With the weather this week hovering around 50 degrees, winter is fast approaching. As tempting as it may be to curl up in your old high school hoodie, consider sporting a kitschy sweater that looks as though it descended from the Swiss Alps or the Fair Isle. A wintry style is never more classic — or notorious — than this. But if styled well, these chunky pieces can look charming and not the least bit grandfatherly.
The key to styling these sweaters is to contrast their bulkiness with another, more fitted article of clothing. For men, slim fit jeans are a good match because they offset the chunky sweater on the upper body with a slimmer fit on the lower body. When the weather dips to below 30 degrees, a well-fitted coat layered over the sweater will make the sweater appear slimmer. When purchasing a thick sweater, do not size up. Because it is wool, the sweater will be inherently bulky and sizing up only accentuates this appearance. An oversized sweater can look sloppy and make the wearer appear as if he is drowning in fabric. For men with more daring tastes, an oversized sweater can be a statement piece if paired with something edgy like black jeans and Doc Martens. Casual venturers into the world of Alpine sweaters may want to stick to a slimmer fit.
The same rule about oversized sweaters does not apply to women. A chunky and oversized sweater is fairly commonplace and not difficult to incorporate into women’s outfits. As with men, it is important to offset the chunky sweater with slimmer articles of clothing. For women, this means leggings or skinny jeans in a solid color. Stick to a neutral, or, for a bolder look, a solid hue already in the sweater’s color palette. Pairing either of these with a chunky, oversized sweater will transform the look from dated to trendy. Finish off the look with classic vintage sneakers or oxfords. A statement necklace breaks up the pattern and texture of an oversized sweater and adds a flashy touch.
Although stores such as American Apparel and ASOS sell these kinds of sweaters, the best places to shop for unique ones are vintage and thrift stores. It is easy to find high-quality, 100-percent wool sweaters at relatively low prices in thrift stores. In Manhattan, No Relation Vintage (204 First Ave.) and Star Struck Vintage Clothing (47 Greenwich Ave.) have considerable selections of chunky wool sweaters. Check the tag to ensure you are buying a 100-percent wool garment. Depending on your tastes, you may opt for a minimalistic pattern and color palette, or one that features deer, snowflakes and an army of hues. Even so-called “ugly” sweaters can be pulled off by anyone willing to take a risk, so if a sweater grabs your attention, don’t be afraid to stand out.
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, Nov. 20 print edition. Samuel Del Rowe is a staff writer. Email him at [email protected]