Winter Weather Style: The Shawl Cardigan

Changing up the winter routine with a newer outer layer. Jeans by Scotch and Soda. Shirt by J. Crew. Watch by Invicta. Boots by Stafford Camlin. All photos by Khoa Nguyen.
Changing up the winter routine with a newer outer layer. Jeans by Scotch and Soda. Shirt by J. Crew. Watch by Invicta. Boots by Stafford Camlin. All photos by Khoa Nguyen.

In case you haven’t noticed, the theme across much of this year and last year at Siblings With Style has been dressing for the weather. Namely, extremely cold weather (comes with the territory of living in Michigan, right?). That can make things boring and sometimes mundane in terms of what to wear each day. Departing from a more routine outfit even slightly is a good way to shake things up without getting too crazy. And in the cold weather, there’s no better way to do that than shaking up layers, and reaching for a nice cardigan. Plenty of us already do this, but for those who are less acquainted (and even for the rest of us), it’s valuable to get a refresher.

A casual way to switch up the v-neck sweater. All photos by Khoa Nguyen.
A casual way to switch up the v-neck sweater.

A solid v-neck sweater is a personal favorite, a go-to at least three or four days a week. But when it comes to sweaters, some trends recently have come back into vogue. Although some aren’t partial to it (and the style doesn’t necessarily work well with everyone), the cardigan has showed some serious staying power across the past three or four years. For some, it never really went away (kind of like those sharp black shoes in your closet), but when something like ‘geezer style’ gets popularized so much, it becomes ubiquitous. However, the cardigan hasn’t quite fizzled out yet, and likely won’t anytime soon. When James Bond himself (gets a lot of play on the blog, doesn’t he?) rocks a thick shawl-collar number, you know it’s almost certainly a safe bet to try.

A sharper take on the shawl cardigan. Shirt and blazer by J. Crew. Jeans by Scotch and Soda. Tie by Frank & Oak. Boots by Stafford Camlin.
A sharper take on the shawl cardigan. Shirt and blazer by J. Crew. Jeans by Scotch and Soda. Tie by Frank & Oak. Boots by Stafford Camlin.

The great thing about a cardigan like the shawl-collar option from Gap pictured above, is that it can — and should — be treated just like a v-neck sweater or crewneck sweatshirt. Note that it looks like that Gap version seems to be out of stock, but this appears to be similar in terms of inspiration. The right cardigan can be worn casually, like over a rumpled chambray shirt (see below) or a henley, or dressed up under a blazer (see above for inspiration on that). If you’re hesitant about a thinner or flimsier merino option, for example, the cardigan pictured from Gap has a very nice, thick sweatshirt-type feel to it, and the shawl adds some visual bulk — just like with the cardigan worn by Bond. On a personal note, the cardigan has held up great with weekly wear from October to now. It’s exceptionally comfortable on top of that, and it’s easy to layer, as you can see by photos with the blazer. But, size down if needed for a slimmer fit.

The shawl cardigan sans tie and blazer. Chambray shirt by J. Crew.
The shawl cardigan sans tie and blazer.

Additionally, because it can be treated like a v-neck sweater or crewneck, it pairs perfectly with a style staple and personal favorite, dark denim, as seen above. Along with that, a good pair of chunky boots add crisp yet rugged style to the overall outfit. In dressier situations, a knit tie adds some more texture than a standard silk tie. Work in something like a braided leather belt for even more texture and a more casual feel than a shinier dress belt. And as seems to be the case, we can look toward Daniel Craig for the ultimate example of how to wear a nice, thick cardigan. In addition to some of the examples above, there are plenty of ways to make this on-trend piece a part of your daily wardrobe.

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Style Suggestion: Back In Black

For guys, there are two pretty basic types of shoe colors — brown or black —and one essential rule …. don’t mix those two shades in an outfit (I.e. A deep black suit with brown shoes is a no-go). Maybe it’s because of the severity of black shoes, and their natural pairing with a black suit (which can often have an undertaker or funeral vibe to it), but black dress shoes have fallen out of favor in recent years, particularly in the #menswear blogosphere. Now for some, they’ve always been a staple, and rightfully so. The perfect black shoe (something like this number from Allen Edmonds) is sleek, with a clean, not clunky, toe box. (NOTE: While that Allen Edmonds shoe is investment-worthy, it’s pricey for most of us — try a black shoe from this list instead, perhaps). Black shoes are the perfect way to go tieless with a suit, too — they look lean and mean. Yet, something about black shoes has driven people away (including this writer, until early last summer).

