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Knitwear & Sweaters

What exactly are: Shawl cardigans?

What exactly are: Shawl cardigans?

In a nutshell

A versatile halfway point between smart and casual dressing, the shawl cardigan combines a shape like a blazer's with the comfort of a cardigan.


The story goes that the seventh Earl of Cardigan, who wanted a jumper that wouldn't muss his hair, invented the cardigan in the 1850s for himself and his officers to wear during the Crimean War. The shawl cardigan in particular came about in the 1920s. It combined the neck of a smoking jacket and the body of a cardigan—and was adopted by icons Steve McQueen and Daniel Craig decades later.

How to wear them well

"Shawl cardigans are an ideal combination of things: really comfortable, smart and easy to wear—but also a bit different," says Thread stylist Freddie Kemp. “You can wear one casually with a t-shirt, jeans and boots but you can also sub one in for a blazer in a smart-casual outfit (as long as the cardigan is a standard blazer colour such as navy, grey or black). A navy shawl cardigan, for instance, looks great with grey smart trousers, a shirt and tie, and a pair of leather shoes."

Inverallan shawl cardigan (£235)