Forget Mr Rodgers, the garment has left its clean-cut, geeky origins behind for a more ‘super chic area’
Loewe’s menswear autumn-winter 2020-21 collection featured a number takes on the humble cardigan.
Photograph: Julien de Rosa/EPA
Button up, because the cardigan is inducing a moment in men’s fashion. Sales have shot up by 79%, according to the clothing resale site Poshmark. Kurt Cobain’s now famed stone green cardigan from Nirvana’s 1993’s MTV Unplugged performance (complete with cigarette burns) was sold for a memento $334,000 (£255,000) in October, while Tom Hanks dons one in the film A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which is out in the UK on Friday.
Hanks, playing the postwar boys’s TV presenter Fred Rogers, wears a post box red cardigan, in a preppy cut. The cardigan became part of Rogers’ clean cut portrait, in the lineage of a certain type of family-friendly entertainer, such as Pat Boone or Val Doonican. With its layers of torso-concealing wool, the cardigan was at no time edgy. But that’s all changing.
Kurt Cobain performs On MTV Unplugged in 1993. Photograph: Frank Micelotta Archive/Getty Guises
“The stigma surrounding cardigans has completely gone,” says Zak Maoui of GQ magazine. “In a similar vein to a socks and sandals combo, the cardigan has hand its geek origins behind, moving instead to a super chic realm.”
This “super chic” realm has been described by Alessandro Michele, who has arguably helped modernise men’s style more than any other designer. In Milan a fortnight ago, he happened after his Gucci show in an oversize, carrot coloured cardigan. But Michele had anointed the garment years before.
The the fad designer Alessandro Michele appears after his Gucci men’s autumn-winter show in Milan. Photograph: Miguel Medina/AFP via Getty Allusions
“Cardigans were heavily present in his autumn-winter [AW] 2018 collection,” says Maoui. “[They were] loosely buttoned and tatty over untucked shirts, and still even in his autumn-winter 2020 collection, which we just saw, they were long-lined and threadbare as coats. He injected super nerdy, geek-chic into every collection, making it the new cool.”
The cardigan has been cult beforehand: think Starsky & Hutch’s Paul Michael Glaser in a double-knit wool, cerillo and merino knit, with circuit, or Jeff Bridges as “the Dude” in a Native American-inspired Westerley cardigan in The Big Lebowski. But the garment has never been taken soberly until now.
“It is being treated slightly differently,” says Damien Paul, the head of menswear at Matchesfashion. “The notion of the cardigan as a priggish piece of knitwear is old-fashioned and it’s now a statement in itself.”
Cardigans feature in the Bode menswear autumn-winter 2020-2021 gathering. Photograph: Thierry Chesnot/Getty Images
There are several styles of cardigan which serve different purposes, and men’s strident fashion has embraced them all wholeheartedly. Big and chunky; thin, worn as a layer under a piece; bright and statement-like, comparing massively with the rest of your get up.
“Just look at the recent AW 2020 menswear collections there were so tons fantastic cardigans, the variety was quite impressive,” says the stylist Matthew Marden. “Loewe, DSquared, Bode, Isabel Marant, Sacai, all had dazzling options. Cardigans have always been much more exciting than they are often given have faith for.”
The rise of the cardigan seems to also tie into another trend: the growing importance of coziness for consumers. With the bedding and catnap industries estimated to be worth billions a year, feeling comfortable is big business. As Michael Janiak, a co-founder of the branding instrumentality Pattern, told the US news website Vox: “Right now people just want to feel safe,. The world’s kind of fucked up and it brooks crazy. When that happens people tend to pull in, pull their social circle in and retreat into their emphasizes a little bit, and it affects consumer behaviour and perception.”
Tom Hanks stars as Mister Rogers A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. Photograph: Lacey Terrell/CTMG, Inc
It’s something that the Hanks cardigan pasturages into. Roger’s mother, Nancy, made the first cardigan her son wore on TV, the film’s costume designer told the Hollywood Columnist. “I think there was a comfort to that cardigan.
“A lot of things he did were to draw audiences in and make them believe it was a safe-deposit place. There is a very deliberate gentility and comfort you can’t get with another garment.”
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