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Knitwear & Sweaters

Why pattern is spring’s new knitwear upgrade

Why pattern is spring’s new knitwear upgrade

Spring and cozy clothes go together like spring and the arrival of sudden, unexpected cold snaps. Which is why, right at the centre of that particular Venn diagram, you'll find a pile of sensible jumpers. This season, however, we want to encourage you to try something a little less sensible. Because for this spring, designers have transformed your snuggliest layer into something as eye-catching as the best graphic tees.

Patterned knitwear  isn’t anything new, admittedly. Grandmothers have been churning out Christmas sweaters for decades, and long before that, the folks up on Fair Isle were honing the multicoloured jumpers that made their island famous.

But recently, knitwear has discovered a new, more fun side. And we mean real fun, not ‘fun’ (you’ll find no reindeer here). Advances in knitting tech mean you can now get jumpers emblazoned with everything from arty blocks of colour to logos, flags and even pixelated dinosaurs. All of which is guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Take, for instance, the geometric pattern in this fetching Paul Smith knit, modelled above. That 3D effect would have a hand-knitter snapping their needles in frustration, but the new-fangled machines that these patterned jumpers are now made on are precise enough to create that kind of optical illusion, without wasting wool. And because knitwear is already endowed with all kinds of eye-pleasing texture, it makes a pattern with depth look even deeper. Try the same trick on a cotton sweatshirt and the whole thing falls flat.

Perhaps the best thing about these new knits is how they lift your wardrobe workhorses. For styling cues, take a tip from your tees and keep the jumper at centre stage. They’re punchy and will attract attention, so don’t dilute the effect by wearing one with paisley trousers. You can keep everything else in your outfit nice and muted – think dark jeans or neutral chinos – so the eye goes straight where you want it to. You can even wear patterned jumpers with tailored trousers – it is still knitwear, after all.

As for the jumper itself, there’s an option for every level of experimentation. If you’re new to the pattern game, there’s nothing wrong with starting classic; stripes always work, but push things a little by going for an unexpected colour pairing, like Reiss’s take, in Air Force blue and yellow. To step up a level, try a pattern that rewards a second look – Ben Sherman’s owl jumper looks abstract from a distance, but gets all ornithological up close.

After that, you can dabble in more wildlife (Paul Smith’s foxes are particularly gratifying, as is Ben Sherman’s flying duck) or go retro, with Oliver Spencer’s 70s-inspired graphics. But whatever you plump for, you’ll find that a patterned knit makes everything you wear it with feel cheerier. Because when spring chills take the smile off your face, the clothes you wear to counter them should put it right back on.

Shop patterned knits

Words: Tom Banham
Photography: Jon Cardwell
Styling: Toby Standing