Your winter wardrobe is only as good as your most reliable sweater. This is a truth experienced by most, privately acknowledged by many, and overanalyzed by a few neurotic souls who contemplate what it means to get dressed with arguably too much frequency. (Hi, I’m Harling, have we met?) A reliable sweater saves you from having to think when you’re awake at 7 a.m. and it’s so dark out that it looks like 3 a.m. and thinking feels like a mythic concept. A reliable sweater looks good with sweatpants and regular pants and dresses in equal measure. A reliable sweater is the adult version of a comfort blanket, ready and waiting to wrap you up in its literal cozy arms.
There’s only one problem: A truly reliable sweater is hard to find.
It has to be warm but not so warm that you burn up like an overcooked almond sliver the moment you step indoors. It has to be soft and substantial at the same time — hefty but never heavy. It has to hang just so. It has to be under $200 so it doesn’t cost your entire salary, but not so inexpensive that it lacks the warmth and softness and heft of a quality knit.
When I bemoaned the angst of this seemingly unattainable pursuit within earshot of Man Repeller’s resident market wizard Elizabeth the other day, I should have known she would pipe up with a solution. She told me Naadam’s ribbed wool cashmere crewneck sweater, which retails for $150 and boasts just the right amount of chunkiness, was as reliable as the rising sun. To prove its versatility, she volunteered to style it across three very different outfits for three very different moods and three very different occasions. No spoilers, but the results are quite convincing. Keep scrolling to see for yourself.
Outfit #1: The Ultimate Groutfit
Occasion: Curling up on your couch with a warm beverage and a Father of the Bride rental.
A hallmark of reliable sweaters is that they are cozy and comfortable enough to pair well with your coziest and most comfortable lounge pants, thus teaming up to produce an ensemble ripe for fetal positioning. But if you need to look presentable enough to dash out temporarily for sun rays and hot chocolate mix, it’s great for that as well. Like 2-in-1 conditioner but better.
Outfit #2: A Get-Up to Get You From A to Z
Occasion: Running errands while listening to music and (maybe) pretending you’re starring in a movie.
You’ve got things to do and people to see and songs to hum to yourself. A reliable sweater is your best friend in this case, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to pair beautifully with any and all errand-running clothes, from sensible shoes to striped accoutrements that look like T-shirts but function as adorable capes. You know, typical productivity attire.
Outfit #3: Warm But Fancy
Occasion: A work breakfast followed by sitting at your desk followed by drinks with your friend Jody who is visiting from Canada.
Here is the last thing I will say about the stipulations for what makes a sweater reliable: It has to look good with dresses. This is a particularly tough cookie to crumble, because most sweaters look good with pants, but very few look good with dresses. And I don’t blame them. It’s tough. The silhouettes rarely jive well. In order for it to work, the hem of the sweater has to be loose but not too loose. As you can see, Elizabeth’s recommendation passes the final test with flying colors. Put me inside this outfit immediately, and then put me out in the world so everyone can see.
What’s your go-to reliable sweater? There’s room for way more than just one around here.
Photos of Juliet Johnstone by Edith Young.