A trip to the mall to buy some winter clothes can be a very stressful experience, considering the many types of sweaters on display. You could try to narrow it down by looking for a certain color that matches your wardrobe or one that you know suits you very well.
That might help a bit, but still, how do you make sense of the various types of sweaters available? How do you know which is trendy and which would make you look like Grandpa? You love your Grandpa, but, you know, he’s not exactly a fashion guru.
That’s the main problem today with sweaters. Fashion, what’s in, and what’s out! Centuries ago when sweaters were invented they served a clear purpose, to keep men warm. The first people to wear sweaters were English farmers and fishermen, who spent many hours outdoor even on cold days.
Table of Contents
Types of Sweaters
Here is a list of the various types of sweaters, what you should choose for any occasion and what do they say about you.
Aran Irish Sweaters
This type of sweater takes its name after the Aran Islands, off the western coast of Ireland. The first heavy knitted garments we now call Aran sweaters became popular among the local populace in the 19th century and they stand out with their traditional knitting patterns.
Clans and families came up with their own pattern and there was a particular meaning associated with it. A cable pattern was meant to represent a fisherman’s ropes, while the very popular diamond stitch was supposed to bring good luck to the wearer.
Original Aran Irish sweaters are hard to find, but they’re worth the effort. Wearing such a sweater makes you look very stylish, not to mention that they’re very warm.
Argyle Knit Sweaters
Maybe the term doesn’t ring a bell, but you’re surely familiar with the pattern of interlocking diamonds in various colors that are called argyle. It’s the type of sweater you might see on a golf course, which would make you think argyle sweaters are for men of a certain age. However, argyle sweaters are making a powerful comeback and are now worn even by younger men looking for a retro look.
Also, they’re becoming increasingly popular among women who go for a pattern of diamonds in more feminine colors, like pink or red. Argyle sweaters are rather casual, but you can wear them over a shirt, with the collar nicely tucked in, for a more dapper look.
This is a very feminine type of sweater and quite comfortable to wear as it hangs loose so it won’t feel stuffy. Batwing sweaters are oversized garments characterized by very large sleeves. The lower part of the sleeve goes down to midriff level, rather than the underarm, which allows you more freedom of movement, plus you won’t get sweaty.
The lower part of the sweater can be ribbed, so it showcases your waist, but it can also be loose and go all the way to the thighs. This type of clothing goes excellent with a pair of jeans, but a nice woolen batwing sweater can also be worn with a pencil skirt.
Bell Sleeve Sweater
Any type of sweater, a V-neck or a crew neck, can fit in this category as long as it has large bell-like sleeves. The upper part of the sleeve is quite normal and body-fitting, but it widens into a bell shape from the elbow down. Just how wide such a sleeve can go, that’s entirely up to you.
It can be a bit loose, but very wide sleeves are quite trendy, particularly among younger women. This knitting pattern can make any sweater stand out, it doesn’t matter if it’s wool or polyester, the pattern is also unimportant, as all eyes will be drawn to the wide sleeve.
You don’t need a boyfriend to steal his clothes from the closet when you can by your very own boyfriend sweater. A boyfriend sweater is definitely oversized, so it looks like it was meant for a man, and it’s extremely cozy.
All that extra fabric feels most luxurious on the skin, it envelops your body and makes you feel protected. Boyfriend sweaters are mostly crew neck and you don’t have to wear anything underneath, which sort of makes it sexy and quite feminine, despite the size and the fact that it usually covers your bottom.
Boyfriend sweaters go well with skinny jeans, but you can also wear them with tights or even office pants, on condition they’re close-fitting. If the upper part of your outfit is oversized, the lower half should be tight, if you don’t want to look fat.
This type of sweater is closely related to the cardigan, but it doesn’t have the traditional V-neck. Basically, any type of sweater that has buttons fits into this category. If you’re wondering about those buttons, yes, they’re very much in style, for both men and women.
A button sweater is very versatile as it can be worn over a blouse, shirt, or T-shirt, although the latter is definitely suited only for casual occasions. A lady can totally wear a buttoned sweater paired with a silky blouse at the office, but a man, not so much. It’s too laid-back for a guy.
The nice thing about these sweaters is that you can button them up on a cool day or leave them open if the sun comes out.
Cable Knit Sweaters
Cable knit sweaters are thick and sturdy and their main purpose is to keep you warm. They take their name from the distinctive stitching pattern with intertwined cables running the length of the garment. They come in a single color mostly, so the special cable stitch can be more visible.
