The striped sweater: so simple, so classic. Hell, you probably have two or three gathering dust in the in the bottom of your dresser drawer.
Well, it's time to bust them out: Horizontal knitwear was so prevalent on the runways this season that it's suddenly the coolest thing you can wear on the weekends. That is, as long as you wear it well, in a way that befits (or disguises) your shape.
New Sweaters for Slim Jims
Conventional wisdom says the thinner the man, the thinner the stripe. But the fall and winter of 2011 are surprisingly all about thick bands of wool and cashmere.
Pick your favorite bright color, and then find a muted one for the second half of your two-tone crewneck top. Then pair it with a slightly darker (and rumpled) corduroy or chino from a mega-brand like Uniqlo or Dockers, both of which both give you plenty of options. Stick a cheap white T-shirt underneath, and you're good to hit the bar or hang with friends.
Another runway trend was to go bold or go home. Sweaters with electric lines like those from Jack Spade and Gap will help add some shock value to your getup, as long as you mellow the look by wearing, say, dark jeans, a blue poplin shirt and/or a shortened peacoat.
Trendy Combos for Average Joes
Sometimes it's a good thing when such a staple becomes popular again: This whole striped-sweater thing is that rare occasion when it's OK to layer one trend on top of another. Take a not-so-bold knit -- in navy and crimson, perhaps, from Gant by Michael Bastian (pictured) -- then use the deep colors to play up your new statement sport coat. Think plaid, check, tweed or even camel.
Another big thing you'll see a lot this fall? Retro, '70s-era club gear -- like Steve McQueen meets the Rat Pack, with a John Travolta dance move or two tossed into the mix. Knit turtlenecks -- not seen this side of the kids' aisle for what seems like a decade or more, and not made into chunky sweaters by designers for even longer -- are back. Stick with naval colors and wool pants and you'll make those icons proud.
You've done this one before: V-neck sweater, white button-down, nice tie. Only this time, roll up the sleeves a little higher, try a plaid tie and add a pop of color with your new outer layer.
Classic Knitwear That Flatters
If you're a little burly, vertical stripes may deceive beer-gut onlookers, but so can ribbed crewnecks with a subtle horizontal pattern. Pair one with your favorite bold jeans -- plus a nice watch -- on game day, and you'll be the most stylish couch potato in plain sight.
You know that reindeer sweater you thought was only for making grandma happy come late December? Well the busy stitching of Fair Isle is trendier than ever -- except that it now requires a dressier wool pant (the wider-legged pant, the better -- seriously) to keep you from looking like a crazy uncle. Speaking of which, avoid getting too crazy with the patterns and stick with something that's easy on the eyes -- maybe even French, like this option from A.P.C. Or else cover things up, J.Crew-style, with a versatile brown jacket.
And finally, big, chunky knits aren't just for grandpas anymore. After enjoying something of a comeback last winter, shawl-collar cardigans have evolved with patterned sleeves that tighten frames and accentuate your muscles. Stripes vary from minimal at Thom Browne to multi-armed at Brooks Brothers, all in a sophisticated, not-too-preppy range that ought to bring out the thief in that woman by the fire over there.
Jake Ward is a men's lifestyle blogger who spends most of his time tweeting under a joke account and putting too many things into virtual shopping carts.
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