We purchase two kinds of clothes, those that rest in our closet and those that rest in our minds. We buy those essentials-shirts, shoes, socks, trousers that sit idle throughout our rooms waiting for us to toss them on absentmindedly as we piece together a Monday morning outfit. And then there are those rare few pieces that drive us simultaneously towards inspiration and obsession. They make us never want to wear anything else, to find a way to fit them into every single outfit we wear with in a week, these are the items that illustrate the true value of clothes. They make us happier when we wear them, they strike confidence in us, and when they’re on our backs we truly believe we’re the best we can be. I was fortunate enough to acquire one of these elusive pieces this past week, as I stumbled upon a late eighties Polo Ralph Lauren double breasted cardigan.
It is essentially an unstructured sportcoat, disguised as a sweater, with notch lapels and a drape that hit wells below my waist, but it’s the loose weave of it, the ability to stuff my hands into the pockets and feel the stretch of the fabric that make it so unique. Instantly I knew what I had discovered, a garment I wanted to live in, the closest to a suit of armor that a millennial man can get to. The chunky, thigh length cardigan, effortlessly toes the line between the casual and formal. The shape is similar to a traditional sportcoat, yet knits are inherently dressed down. The pockets allude to a much more structured piece, yet the loose nature of the sweater clearly belongs to a much more relaxed garment. In the end it’s the cardigan’s ability to fill both categories that is it’s greatest asset, as it is just as appropriate in lieu of a jacket on top of trousers and a button-up, as it is over a tee and jeans during the weekend.
It’s for these very reasons that the cardigan has always been a staple of the overexposed menswear icons. It has a certain air of distinction to it, packing much more character than a simple pullover, or a navy jacket, but it’s slouchy and relaxed, equally as thoughtful as it is thoughtless. When I hear the term “transitional” the only thing that really springs to mind is a chunky cardigan, when you don’t want to have to commit fully to a jacket yet, but you still know that your simple summer outfit just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Sure it’s a little bit Mr. Rogers, and a little bit Big Lebowski, but that’s kind of the point. Both put together, and laid back, it’s a rare piece in every sense of the word.