Cable knit sweaters can be pullover types or they can have buttons, that’s less important than thickness and warmth. This type of sweater can be used as outerwear, but you can also wear them inside on a really cold day. No one will judge you!
This is a variant of the old poncho, one that is far more suitable for the elegant modern woman. It’s a loose-fitting type of sweater with two vertical slits for the arms to go through, which makes this sort of garment very easy to wear.
Cape sweaters qualify as outerwear almost exclusively, and you can pair them with a blouse, shirt, or another type of sweater. Since it’s loose-fitting and doesn’t exactly cover your arms, cape sweaters are best for early autumn, when it’s not too cold outside.
Cape sweaters go well with either pants or skirts, preferably longer ones, at least knee-length.
Probably the most popular type of sweater ever, the cardigan is a must-have item for both men and women. People love cardigans as they are extremely versatile and the V-neck makes them both stylish and comfortable to wear.
We owe this comfy sweater to the 7th Earl of Cardigan, who lived in the 19th century, and came up with this buttoned sweater as it is easy to put on and doesn’t mess up your hair.
You can wear a cardigan over anything, but this type of sweater looks best over a shirt, as it leaves the collar peeking out at the top.
Popularly known as woolly pully, commando sweaters were invented during WWII as a comfortable and durable garment for the British SAS commandos. These are close-fitting garments, although not too tight as to restrict movement, and their purpose was to keep soldiers warm.
To make them more resistant, leather patches were added to the shoulders and the elbows. Since then, commando sweaters have become very popular among young people, particularly men who aim for a military (and manly) look.
Such sweaters usually come in sombre colors, gray, black, and, obviously, khaki. They’re great for people who spend a lot of time outdoors and need a sturdy sweater.
Cowl Neck Sweater
When you need something thick and warm, yet quite feminine, a cowl neck sweater is a great choice. This type of sweater takes its name from the large draping neck, which keeps you well protected but also reveals your neckline.
Such sweaters are suitable for both men and women, and they’re great for a casual outing. As they’re made to keep you warm, cowl neck sweaters are made with insulating fibers, like wool or cashmere.
Women can also choose to wear a short-sleeved cowl neck over a tight-fitting blouse in a matching color.
Crew Neck Sweaters
Everybody has at least one crew neck sweater in the closet. If you don’t, you might be from a different planet. Crew necks owe their popularity to their low rounded neck, which is almost as popular as the V-neck.
A crew neck is in no way revealing, provides warmth and it’s comfortable to wear. Many people have a problem with high, turtle-neck style collars which feel a bit scratchy and constricting.
Both men and women can wear a crew neck sweater with nothing underneath. However, this might be a bit too informal for men in which case they should wear a crew neck over a buttoned-up shirt.
Sorry, guys, this is for women only. Cutout sweaters are a fairly new invention and they’re meant to make the old regular sweater a bit more stylish. Just as the name says, such a sweater has openings to reveal a bit of skin.
One of the most common models is one with cutout shoulders, but you can have the missing piece of fabric on the chest, just large enough to show a bit of cleavage. These funky sweaters are most popular among teenagers and young women, who want to appear sexy and playful.
Ah, the hoodie! The hoodie has a bad rep and many people wonder whether they should go for this type of sweater or not. The answer is: Go for it! It doesn’t have to be that sort of hoodie.
A very nice cardigan which also happens to have a hood will look most stylish, and, let’s be honest, quite practical on a cool windy day.
A buttoned hooded sweater is perfect for a casual outing, while a zippered one is just what you need when you go jogging on a bleak autumn day.
Fair Isle Sweaters
The Fair Isle sweater gained notoriety exactly 100 years ago when the Duke of Windsor (later Edward VIII) wore such a garment in public. This type of sweater takes its name from a small Scottish island where dutiful wives wanted to knit something warm for their mostly fishermen husbands.
A Fair Isle sweater stands out for its colorful, often geometric pattern. It’s a type of garment that looks well on both men and women.
To this day, this type of sweater remains very popular among British Royals and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge and future Queen of England, has been seen sporting a Fair Isle sweater on various occasions.
Mock Turtleneck Sweaters
What do you do when you want a sweater that can keep you warm around the sensitive neck area but don’t want to commit to wearing a turtleneck? You go for a mock turtleneck! This sort of sweater is sort of a compromise solution, as it has a short neck, no more than one inch high.