Quite possibly the perfect black shoe. The Park Avenue by Allen Edmonds
Quite possibly the perfect black shoe. The Park Avenue by Allen Edmonds

Brown shoes, on the other hand, have blown up. Examples of ways to wear sharp brown shoes have been everywhere on places like Pinterest and Tumblr across the past five years or so, and the trend made its way from street style shots to everyday life. Even now, pairing brown shoes with a sharp navy (or grey) suit is a surefire, fail-safe combination. (Indeed, brown dress shoes or desert boots won’t fall out of favor for a long time). But black shoes in all forms are due their time in the spotlight, especially starting this spring and across the rest of the year. Namely, in many different variations — a loafer, a buck, a hybrid-type shoe — black is back.

They certainly are definitive guides on picking the right black shoe, and jargon when picking footwear in general can often get quite confusing, but the essential thing to keep in mind is this — when trying out an old favorite that’s quickly turning back into a trend, keep things simple.

Bond, James Bond. Nice example of how to wear black shoes.
Bond, James Bond. Nice example of how to wear black shoes.

We see a perfect example of how to style black shoes in the last James Bond movie (always an excellent place to turn for sartorial inspiration). He might be a movie character, but the one thing about Bond is that, eight or nine times out of ten, he kills it … from a style perspective, too. In shots from the movie, we see Bond wear three different types of black shoes — an open-laced chukka-style boot (perfect for cavorting around Turkey on a motorbike), a black-calf leather shoe (with a tuxedo), and a three-eyelet derby shoe. Outside of the tuxedo — where black shoes are essentially one of the only steadfast rules in men’s style — the styling with the other two situations is key to keep in mind. Suits might not be part of your everyday wear, but when wearing something flashier (like Daniel Craig’s slim Tom Ford suits in James Bond), a black shoe is the ideal way to take things down a notch in terms of footwear — if the suit fits like a million bucks, the shoes shouldn’t necessarily draw attention away from it.

From the personal wardrobe — Calvin Klein black dress boots, snagged on eBay early last summer.
From the personal wardrobe — Calvin Klein black dress boots, snagged on eBay early last summer.

However, there are other great ways to work in black dress shoes for daily wear. Especially in the winter, a chukka-style dress boot, like that worn by Bond, is well-suited for slicker terrain and probably looks more seasonally appropriate than something with a lower cut on the ankle. To get what you’re looking for, try eBay — the shoes pictured above were a great find at about $45 last summer. Because black dress boots (especially with open lacing) are both office-ready and black-tie approved, the right pair can be worn with chinos, a v-neck sweater and a crisp dress shirt, as well as a nice red-carpet suit. The one drawback to a black dress boot or shoe is that the shoe’s sharper look doesn’t lend itself as easily to pairing with jeans, for example. It might even look a bit out of place, so when going casual with dark denim, picking a brown desert boot is probably a safer bet.

When dressing up though, choosing to stick with something a little more unique than a plain black dress shoe — like wearing a chukka-style boot — is a nice personal style statement and a slight nod to a growing trend. The dress boot’s cut at the ankle is less ubiquitous than a plain black captoe, yet it doesn’t beg for attention like another pair of shoes might. Additionally, it’s a nice homage to classic style. Take a look, for example, at the slim navy suit and black dress shoe pairings of Sean Connery (again, turning to James Bond for style inspiration is an ideal move). Some say blue and black can’t work together, but what shoes might you wear with a midnight tuxedo? Across the next few months, look for the right shoe at the right price and when given the opportunity, bust out black shoes with a suit. It’s a look so sharp you won’t regret it.

Starter Style Review: J. Crew

Editor’s note: Building great style on a budget can be difficult and expensive. This is the fifth part in an occasional series chronicling great locations to start a wardrobe and buy affordable, good-looking style staples. Catch the first, second, third and fourth parts in the series here . Look for more in the coming weeks!

