weater vests have been a staple in men’s fashion since the early 20th century, witnessing peaks and troughs in popularity throughout history. Sleeveless knitwear adorned with geometric patterns and earthy colours were particularly well-loved by both men and women in the 1970s.
However, by the 1990s and early 2000s, they were considered to be ‘geek chic’ at most and mainly confined to the realms of golfers and cricketers (with the exemption of Chandler Bing) . A far cry from the high fashion attention the garment has been getting the last few seasons.
From a practical perspective, sweater vests are essentially bodywarmers – like gilets, only slightly smarter and therefore fit for more formal occasions. 21st century fashionistas have nevertheless been known to style them in a multitude of ways.
Pair one with a buttoned shirt that has an oversized peter pan collar for a Gucci-inspired, work-appropriate fit. Throw a baggy sweater vest over an extra-large tee with some boyfriend jeans for an effortlessly cool look. Complement a silky slip dress with a cropped round-neck sweater vest in the winter. The possibilities are endless.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when and why the sweater vest came back into fashion, but we think the rise of second-hand shopping and thrift store culture has certainly helped. It’s cooler than ever to borrow old clothes from your mum, dad, grandma or grandpa – if their vintage pieces haven’t already been lost to car boot sales of time gone by.
Fashion houses such as Ganni and Stine Goya have also brought their Scandi expertise to bring ultra-cool variations of the sweater vest back to the forefront. The fashion set at Copenhagen Fashion Week this year were rarely seen without one of these knitted wonders on.
Origins aside, we can be sure of one thing: sweater vests are in right now. We’ve curated a list of the best for you to browse below.
S.S Daley Tabard argyle sweater vest
Botanical green argyle with tie sides? We think we just died and went to sweater vest heaven. This number by S.S Daley Tabard takes grandpa golfer chic to new heights. It’s made from 90 per cent lambswool and 10 per cent mohair, giving the perfect combination of comfort and mild stretch. We particularly love the subtle overlapping ribbed V-neck detail.
GANNI Wool-Rich Sweater Vest
Specialists in statement knits, this sweater vest from the cult favourite Scandi brand is actually surprisingly subtle –save for the striking crystal embellishments on the right-hand shoulder. It’s knitted from 80 per cent wool and 20 per cent polyamide, so it’s as breathable as it is warm and cosy. Win-win.
H&M Oversized Sweater Vest
This varsity-inspired sweater vest from H&M is cut to a slouchy oversized fit. Wear it on its own for a street-style ready look, or layer up with a long sleeve turtle neck for cute and preppy vibes.
Acne Studios Squirrel Wool Gilet
The juxtaposition of the intentionally distressed, oversized fit of this Acne Studios sweater vest, and the adorable jacquard squirrel motif is just a winner in our eyes. It’s made from 100 per cent wool, has elongated sleeves and falls just below the hip – making it a fantastic contrasting statement piece to pair with something silky and delicate.
YMC Brown Heidi Vest
Hand-knit lambswool and nylon-blend, this is another go-to piece for everyday wear. The jacquard floral pattern features throughout the front, offering a statement design in muted, day-to-day appropriate tones.
River Island Cream Cable Knit Tank Top
Cricket whites but make them chic. River Island’s uber fashionable answer to the infamous sporting kit is super soft, slightly oversized and features perfectly dropped armholes for breathability. We love how they’ve styled it with dark wash denim jeans and some smart-casual boots.
Molly Goddard wool sweater vest
A modern answer to the 70s geometric knit pattern we know and love, this bright pink sweater vest by Molly Goddard is an absolute dream. With a straight hem all-round and a contrasting trim, the almost boxy fit of this vest is alleviated by the funky and fun lightness of the design. A true statement sweater vest.
M&S Recycled Blend Cable Knit Knitted Vest
Pantone’s colour of the year for 2023 was recently revealed to be ‘Viva Magenta’. Though the colour is technically a radiant red, most of us are naturally thinking pink. Thus, displays across the city are currently adorned with the very best pink products on offer.
We adore this high neck, cable-knit and bright pink number from our faves over at marks and Sparks.
Arket Knitted Alpaca Yak Vest
Bretton-striped and oh-so-French, we’re obsessed with this heavy weight, five gauge knit from Arket. Made from a combination of alpaca, yak and sheep’s wool, as well as some polyamide for extra reinforcement, its materials are certified according to the Responsible Wool Standard. An excellent addition to any pair of plain black cigarette trousers.
Toast Cable Knit Tank
This cable-knit dream from TOAST is knitted in the Donegal mountains by family-run company, Bonner of Ireland, and made from a luxuriously warm merino wool. The set-back shoulders on this design carry a perfectly slouchy look, while the deep side slits allow for some comfy flexibility.
Pringle of Scotland Women’s Cashmere Blend V Neck Sleeveless Jumper In Burnt Orange
Pringle of Scotland has been a pioneer of British heritage knitwear for over two centuries and is known especially to have been adored by Grace Kelly. Though most renowned for their traditional argyle knit jumpers and sweater vests, these old school designs are more often than not seen on the golf course, and the golf course alone.
Nevertheless, Pringle’s collaboration with more modern designers has resulted in some minimal, block colour and super chic pieces – this mandarin orange sweater vest included.
Zara V-Neck Knit Vest
Canary yellow with a deep V-neck and structured shoulder, this sweater vest from Zara won’t even make it to your laundry basket for you won’t be taking it off. When you do finally get round to cleaning it, make sure it doesn’t go near a tumble dryer, please.
O Pioneers Isla Tank Top – Beige
O Pioneers is a small, independent British brand founded by two working mums with a love for fashion and practical wardrobe staples. With sustainability woven into the very heart of the brand, you can be sure that this beautiful beige jacquard vest has been crafted with the environment in mind. It’s made from a mix of wool and alpaca, making it wonderfully warm for those increasingly cold winter days.