Choosing the Right Knitwear
Put your needles away, get comfy, and prepare to be guided softly through the warm, comforting world of knitwear with Percival’s comprehensive styling guide to men’s knitwear.
Knitwear isn’t just jumpers and cardigans. Of course it’s not. There are (deep breath): crewnecks, roll necks, fisherman’s jumpers, cardigans, V-necks, quarter zips, merino wool, cotton knits, knitted shirts, knitted polos, brushed wool, four-ply, twelve-gauge, 28-count, partridges, pear trees, makes you go all weak at the knees. Don’t worry, though. Relax. We’re here for you, and in ten minutes time, you’re going to know all you need to know to choose the right knitwear for you.
Knitted shirts are the hottest menswear item on Planet Earth right now, and we’re the fucking kings of knitted shirts. A knitted shirt is smart, it’s casual, it’s gonna keep you cool in the summer, it’s massively versatile, it provides texture, it’s a statement, and it’s taken men’s fashion by storm. Great for layering, class on its own, casual open, formal buttoned. If you’re uninitiated, fire up the old search engine and have a look at Ryan Reynolds, Andrew Garfield, and Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson looking a million pounds sterling in a variety of our knitted shirts, including the Adaman Breeze, Cabin Weave, and Casa Picante. That’s Deadpool, Spiderman, and The People’s Champ if ya smeeeellllllll… what Percival… is cookin’. Always wanted to do that.
Perfect for layering, but by all means go stand alone and buttoned for a more formal look. You could even go open with nothing underneath if you’re absolutely shredded and have psychotic levels of confidence. In terms of trousers – a knitted shirt goes with almost anything. A pair of linen shorts or trousers will give the fit a particularly summery feel.
SHOP KNITTED SHIRTS
There are a plethora of jumper styles for you to choose from – it all depends on your mood and your style. Are you more of a Pep Guardiola roll neck kind of guy? Smooth and calm outwardly, but fiery and intense on the inside.
Are you a Mikel Arteta crewneck guy? To the point, keeping it simple, not distracting from the overall fit.
Do you like to keep things classic with a proper chunky fisherman’s jumper? Sod the weather – your jumper will withstand all, and if you have to walk home with two-and-a-half stone of wool draped from your shoulders, so be it.
Do you prefer a thinner feel? (Durex had no idea they were going to be plagiarised in an article about knitwear today). A crewneck or a V-neck with a higher gauge is great for an office outfit, especially layered as part of a shirt and jacket combo but, be warned, that thin gauge will be less forgiving after a heavy night on the pale ales and the kebabs.
SHOP JUMPERS & SWEATERS
How to Style Knitwear
Some people will tell you knitwear can’t be layered. Those people are really daft. Take one of our infamous knitted polos, for example. We recommend styling open over a neutral tee, or buttoned as a base layer, with a smoother textured work shirt or a jacket with a boxy fit over the top.
A roll neck is a fantastic layering piece. Styled under a blazer as part of a suit, instead of the classic shirt and tie combo, gives a suave contemporary silhouette. Alternatively, pair with a deep V-neck vest or sweater (the V-neck as the outer layer) for smart casual perfection.
Cardigans are another superb men’s knitwear layering option. A versatile summer outer layer, or a winter midlayer winner under a jacket or coat. It’s all in the buttons – the option to wear open or buttoned makes the humble cardigan an underrated star player in the knitwear game.
Quarter-zips are huge right now, and are great under a jacket, a more laid-back alternative to the roll neck. There are some great ones out there right now, including our CAMPARI x Percival Marcello Zip Knit – the best on the market.
Fit for the occasion
When styling your knitwear, it’s important to keep the occasion in mind. You probably don’t want to be wearing a patterned crew-neck jumper to an interview, and you probably don’t need to be lounging around the house on a Sunday in your best roll-neck and blazer combo. Let us give you some inspiration for knitted occasionwear:
Barbecue/Summer Drinks — Knitted Shirt, open over a white cotton tee, linen shorts. Perfect casualwear for warm weather drinks, a barbecue, an outdoor birthday party etc. Add a cardigan as an outer layer to keep warm when the sun goes down in that fuzzy glow of alcohol and full bellies.
Business Trip — Knitted Quarter-zip layered with blazer. This is a practical fit for a man on the go. It’s contemporary and allows you to stay looking smart whilst offering the option of cooling off on a long trip by removing a layer and (quarter) unzipping. If the big boss is accompanying you on this trip, swap the quarter-zip for a roll-neck.