As far as budget style goes, J. Crew is about the top of the pile for most of us stylish #menswear fanatics on a budget. The brand seems to do just about everything right — they hit on great trends, provide modern, slim and updated looks, and cover every basic men’s style or fashion staple you could want to cover — all at prices that, when on sale and in the right location, are pretty within reach for most us out there (even college students – thanks for that 15% student discount!). Even the Ludlow suit on its own, with a tapered, substantial-feeling jacket and slim pants, makes the store worth stopping by (and checking out online). It’s about the essential barometer for modern men’s style in terms of a trim, updated suit. And, it’s well-known that the store meets so many crucial benchmarks for lower-budget style geeks (check out this Dappered article covering J. Crew for proof).

A trip to a J. Crew store certainly reveals just as many great things as bloggers (myself included ) love. Out of the stores covered to this point on Starter Style Reviews, (see previous posts above in the editor’s note), J. Crew does  a heck of a lot of things right. They eliminate the gaudy logos of Express,and they offer updated fits and stylish colors while avoiding things like gaudy graphic tees, for example. The quality is a definite step up from Old Navy, and and the same thing holds true for past Starter Style Review participant Target — although those stores do provide great staple pieces at nice prices.

Another great thing about J. Crew is the commitment to the overall brand, which now extends to cool in-store aesthetics like neat books and collaborations with companies like Harry’s.

In short, it’s the ideal place for the modern man to shop, be it in your twenties, thirties or beyond. The clothes in the store certainly reflect those values, as well. On a recent trip to the nearest brick-and-mortar location, some of the earliest spring rollouts were taking place – think colorful shorts with some slight pre-wrinkling, striped T-shirts and casual, soft sweaters perfect for throwing on during cool evenings.  Other spring offerings included some low-profile Vans sneakers and a pair of white Nikes with the iconic black swoosh.  Don’t forget about the extremely eye-catching orange New Balance kicks recently released, too.

Newest crop of spring arrivals.
Newest crop of spring arrivals.

The Stanton short (with a 9″ inseam) is a personal favorite — the wide variety of colors, trim cut and above-the-knee fit check off all the major hallmarks of a great pair of shorts. The rest of the store’s early spring offerings were great as well — soft, slim T-shirts with colorful stripes, all-season chinos in brighter spring colors and soft popover shirts (photo below). Items like that are what truly set J. Crew apart — the popover is a shirt with roots as far back as the 1960s in terms of iconic style, and yet with J. Crew, it’s given a modern take and fit.

Retro style, modern update.
Retro style, modern update.

The rest of the store can’t be overlooked either. J. Crew’s sweaters — which were, admittedly, in short supply with spring on the way — fit trim and come in a variety of colors and fabrics, including the ultra-pricey cashmere option. Other sweater options include chunky, fisherman-inspired knits that bring to mind rustic cabins and outdoor settings, like the one pictured below. A trim grey cardigan also looked to be a nice transitional piece in between the depths of winter and the first signs of spring.

A thick knit with vintage roots.
A thick knit with vintage roots.

The dressier accessories really complete the in-store experience at J. Crew, as well. Although purchasing the Ludlow suit wasn’t an option at this particular store, the selection of both casual soft-wash and spread-collar slim fit shirts was extremely on-point. There were all kinds of patterns, styles and fabrics available in the shirting department, all of which would pair perfectly with the right winter blazer (or summer blazer, for that matter).

Numerous colors, styles and fabrics to choose from.
Numerous colors, styles and fabrics to choose from.

As far as the rest of the shopping experience goes, J. Crew knocks it out of the park as well. It’s almost astonishing how well the store does so many different things in just the right way (from a personal standpoint). The jeans and chinos, at least in the 484 or Urban Slim Fit for myself, are a fantastic purchase that keep a slim silhouette and offernumerous color options. The store’s selection of socks are colorful, patterned and eye-catching, and other accessories (like their fantastic, yet pricey, collaboration with Timex)  and their collection of pocket squares with tipped edging and wilder floral patterns add modern edge and flair to an entire look. Keep in mind, too, that J. Crew offers more online in terms of shoes and other accessories — all free of gaudy logos, for the most part.

The one big key with this brand is to, for the most part, wait for sales and discounts. Shop J. Crew Factory online or in-store o get replica-type items at ridiculously low prices. And use whatever discount might apply (especially the college student or teacher discount!). However, buying at full price isn’t a bad bet, either. The pieces are, at the higher points, definitely investment-worthy —particularly the Ludlow suit. The next time you have a substantial and essential menswear purchase in mind, chances are — J. Crew’s got you covered.