From an aesthetic point of view, it’s a great choice as the ribbed collar creates a visually-pleasing line between clothing and head, not to mention that it draws attention to your neck. Such sweaters are great for both men and women and they come in various colors and materials.
Most women have a big problem with winter clothes. Yes, they’re warm and comfy, and you do need them, but on the other hand, it’s hard to showcase your feminine charms with a thick sweater. This is why somebody very smart came up with the idea of off-the-shoulder sweaters.
Who cares about the cold? One bare shoulder is sexy enough, but since you’re there why not show both? This type of sweater first became popular in the 1980s, but now they’re back in style because that’s how fashion trends work, it comes and it goes at regular intervals.
Open Knit Sweaters
This term refers to the knitting technique with smaller or larger holes, that allow you to show a bit of skin. Any sort of sweater can use this type of stitch, but, frankly, it looks best on loose sweaters, rather than body-hugging ones.
A woman can definitely wear an open knit with nothing but a bra underneath, but for a man, it is advisable that you put a shirt on. It will look very stylish, provided that the colors match. Since they have a lot of holes, open-knit sweaters won’t keep you as warm as thick ones, but they do look great.
Puffed Sleeve Sweaters
This type of sweater is the opposite of the bell-sleeved one. The sleeves are large and puffy in the upper part and tight-fitting from the elbow down. Puffed sleeve sweaters imitate the type of dress noblewomen used to wear centuries ago.
The large sleeve gives the impression of broad shoulders, making the woman who wears such an item look more impressive. Speaking of this, this type of sweater looks great on slender women. If you have thick arms, the last thing you need is more bulk.
Centuries ago, when the sweater was invented common folks couldn’t afford buttons so a garment that went over the head was just perfect. Also, since it had no opening it kept men nice and warm.
Today, any type of sweater that goes over the head can be called a pullover. A crew neck or a V-neck, both count as pullovers if they don’t have buttons or zippers.
There’s also a modern version of the classical pullover, the half-zip or the quarter-zip. This type of sweater has a small zipper at the neck, which is usually higher than a crew-neck. For a casual look, better leave it unzipped or half-zipped.
Quite obvious why they’re called that. The vertical ‘ribs’ make this type of sweater look a bit like corduroy and a soft cashmere one will probably feel as smooth as that. This type of sweaters goes well for both men and women.
The ribbed pattern is very flattering. As anyone knows, vertical lines make you look slimmer. Any type of sweater can use this knitting pattern, but you’ll see it mostly on crew necks and cowl neck sweaters. On the other hand, a body-hugging ribbed sweater looks very sexy if it has a daring V-neck.
Roll Neck Sweaters
Roll neck sweaters fall somewhere in between a turtleneck and a cowl neck sweater. The difference is that the neck part does not go as high as in a traditional turtleneck, but at
the same time it’s not as loose as a cowl. It’s mostly thick sweaters that use this type of neck, as being close to the skin it’s clearly meant to keep you warm.
Such sweaters are suitable for both men and women and they look very stylish. They go well on jeans, pants as well as skirts.
Scoop Neck Sweaters
A very elegant and quite sexy sweater. The neck of such a sweater is low, as in a crew neck, but also very wide, leaving much of the collar bone exposed. It’s a tamer version of the off-the-shoulder sweater if you want.
Such a sweater is perfect for a casual occasion and can be worn with either pants or a skirt. It gives you a youthful and quite playful look.
Obviously, it won’t keep you very warm, but, on the other hand, since it puts your neck on display you can wear a nice necklace with it, preferably something thin, in gold or silver. Not many sweaters allow you that.
Set-in Sleeve Sweaters
Even if you don’t know the first thing about knitting, it’s easy to understand what this set-in-sleeve is all about. The body of the garment and the sleeves are knitted separately and then sewn together.
The result is very visible seams where the parts come together, a feature that sets this type of sweater apart. It also makes the set-in sleeve sweater look more formal, so it’s something you can wear on various occasions, not just casual outings.
Most types of sweaters can be made this way, although the set-in sleeve is more common in cardigans and other buttoned garments.
Shawl Neck Sweaters
This type of large neck is commonly associated with cardigans and V-neck sweaters. The top part is broad and hangs around the neck exactly like a shawl.
Shawl necks are suitable for both men and women and they’re very elegant, so they can be worn for any occasion, except, of course, a formal business meeting where office suits are required.
Shawl neck sweaters can be worn with a shirt or a V-neck, not a very thick one though, as that would be too bulky. This type of sweater is perfect for a cool day, as outerwear, but you can also wear one inside and look quite dapper.
