Cotton sweatshirt Our stylists’ favourites for you, plus some tips on how to wear them well

Why you need a cotton sweatshirt
Sweatshirts tick all the boxes: basic, neutral, versatile, comfortable and practical. Plus, although people dismiss them as really casual, the designs here can look as smart as jumpers because of their simple slim cuts. I think guys look great wearing them with brogues and chinos; it’s casual, but slightly unexpected.

Stylist, Millie Rich

The anatomy of a classic sweatshirt

1. Dorito: The triangle under the neck was first meant to soak up extra sweat.

2. Raglan sleeves: These sleeves, which end at the collar instead of the shoulder, let you move more freely than normal sleeves do

3. Loopback: The loopy texture of the cotton on the inside or 'back' of the fabric.

4. Thickness: The thicker, the more classic.

The backstory

When a high school football player in 1920s Alabama was tired of practicing in shrinking wool jumpers, his dad, who worked in an underwear factory, made him a cotton jumper—the first sweatshirt. It got its name when fellow factory workers saw the prototype after a game.

The fit tips

The most versatile sweatshirts are more fitted than they are baggy. This means:

Sleeve cuffs: Sit tight to the wrist

Arms: Are fairly fitted, with about two inches of extra fabric to pinch.

Bottom: Ends halfway down your trouser fly.

The dos

Do wear it in the most classic, casual ways possible: with a t-shirt and jeans, plus workboots or simple trainers like Converse.

Do try making it slightly smarter, too by wearing it over a shirt with jeans and brogues.

The don’t

Don’t think you can wear the same sweatshirt to the gym and anywhere else. Get two: a smart one and one you can actually sweat in.

The care tip

Throw your sweatshirt in a cold wash, and when you take it out stretch the body and arms lengthwise while it’s still wet; this will help maintain the sweatshirt's shape. Then let it air dry.

The quality indicator

Cheaper sweatshirts' waistbands are often too tight, which makes them bunch and ride up. Look for a sweatshirt with a body that looks straight in an overhead photo; it'll be more flattering and comfortable than a more elasticated sweatshirt.

The best colour for you
  • If you have very fair skin or hair: Navy is more flattering than grey on pale skin (and it's easier to smarten up).
  • If you have a darker complexion: Both grey and navy will suit you.
The year-round outfits

The beauty of a cotton sweatshirt is that it looks just as good with jeans as it does with shorts. In summer, throw one on over chino shorts and a t-shirt; in winter, layer a sweatshirt over a flannel shirt or long-sleeve t-shirt and wear with jeans or chinos and a wool coat.