Five Plus One is our weekly series of buyer’s guides. We pick a specific category and dig up five great options along with one that’s a little outside the norm.
Selvedge denim isn’t just desired for its durability, or because it produces clean outseams that don’t fray. It came from a simpler time — when people mastered their crafts, and it was the quality of their wares determined their success. While I can’t say I’ve found another fabric to captivate me quite the same way that raw denim does, all garments produced using traditional techniques, materials, or patterns have a historical element to investigate and appreciate.
Heavyweight cardigans run very much along these lines. They can be constructed using a range of different materials, so long as those materials are knitted into a sweater that fastens down the front. This lends itself toward a huge amount of variability: hand vs. machine knitting, buttons vs. zippers, thread gauge, pattern, and so much more.
In the interest of full disclosure, this list can’t possibly take all these variables into account – the best I can do is consider what most denimheads want: heavy-duty materials constructed with quality in mind.
1) S.N.S. Herning Fisherman Full-Zip
The sweaters produced by S.N.S. Herning are as traditional as they come. The knitting techniques, although now mechanized, are the same methods used by the company’s founder in 1931. Their Fisherman line of sweaters feature a special “bobble” texture, which was originally developed for sailors who appreciated having added durability, insulation, and water resistance, without having to suffer from overly constricting, heavy garments. The Fisherman Full-Zip was initially released in 1948, but the only major difference between it and the original Fisherman pullover is the inclusion of a zipper. The functionality of the bobbles, as well as their strategic placement, are still very much a part of this cardigan.
Available for $276 from East Dane.
2) Cypress 4 Pocket Cowichan
The number of different types of knitting is staggering, but one of the most sought after forms is known as Cowichan hand-knitting. As its namesake implies, Cowichan knitting was created by the Native Cowichan Tribes of British Columbia in the late nineteenth century; even now, the knitting is supposed to be done by Cowichan companies for it to be named as such. Cypress’ Cowichan sweater were knitted on Vancouver Island and feature extra-thick elbow patches, four front pockets (including two hand-warming pockets), raglan sleeves, and ribbed accents.
Available for $456 from Haven Shop.
3) Our Legacy Bomber Knit
Our Legacy’s Bomber Knit might not have the as rich a history as some other sweaters on this list, but its sleek design and quality materials more than make up for this. The design is loosely based off of Military Bomber Jackets, but this knitwear reinvention is less industrial and more ideal for layering, especially when you take into account the warmth of its raised collar. It’s knitted in a vertically ribbed pattern from heavyweight Italian wool, and finished with two-way YKK zippers.
Available for $279 from End Clothing.
4) Four Hoursemen Hand-Knit Color Block Cardigan (Dark Rust & Light Grey)
Four Horsemen’s Block Cardigan is yet another heavyweight Canadian made sweater. It features an extra-thick shawl collar to keep your neck protected from wind chill, as well as ribbed sleeve openings to keep your arms nice and toasty. The Grey/Rust color-block pattern is ever-so-slightly asymmetrical, making it quite memorable and attractive. It is completed with two heavy-duty Talon zippers to ensure this sweater stays functional for years to come.
Available for $210 from Four Horsemen Shop.
5) L.L. Bean: Signature Matinicus Rock Cardigan
It’s difficult to find entry level sweaters that are both robust and well made, but L.L. Bean’s Matinicus Cardigan fulfills both of these requirements and looks great while doing so. It’s constructed using heavy-gauge marled yarn, which is created by twisting together smaller yarn threads of different colors. The sweater is completed with blue-ribbing, which is used to create a placket for the front buttons (as well as a shawl collar). Unlike most chunky sweaters, the Matinicus is very slim-fitting; this makes it ideal for layering in the cold while still being serviceable as a piece of outerwear on those milder Winter days.
Available for $139 from L.L. Bean.
Plus One – Engineered Garments Shawl Collar Knit Cardigan Jacket
Unlike most of the sweaters on this list, Engineered Garments’ Shawl Collar Cardigan isn’t made from 100% wool. While some might consider this an unattractive prospect, the inclusion of polyester and acrylic in the blend should increase fabric longevity while helping to deter moths from feasting on it in off-season storage. Furthermore, this cardigan is lined with cashmere, which both increases comfort and warmth. It features a traditional cable-knit pattern, and a not so traditional matching belt. It’s true that belted cardigans can be hard to wear without them looking like robes, but the large leather buttons, robust wool, and knitted pattern help to alleviate this problem.
Available for $650 from Independence Chicago.