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Sweater Jackets

Jack Bettridge
From the Print Edition:
Liev Schreiber, November/December 2013

If we can credit any one force with driving recent men’s wear currents, it’s versatility. Denims dress up as easily as they dress down. Shirts that button down as business attire, uncork flair when the sleeves are rolled up and the collar left open to reveal lively details. What could be more flexible than a garment that’s named for two pieces of apparel: the sweater jacket—or, if you’re in a hurry, the swacket. 

Just as it sounds, it plays at least double duty, combining elements of two upper-body cover-ups. On the one hand, the sweater jacket is a casual approach to formality. Not quite a sport coat, it nevertheless pulls a shirt-and-tie ensemble together with aplomb. On the other hand, you can wear it in any off-hour pursuit and never be accused of overdressing. Wear the Belstaff sweater (right) when you climb on your motorcycle for a spin, but don’t worry that it will break dress codes at the office. Effect elegant panache with the Ted Baker piece (left), yet shed the reserve by loosening its modified shawl collar.

It’s easy to equate the sweater jacket with the cardigan sweater, which shares the feature of an opening front. Even if you ignore that sweater jackets often have zipper, not button, closures, another decided difference sets them apart: fit. Cardigans evoke images of English professors and psychoanalysts determined to project a numbing nonchalance in their thick-slub, draped clothes. If élan is what you seek, the cardigan has about as much chance for success as its namesake British earl had in his evil-conceived Charge of the Light Brigade.

The best swackets (if you’ll excuse the portmanteau) distinguish themselves with a torso-hugging, slim-fitted form and highly defined shoulders. This creates sharp lines comparable to those on the classic business suit, a format that has achieved uniform success precisely because it’s so flattering to the form. The architecture stresses long lines that arise from the waist and draw the eye to a triangle at the neck, which frames the face. Not only that, it confers height and slimness—a quality that most men can’t afford to squander.

And if that doesn’t convince you, consider what every woman knows: knits are wrinkle resistant. You can pack these bad boys in a suitcase and essentially have an alternative sport jacket on your next trip.

Visit belstaff.com and tedbaker-london.com

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