As the balmy days of summer unwillingly yield to the cooler embrace of autumn, our collective wardrobes undergo a transformation, necessarily embracing a fusion of style and functionality. In other words, it’s colder out.
Cooler weather brings a need for warmer outfits, but they need to be able to deal with fluctuating temperatures. Amidst this seasonal shift, the art of layering takes centre stage, and in the realm of menswear, knitted tops emerge as the unsung heroes of the contemporary wardrobe.
If that has you licking your proverbial lips at the prospect of resurfacing your entire knitwear collection from its vacuum-sealed sarcophagus in the loft, then hold fire for a sweet minute. The chunky yarns can remain in hibernation for now.
What you want to be reaching for are the lightweight, fine-gauge knitted tops, crafted from soft cottons, temperature-regulating merino wool and some indulgent cashmere.
These knitted envoys seamlessly bridge the gap between the sun-kissed realms of summer and the cooler hues of fall. From the casual refinement of knitted polo shirts and jersey T-shirts, perfect for transitional days, to the dignified comfort of merino wool crew necks and the unparalleled luxury of cashmere sweaters, each piece is a marriage of style and practicality.
We’ve curated the essential knitted pieces to get your wardrobe performing at its peak from now until November. These garments are timeless, and therefore extremely versatile, able to be harmoniously woven into your everyday getups as the late summer turns into early autumn.
Knitted Polo Shirt
A knitted polo shirt elegantly blends casual comfort with refined sophistication, a combination which has not been lost on a slew of high fashion and sartorial brands in recent seasons.
In fact, it has become one of the key components of the much-adopted ‘stealth wealth’ trend thanks to its minimalist silhouette and understated design details. The knitted element also brings a textural finish that gives smart-casual looks an invariably sophisticated finish.
Whether it’s constructed from supima cotton, or more refined fabrics such as merino wool, cashmere or even a silk blend, the knitted polo’s breathable construction is perfect for transitional weather, effortlessly adapting from warm days to cool autumn evenings.
The styling options are vast too, with a modern approach being to layer it beneath an unstructured blazer for a ‘sprezzatura’ take on tailoring, or wear it with chinos and a suede jacket for a more relaxed ‘quiet luxury’ look.
Long-Sleeved Merino Polo Shirt
As traditional tailoring has come down a notch or two on the formality scale, the long-sleeved knitted polo has scaled new style heights thanks to a plethora of luxury brands creating fine merino and cashmere examples.
They are a shoo-in when you’re trying to dress down tailoring, offering a beautiful textural complement to a wool suit or tailored separates, together with that casual soft-collar construction. The long sleeves just make them that bit more formal than the traditional short-sleeve version.
Merino’s natural temperature-regulating properties make it a smart choice for shifting climates, too, perfect for late summer and early autumn when you can be presented with all four seasons in the space of an afternoon.
The long-sleeved polo’s polished silhouette resonates with contemporary minimalism, while cultural echoes of retro elegance hark back to the modish days of Steve McQueen et al.
The Henley is often considered a loungewear piece since it was originally designed as an undergarment, but to only wear it in the confines of your home is to miss out on its rugged charm.
It classifies as ‘knitted’ since it’s most often constructed from cotton jersey. Hemen Biarritz is one of the best producers we know of, focussing almost exclusively on organic cotton jersey styles.
The Henley is super easy to wear with denim jeans for a louche rock ’n’ roll inspired look, and it layers well beneath a denim jacket or leather blouson, too.
Many miles of column inches have been devoted to the characteristics of merino wool, so we won’t deep dive here. But suffice to say that the beautifully soft wool yarn is a no-brainer when it comes to transitional knits as the leaves start to fall.
Lightweight but still a great warming layer, the merino crew neck sweater is an ode to timeless style and is extremely adaptable when it comes to assimilating it into your wardrobe.
Naturally, it’s a great addition to a modern preppy aesthetic, layered over a shirt with a popped collar. Otherwise, the V-neck version, while maligned for much of the past decade, has made a comeback in the form of oversized silhouettes with plunging necks, making for an edgy addition to streetwear looks.
If your style is more formal, then a merino crew neck in a dark tone such as navy is very easy to work into your tailored outfits.
Even before Covid-19, loungewear was on an upward trajectory, breaking free from the confines of the home to become a bona-fide menswear genre fit for public consumption.
Multiple lockdowns and a new WFH culture has elevated it even higher, spurred on by the advent of luxury iterations of loungewear classics.
One such garment is the cashmere hoodie, the poster boy of stealth wealth. Luxuriously soft and insulating, this piece pays homage to refined athleisure, and can be used to give a soft edge to tailored trousers for a fusion of comfort and sophistication.
Or simply pair it with matching cashmere joggers for the ultimate laid-back baller move.
Quarter-Zip Merino Sweater
A sporty iteration from the annals of preppy menswear, the quarter-zip sweater boasts modish pragmatism and functionality by blending sporty flair with timeless appeal.
Constructing it in wool gives it that much more cachet, but without losing any of the Ivy League influences. That said, lightweight cotton styles can be great, too.
Classic preppy brands such as Gant, or more contemporary labels such as Aimé Leon Dore, are great places to seek out versatile styles.
Another Ivy League stalwart that has had something of a rollercoaster of trend history, the lightweight preppy cardigan is a brilliant piece of transitional kit whether worn draped or buttoned.
The beauty of the cardigan is in its sheer diversity of styles: classic preppy designs you can layer over a shirt and tie; voluminous oversized options worn with a grungy attitude; heritage knit versions fit for an off-duty English country look; or super minimalist styles in black or charcoal grey that befit a contemporary monochromatic wardrobe.
Merino and cashmere styles are always on the money, but also look out for mohair or alpaca blends if you want to add texture and tactility to your outfits.
Fine-Gauge Roll Neck Sweater
The fine-gauge turtleneck sweater reigns as a hallmark of urbane chic. Its understated elegance is synonymous with a cosmopolitan aesthetic, tucked into tailored trousers for a svelte silhouette that references Milanese sprezzatura.
There’s a very James Bondian aesthetic at play, with that peep of rolled neck somehow contributing to an inherent classiness. It’s a great modern alternative to the shirt and tie with a suit (especially a flannel version which adds to the soft textures) but can be equally as effective when worn with a chic suede blouson or beneath a textural wool coat.
Dark tones are easy to style, as are cream and tan options, but you can also make quite a statement with bolder hues.