t stretch out excessively over time.
If you want a versatile piece for layering but don’t want to break the bank trying to stay warm this autumn, consider a merino wool crewneck from Ralph Lauren. For those willing to spend a little more, rag & bone’s waffle-knit merino wool crewneck is a solid choice. If you want to try a material that’s different from wool or cashmere, consider Handvaerk’s alpaca and silk crewneck or A.P.C.’s wool, silk, and alpaca blend sweater. A great option at the high end of the price range is a simple cashmere crewneck from Brooks Brothers.
Though most guys will choose a variety of wool or cashmere for their favorite fall sweater, for the reasons we outlined above, another way to go if you’re concerned about your budget is a cotton sweater. While it won’t be as warm as a wool or cashmere sweater, and may need to be laundered more often, the cotton sweater can be a good choice for guys looking for a light layer, particularly in the less-than-frigid autumns experienced in more temperate states. If that sounds like the right choice for you, consider a cotton crewneck like NN. 07’s seed stitch sweater in blue or in green. Another good cotton option is Club Monaco’s split-stitch sweater or Gant Rugger’s cable-knit sweater.
The shawl collar cardigan
Particularly popular among devotees of traditional style, the shawl collar sweater is one of the best sweaters for autumn. The line of the collar was originally designed for garments worn for leisure, and the shawl collar cardigan, appropriately, is just as charming worn with a tee and a slim pair of jeans on a weekend morning as it is paired with a button-down shirt and a pair of slacks or chinos.
Nowhere is the wide range of sweater price and quality more evident than with the shawl collar cardigan. You could easily spend hundreds of dollars, even close to a thousand, on a shawl collar cardigan, or you can find them at popular retailers for only a fraction of the price. The options bearing less painful price tags range from the budget-friendly, pure lambswool version from Brooks Brothers to a pricier cotton and linen blend from Club Monaco.
A style with a higher price tag is Ralph Lauren’s wool-cashmere, cabled shawl-collar cardigan. And if you’re prepared to spend a lot to get the perfect cardigan — one that will look just as good with a navy sportcoat as with a twill button-front and a pair of chinos — consider an eye-catching red version, made of lambswool and cotton, from Ralph Lauren’s RRL. (A similar sweater is also offered in a washed blue, which is ideal for guys who prefer indigo in both casual and dressed-up ensembles.) As always, decide on and stick to a budget, and consider carefully the quality of the offerings that your wallet can handle.
The shawl collar cardigan is a classic and easy-to-wear style that will look good on every guy, while offering a stylish way to keep warm on chilly mornings and cold afternoons. But if you’d like a cardigan, and just aren’t sure that the shawl collar suits you, you can also find a cardigan without the shawl collar. Consider a classic V-neck cardigan, like this stylish but budget-friendly option from Brooks Brothers’ Red Fleece line, or the pricier merino wool cardigan from PS by Paul Smith.
The turtleneck sweater
The turtleneck sweater is another classic style you should consider — even if it’s a bolder style choice than some of the other options. While the turtleneck is more difficult for the average guy to pull off than, say, a regular crewneck, paying attention to proportions can help you nail it.
Look for one in a slim, sleek cut and preferably, in a dark color, to find a sweater that’s evocative of style icons like Steve McQueen, who was often photographed wearing a dark turtleneck sweater under a sportcoat or paired with a good pair of trousers. A good place to start when shopping for a turtleneck sweater is this slim-fitting style from Ralph Lauren, which is offered in navy or dark grey. Another excellent option is John Smedley’s rollneck merino sweater in dark grey, light grey, and black.
This brings us to the consideration of color. With a turtleneck or with any other style of sweater, choosing the color that makes the most sense for your wardrobe is crucial, especially because a sweater is both a basic, meant to be paired with a wide range of other pieces of clothing, and investment piece, which you’ll want to wear often to make the investment worth the cost.
Classic colors like navy blue and gray are almost always a good choice. They’ll pair well with trousers in multiple colors and provide some contrast against the tweedy blazers that many guys tend to wear when the leaves start turning colors and the weather begins turning cold. Brown, burgundy, and ecru are also classic choices that can pair well with the colors in most classic wardrobes. Alternatively, consider a classic red or a vivid green if it will coordinate well with the colors of your favorite pieces of outerwear. It’s important to consider the color of your favorite blazers and outerwear when picking a sweater, as you’ll usually want the sweater to provide some contrast.