I once got a fair isle sweater ahead of the holiday season because I thought it was the “festive” thing to do. I’m here to report that it still has a full-priced tag on it stuffed somewhere in the back of my closet. But I get it. As if the twinkling lights, snowfall, and street corners filled with flocked Christmas trees weren’t enough, you feel as if you yourself have to blend in with the jolly as well by rocking an ambiguous mirrored reindeer knitted together next to snowflakes — or simply a barf zone of meshed up color (fairly few designers every year actually get fair isle designs right like Thom Browne or Missoni, but then you question if their high price point justifies a garment suitable for a maximum of 4 weeks). Case in point: you don’t. Kindly leave that for your ornaments and sugar cookies because that’s their job. Your job is to look good, feel good, and stay warm throughout the winter season.
Few things to keep in mind:
- Fit. Nothing speaks sexy for your holiday Tinder date more than a knitted sweater molded to your body. And the beauty about knits is that most of them tend to do just that (assuming you get the right size). Don’t get them skin tight, but most (not all — just look at the on-model picture) sweaters that are ribbed or cable-knit nicely hug you in all the right places. This also helps when it comes to layering as it’s slightly annoying when you’re putting on a nice jacket and your shoulders bunch up or the stomach area of your sweater puckers out.
- Texture. Be super careful with wool — don’t buy just any wool sweater; itching shouldn’t be on your agenda while downing spiked almond milk egg nog (yes, it’s a thing and I’m really excited for it). Opt for merino wools, premium cashmeres, and in some cases, mohair.
- Color. If you have one sweater to get this season, make it neutral (my neutral is black). If you’re getting several, go for majority dark and moody colors like rich grays, deep greens, or sultry burgundy colors. If you’re overhauling your sweater portfolio, then by all means, go to town. But I like to diversify by texture and sweater style (turtleneck, open-neck, oversized) more than color.
- Embroidery, print, or neither. I love a good embroidery or statement intarsia (like when I wore this emoji number or dinosaur moment). The only thing you have to watch out for is that it isn’t too trendy to a point where you’ll feel like it’s obsolete come 3 months from now (or maybe you just don’t care and feel like you can hand it down or sell it on eBay).
- Size. This may seem like a no brainer, but watch closely for how the sweaters are supposed to look — how they were designed. Some sweaters are supposed to be loose and oversized (yes, even for men, which is a great look at times if styled right), while many are supposed to fit to a tee.
Now, let’s talk about how to style your new opposite-of-ugly Christmas sweater; and this will be quite short because it really depends upon the sweater you’re getting. If you’re looking to style your new cozy investment in multiple ways (as you should, otherwise you’ll get bored and rare it on occasion), consider these:
To tuck in, or not to tuck in — ‘tis the question. Actually, the answer’s simple. Thinner sweaters (especially thin turtleneck — gorgeous look) can be tucked in. Thicker fabrics — not so much. But sometimes it’s nice to tuck the front of the sweater in your pant if it doesn’t pucker. Try it out. If you feel ridiculous, it’s probably because you look ridiculous; so in that case, for once, keep it out of your pants.
Layered or against the skin. Ah, this all depends; but first and foremost, if the fabric is super thin, consider nothing under it:
- V-Necks (and shawl collars): If you score a v-neck that’s non-traditionally deeper (although, not that deep), I think these sweaters look beautiful against bare skin, as opposed to wearing them with a shirt. It’s another element of sexy — a not-so-buttoned-up look. Try both and see what you like better (but keep an open mind).
- Crews: Same as v-necks, but a colored t-shirt underneath doesn’t hurt either if you want to keep it casual.
- Turtlenecks: Pretty simple since you won’t see anything; but again, if it’s a thin turtleneck, don’t layer underneath (nothing worse than seeing t-shirt and collar lines), layer on top.
- Cardigans: Unless you’re shooting the cover of GQ as a football player, wear a t-shirt (a more open neck is a great option here to properly show a little skin and John Elliott makes some of the best open-neck tees you can find).
And finally, here are some sweaters I’m loving for the holidays that nicely fit the tickets above:
Images (left to right) c/o Giorgio Armani, Ermenegildo Zegna (by Marcus Tondo / Indigitalimages.com), E. Tautz (by Yannis Vlamos / Indigitalimages.com), and Ami (by Marcus Tondo / Indigitalimages.com)