Sunday Roast with the Family/in-laws — A classic Merino Wool Crewneck Sweater is your friend. Smart without being try-hard. Casual without being slobbish. A perfect balance that will show your in-laws you understand social situations and are not going to ruin their offspring’s life, or satisfy your parents that you haven’t gone off the rails since you left home to chase your crazy dreams. Ideal.
Trending Knitwear Styles
When you think of classic knitwear, there’s a decent chance you’re thinking of the fisherman’s sweaters of the UK, Ireland, and Scandinavia. Did you bloody know that it’s been suggested that the various stitching patterns in Aran Sweaters (the most famous of fisherman’s sweaters first produced on the Aran Islands near Galway Bay) represented various family names so that a fisherman could be identified by his sweater if he was killed at sea. Just a myth, though, that’s all it is. But did you also bloody know that back when they were first produced, over a hundred years ago, it could take three to six weeks to knit just one Aran Sweater? That’s craftsmanship. The women of the Aran Islands were hardworking fashion pioneers via necessity. They’d knit them with lambswool, which retained the natural oils of the animal and made the sweaters waterproof — pretty important if you’re gonna spend half your life on a boat. Smart. And a true classic. They’ll never go out of style — invest.
Knitted quarter-zips are back, baby, reclaimed from the terrible, claggy grasp of that spooky bloke in Love, Actually who’s in love with his best mate’s new wife, Keira Knightley, who is far too young for both of them. That’s right, they belong to us again. They’re multifunctional, they’re comfy, and they’re the unsung heroes of knitwear layering. You’re going to want to check out our Wool Hikaru Zips, especially that Mustard one *kiss of the chef*. Take that, Mark, you idiot. And leave your mate’s wife alone.
As long as it’s been properly cared for, vintage knitwear can become a cherished cornerstone of your wardrobe rotation. A story in every thread. Maybe the faint smell of a time when everybody still smoked indoors, took their own tankards to the pub, and had quite a serious shed. In a good way. Like in a way that fills you with nostalgia and longing. If you’re into vintage stuff, why not go for an oversized jumper or sweater. There are articles out there that’ll tell you to go for a sweater in your size that’s simply made to a different cut (with lower shoulders and a slightly longer design), but don’t. What’s the point? Do you think Kurt Cobain was sourcing immaculately designed jumpers and cardigans when he solidified oversized knits in fashion history? No, was he fuck. His clothes were too big for him, and that fit his grungy (in the truest possible sense of the word), anti-mainstream identity. Our best advice for shopping oversized vintage knitwear — don’t overthink it.
How to Shrink Knitwear?
Never put any part of your body in a hole you’re not 100% certain about. That was the sage advice given to my younger brother by a Greek fisherman and scuba diver in the mid-noughties. He’d been bitten by an eel, and his finger was shredded to bits. Essentially, the fisherman was trying to say don’t take unnecessary risks. Forget that, though. Shrinking your knitwear on purpose is risky, of course it is, but you’re smart, you’re not gonna mess it up, and you’re going to get big results. Here’s how to do it:
For the general shrinking of a woollen knitwear, shove it on a ten-minute hot wash, then stick it in the dryer on a relatively low heat for 25 minutes. Check it every few minutes (on both the wash and the drying) to make sure it’s not shrinking too much, and pop it in a pillowcase to avoid roughing your garment up. Robert’s your mother’s brother.
You can shrink cotton clothes with an iron. Simply boil them for five minutes in water mixed with a little bit of vinegar (to help retain your knitwear’s colour), then dab off any excess water with a towel. Iron your knitwear for five minutes and Fanny’s your father’s sister. In theory. If you play with fire and you get burned, don’t come crying to us, okay?
Can You Tailor Knitwear?
Yup! Not a problem — and it’s the same process you’d use to tailor any garment. Put your knitwear on and pinch it in with your fingers so that it fits perfectly. This will give you an idea of how far in to take your seam. Find the seams (if you knitwear has them), and use them as your guide. Turn your knitwear inside out, making sure it’s as flat as it can possibly be, and use chalk to draw a line where your new seam will be. Fold the excess fabric to the new seam and keep it in place with pins. Stitch your new seam with a dart or zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine (or by hand), from the armpit to not-quite-the-hem, removing the pins as you go. Turn your knitwear back the right way out, try it on and, all being well, job done.
Always check the size guide before buying, though, obviously. Saves a lot of hassle.