Old School Cool with Vintage Sweaters

Sweaters have been around for a long time.  Today, guys mainly wear them two ways: as a replacement shirt (crew neck) or as a layering item for business casual (v-neck).   Don’t get me wrong, sweaters are great!  However, there is something about the styles and patterns of vintage sweaters that make them such an awesome piece for me.  They go great with more formal clothes, to give you that smart, “vintage” look!

The Knit Sweater Vest

Ah yes, the sweater vest.  It’s hard to pull these off, since they’re commonly associated with nerds.  My suggestion? Avoid the argyle and go for a plain one or a patterned one.  The next step is to make sure it is tailored to be very form fitting. With this item, any baggy-ness to the sweater vest and you’re right back in nerd ville.
This particular sweater vest is different than the ones you’re going to find at the store.  Firstly, the V  (or gorge) is a lot deeper than most other ones.  Also, this has a short waist, due to it’s vintage nature (it’s from the 1950’s!); back in the 1940s-1950’s guys had high-waisted pants, which necessitated a shorter sweater.


You should first base your outfits on the sweater vest.  If it’s got pattern like a Fair Isle one, then go for a plain suit.  If it’s plain, you can probably rock it as an odd vest with a sport coat and trousers. Let’s look at my outfit.  Even though I’m just wearing a cream sweater vest, I give the outfit more personality with a striped shirt, black knit tie, and tartan sport coat.  The red shirt pulls the red windowpane from the tartan and the cream sweater vest goes well with the white buttons and elbow patches on the jacket!  This is a great outfit, but you could even wear this to a Christmas party! Just give it a few months! 😉


Bonus tip: be sure to wear a black tie with black shoes.  A black tie can be worn casually or with non-dark items, but the shoes should ground in color.

H&M Tartan Sportcoat, Shirt from Brooks Brothers, Knit Tie from J. Crew

Vintage Sweater Vest, Pants from BR, shoes from Johnston Murphy

The Fair Isle Sweater

Can’t have a vintage sweater post without the fair-isle sweater!  This pattern is classic and can be seen repeated in different colors and scales of pattern.  The particular one in this article isn’t as vintage (probably 1980’s J. Crew) as the previous entry but the brown colors make it look the part.  For those of you who are wondering, a true vintage sweater (particularly 1920s-40s) will have a v-neck and large amounts of ribbing at the hem and the sleeves.  This particular one has neither, which makes it a modern creation.


I would always suggest you wear a Fair Isle sweater with a suit to give it a true vintage look.  However, there’s nothing wrong with wearing it by itself or under an overcoat!   Wearing a nice pair of trousers will make this sweater look more classic rather than 1980’s dad.  You could also avoid that 80’s look with dark slim jeans and boots!


1940’s Borsalino Fedora, J. Crew Sweater, Trousers from BR, Overcoat from Kenneth Cole

The Two Tone Layering Cardigan

Here’s a beauty.  You don’t really see two tone cardigans that much anymore!  This one, with a large houndstooth pattern, with light blue sleeves is a rarity and definitely has the “vintage look”.  In fact, it is a true vintage 1940’s sweater.  Just check out the ribbing at the hem! It’s giant, just the way I like it. The fact that it hits right at the waist is particularly awesome as well.  If you have low rise pants, true vintage sweaters will be too short for you.

For this vintage inspired (meets ivy trad) outfit, I went with the essential brown sport coat, blue OCBD, and striped tie.  To give it a younger feel, I chose to wear light cream cotton chinos! It’s not exactly “old man” anymore! Honestly, changing up the pants and shoe game is the best way to put a younger spin on a mature outfit.


While it may be hard to wear thanks to the pattern, I suggest looking at the 1940’s and 1950’s casual wear for inspiration!  It works perfectly fine without the jacket, and you could even try to pair it with some cuffed selvedge jeans for a smart-casual look!  Always try to imagine more than one outfit with any piece of clothing.


Who said shoes can’t have details?  These are spectator shoes, without the typical two colors.  Instead, the two “tones” are regular leather and interwoven leather.  It’s a very cool touch that isn’t really around much anymore, just like the two tone nature of the cardigan.


1940’s Two-tone Cardigan, Brown Jacket from H&M, Shirt from J. Crew Factory,

Allen Edmond Shoes, Pants from J. Crew, Tie from the Tie Bar

Don’t underestimate the coolness of vintage sweaters!  Do you guys have any that you enjoy? Comment below!

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

Street x Sprezza

Photography by Gabrielle U. and Scott E.

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