Sweater dresses have become quite fashionable lately as they are extremely comfortable to wear and with the right accessories, such as a nice leather belt, they look very stylish.
A sweater dress can be loose, but body-hugging ones are more popular as they allow you to display your curves and you can accentuate your waist with a large belt. Such a dress can have a cowl neck, a crew neck, or, why not, a plunging V-neck.
A short sweater dress looks great with tights, while a longer one, say mid-calf, goes best with high-heel boots.
The idea of a sweater vest might make you think of your dear old grandpa, but these garments are extremely popular among young people, and for good reason. Vests are very versatile and you can wear one over a shirt or a blouse.
The point is to keep your chest and back well-protected while allowing your arms more freedom. You can wear a sweater vest at the office or on an outing, just as easily. Men can also wear a sweater vest with a classic office suit.
Sweater vests come in every imaginable color and the only question is finding a matching shirt to wear it with. If you’re going for a classy impression stick with a diamond pattern, as that is acceptable even for formal occasions.
Golf & Tennis Sweaters
If you’re an avid golf or tennis player, this sweater is a must. This type of sweater was first worn by professional tennis players, almost 100 years ago. Since tennis players
usually wear white costumes, the sweater must also be white, or maybe off-white. This type of sweater is easily recognizable by the V-neck and the colored stripes on the neckline. If you belong to a sports club, the stripes should match the colors of the club’s logo.
Also, the logo can be embroidered on one of the shoulders. While you can definitely wear such a sweater while playing golf, it tends to be a bit too restrictive for playing tennis, so you’ll probably wear it after the match.
How shall we put this? A tunic sweater is a sweater that looks like a tunic, meaning that it’s straight and hangs loosely, rather than hug your body. Definitely not as loose as a boyfriend sweater, though.
Since it’s meant to look like a tunic, such a sweater traditionally goes to over the buttocks, possibly as low as mid-thigh.
The sweater flares out a bit at the hem and can have lateral slits. V-necks and crew necks look perfect as tunics, but cowl necks also work. Such a sweater can be paired with tight jeans or even tights.
Turtleneck sweaters are back in style if you’re wondering. True, some people simply cannot stand a real turtleneck, that goes up all the way to the jawline, but you have to admit it’s just the perfect garment for a cold day.
A tight-fitting turtleneck sweater can be worn with a coat or jacket, while one that’s a bit loose will look great on its own. Some modern versions of this timeless classic have a shorter neck, but you can also fold the neck down a bit if it feels more comfortable.
OK, this is not a sweater, but a set of sweaters. And the two sweaters are identical in color and pattern, which makes them twins. Such a set usually consists of a cardigan, preferably left unbuttoned to reveal the twin crew neck or V-neck underneath. This is a
very feminine outfit and since the two garments are in the same color, such an outfit is very elegant and suitable for any occasion. A twinset needs to be on the light side, as two thick sweaters on top of each other would create a rather bulky ensemble, and they might make you too hot under the collar.
Ugly Christmas Sweater
Need we say more? You probably have one or two yourself at the back of your drawer. It’s not that they’re truly ugly, most of them are fun or at least looked funny to the person who bought them for you.
A typical ugly Christmas sweater will feature a drunken Santa or some naughty elves, as well as some lame message, supposedly suitable for the festive season. They’re good enough for a family reunion and you can wear them around the house, at least they keep you warm.
If you’re thinking about wearing one to the office party, don’t! If you’re smart, when somebody gives you a Christmas sweater, leave it in its box. You can always find someone to regift it to, there must be someone you hate! They’re great as gag gifts!
One of the most popular types of sweaters, a V-neck is stylish enough for both men and women. The V-neck is perfect to wear with a shirt underneath, preferably something in a single color and a muted one at that, so it won’t clash with the sweater.
Ladies can wear a V-neck with or without a shirt. If it’s a low-cut V-neck, wearing something underneath would be quite a pity. Even if it’s winter you can still show a bit of cleavage, at least where you’re inside.
A pullover for active men and women. The quarter-zip is a great choice when you’re aiming for a sporty look, but also want something to keep you warm. As the name says,
this type of sweater has a small zipper that goes down to the chest bone. In case you’re really cold, you can zip it up, but frankly, such a pullover looks better unzipped, allowing the shirt or whatever it is you’re wearing underneath to show a bit.
