When to Wear Sweaters



Photos courtesy  orvis.com

Sweaters can be thick and warm as a blanket or light and cool as a breeze. Depending on their knit and the weight of the yarn, sweaters can be worn year-round, calling into question the very notion of sweater season. If sweaters make stylish and smart layers 365 days a year, does sweater weather exist? It sure does!

What Is Sweater Weather?

Though you can wear lightweight sweaters in the summer, no one is saying ‘sweater weather’ to describe the dog days of summer. True sweater weather is fall through winter and into spring, when temperatures drop and you pull out your favorite cashmere sweaters and cozy cardigans. But precisely when sweater season begins for you depends on where you live. Sweater weather isn’t much of a thing for residents of Belize or Hawaii.

The frosty temps that trigger the happy urge to throw on a sweater vary individually and geographically. A 2016 survey by The Weather Channel found this personal cold threshold differed regionally in the United States. People in Arizona and Nevada broke out their sweaters when it was 65 degrees, while folks in Vermont deemed 55 degrees sweater season, and South Dakotans waited for temps to drop to 51 degrees before pulling on their cable knits.

No matter when ‘sweater weather’ comes around for you, warmth is the thing.

What Are the Warmest Sweaters Made Of?

Sweaters are knit from a variety of nature-made and man-made yarns and blends, all of them offering their own distinct, appealing qualities. But some are warmer than others. Here’s a rundown of the types of sweaters that will keep you warm from ‘nip in the air’ to ‘polar vortex.’

Wool Sweaters

  • Is Wool Warm?

This quintessential sweater material is one of the warmest. Wool is a spun fiber made from the hair of a number of mammals. Wool created from sheep is the most common, but it can also come from alpacas, goats, and llamas. Angora wool comes from rabbits. Whatever its source, wool is one of the most insulating natural fabrics. It keeps your body heat in and the cold out, even when it gets wet, and it wicks moisture away from the body. A true Irish fisherman’s sweater is always knit in wool because it keeps these hardworking anglers warm, dry, and comfortable through long days facing gale-force winds and sea spray.

  • When to Wear Wool Sweaters

When fishing off the coast of Ireland to be sure. But wool sweaters will keep you dependably warm through most of your outdoor adventures in the cold, from wingshooting to walking in the park to treks in Patagonia.

Merino Wool Sweaters

  • Is Merino Wool Warm?

Merino wool offers the superior warmth of any wool, but it is a finer fiber prized for its softness and drape. Merino wool is knit from the hair of Merino sheep, a variety of sheep that originated in Spain via North Africa and is one of the oldest sheep types in the world. Because it doesn’t scratch and can be knit into a very thin material, Merino wool is often used in performance baselayers for warmth on very cold days and for winter sports.

  • When to Wear Merino Wool Sweaters

Anytime you want to stay warm, but don’t necessarily want to layer up. A Merino wool sweater is a sophisticated choice for winter days at the office, or for an evening out when you don’t want to wear a bulky sweater under your cold-weather jacket.

Cashmere Wool Sweaters

  • Is Cashmere Warm?

Cashmere sweaters provide plenty of winter warmth, and elegant—never bulky—silhouettes. Cashmere wool comes from the soft hair under the chin of Cashmere goats. The word ‘cashmere’ derived from the Kashmir region in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent where the wool was originally used in textiles. Cashmere is the most luxurious wool, beloved for the unmatched softness of its fibers; it is often woven into sumptuous scarves and sophisticated sweaters. 

  • When to Wear Cashmere Sweaters

Cashmere sweaters are dressier than the rest. You can wear them for work conferences, out to dinner, and anywhere you would wear your Merino sweaters. But cashmere sweaters would also be elegant options for more relaxed winter weddings or dinner at a dressy restaurant.

Cotton Sweaters

  • Is Cotton Warm?

Cotton sweaters can be plenty warm, especially when layered, or in thick, dense knits that don’t let the cool air through. If your sweater is a cotton/wool blend, you’ll enjoy even more protection from cold temperatures. A sweater in a mix of cotton and linen is a cooling layer that’s just right for warm summer evenings.

  • When to Wear Cotton Sweaters

Cotton is a cozy choice if your daily rounds don’t have you outside in the elements for extended periods of time. Better to opt for wool in those instances. Cotton sweaters are wonderful options for the front- and tail-ends of sweater season when it’s nippy but not too frigid. And cotton sweaters in an open knit are stylish choices over a tank top in the heat of summer because they’ll let welcome breezes reach you.

How to Style a Sweater

Men’s Sweaters

  • The men’s crewneck sweater in a solid color with a T-shirt underneath is a favorite casual pairing—just resist this look if you plan to wear a blazer, which insists on a collared shirt.
  • A button-down shirt under a V-neck sweater, with the top two buttons undone, is a classic pairing; choose a solid color shirt that contrasts with the sweater. Alternately, wear a patterned shirt with a solid sweater, or vice versa. To dress down, substitute a crewneck T-shirt or polo in a solid color for the button-down. And to dress it up, choose a button-down Oxford in blue or gray with a tie, under a black or navy V-neck.
  • The versatile cardigan goes well with anything from a T-shirt to a button-down and tie.

Women’s Sweaters

  • Choose a long sweater to wear over your favorite skinny jeans or leggings, and finish with boots.
  • Add a plaid scarf to a chunky cable knit sweater for a classic look.
  • Dress in layers for warmth: don’t be afraid to wear a long, open cardigan over another sweater—even if the two didn’t come as a pair. More indulgent layers equal more warmth on frigid days, and the contrast adds interest.
  • For a dressier look, start with a sweater in a refined knit, pair it with a skirt, and belt it at the waist.

And on casual, cool-weather days, an untucked button-down shirt—with a bit of shirttail showing— under a V-neck sweater is a favorite look that works for women and men.

So, there’s no wrong time to wear sweaters, and endless ways to wear them. You simply need to choose the sweater material and knit that are right for the season and right for you.

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