Quarter-zip sweaters usually come in a single color, but they can also have a small geometric pattern, nothing too flashy though. Flashy doesn’t go with sporty.
This type of sweater stands out by the sleeve seams that are quite visible at the front, on the chest. A raglan sleeve is wider than a regular sleeve at the shoulder, so such a sweater drapes better and it also allows you more freedom of movement.
Raglan sweaters go best with a crew neck or with a small roll-neck.
While this type of sweater is more popular among women, men have started wearing them as well, mostly because they fall well and are very flattering.
What Are the Types of Sweater Materials?
Here is a list of the different materials used to make sweaters.
Even though they’re synthetic fibers, acrylic sweaters feel just as soft to the touch and
keep you as warm as wool. The main advantage of acrylic sweaters is they’re more affordable than wool or cashmere, so you can buy more and have a more diversified wardrobe. This is great when you want to impress people by wearing a different outfit every day.
Acrylic sweaters come in every possible shape and pattern. Synthetic fibers are very versatile and can be dyed in any color. Another great thing is that acrylic sweaters are machine washable, so you’ll save a lot on dry cleaning.
When you find a sweater that you really like, you don’t always pay attention to the label. If it says ‘wool-blend’, don’t assume it’s different types of wool fibers blended together. No, whenever you see the word ‘blend’ it means the end product contains a mix of natural and synthetic fibers.
Sometimes, it’s difficult to tell how much is wool and how much is acrylic. However, the sweater will surely be soft and comfy, which is really all that matters. Manufacturers use blend fabrics because they’re cheaper than natural fibers, something you’ll probably notice in the price tag!
Hands-down, cashmere sweaters are the best! Technically, it’s still wool, but cashmere wool that comes from a particular type of goats in the Himalaya plateaus is particularly soft and lightweight.
Cashmere will keep you warmer than regular sheep wool, without making you too hot, as this type of fabric is highly-breathable. Cashmere fibers are very strong and your precious sweater won’t wear out easily, so the investment is totally worth it.
And, if you need any more convincing, just try a cashmere sweater on and see how wonderful it feels against the skin.
Cotton fibers are soft and highly-breathable, so, for one thing, a cotton sweater won’t make you sweaty. Good-quality cotton sweaters are comfortable to wear, but they won’t keep you as warm as wool.
This is a good thing when you want a light sweater, something to wear on a cool summer night. Also, cotton sweaters are great for everyday use during the cold season. If you work in an office, chances are you don’t need a heavy wool sweater, but something lighter.
Much like cotton, linen sweaters are great for chilly days when you need an extra layer of protection, but not something too heavy. Linen is a good insulator, which means the fibers can trap heat, and this makes this type of fiber quite suitable for winter wear.
Linen comes from the fibers of the flax plant, and the fabric is extremely light and breathable. Also, linen is highly absorbent so you won’t feel sweaty, and it dries quickly.
Nothing better than trusted sheep wool to keep you warm in winter. Keep in mind that the first sweaters ever were made with wool fibers and were meant to keep men working outside warm and cozy in very cold weather. Wool fibers have good insulating properties.
They’ll trap the natural heat your body produces, so you won’t be bothered by the cold. Wool is usually soft, but it’s best to feel the fabric yourself as sometimes these fibers can be a little itchy, especially if the label mentions Shetland wool.
You won’t find many 100% silk sweaters, and those you do find come with a price tag that will make you do a double-take. The good news is there are plenty of sweaters that contain a silk blend. Wool and silk are a great mix, as such sweaters are warm and durable.
Silk is often used as these fibers have good insulating properties, they’re very strong and, of course, they add their natural shine and smooth feeling to the finished garment.
There are many types of synthetic fibers used to make sweaters, besides acrylic. Polyester or polyamide sweaters are quite comfy and they’ll do a great job keeping you warm.
Synthetic sweaters tend to pill a bit, and they might lose their shape at some point, but then again next winter you’re going to want to buy something new and trendy.
On the other hand, sweaters made with synthetic fibers like elastin are stretchy and comfortable to wear and will retain their original shape for a longer period.
If you want something special, for yourself or as a gift, a hand-knitted sweater is probably the best choice. A hand-knitted garment is unique, there can be no two identical sweaters so you’re bound to stand out if you’re wearing one.
People who make such sweaters take pride in their work and make sure there are no hidden defects, as you’re likely to find in mass-produced items. In some cases, you can even order a sweater specifically made to fit your measurements and using your favorite colors, which is no small thing.