Vintage Men’s Knitwear: Putting the Gran in Torino

Men’s Knitwear. Just the mere mention of the phrase can induce an involuntary smirk on a man’s lips. And admittedly, it’s not without at least a foundation in sartorial ill-advisedness. How many dads have spent Christmas Day in the reindeer jumpers they were bought, only to revisit the indignity every time the photo album comes out? And what about the inelegance displayed by golfers, Question of Sport contestants and dodgy TV chat show hosts of yesteryear? And that’s not to mention those now openly mocked knitting pattern covers where clean cut gents point to the middle distance or sit on a stile modelling their amazing creations.

So yes, extolling the virtues of men’s knitwear is an uphill struggle. But at least you know you’ll be properly dressed when you reach the top.

The trick to carrying off the woollen look is to check your fashion history books. You’ll see that the much maligned aspect of knitwear is only a drop in the ocean, and there are plenty of cool looks that involve knitwear.

First off, it’s utterly acceptable these days to follow your inner geek and throw yourself into tasteless knits, whatever your inner style guru (or the opening paragraph above) tells you. Accompanied by a big pair of glasses whether you need them or not, the look has humour and maybe even courage, and will certainly turn heads.

Withdrawing a little from full attention grabbing, the 1950s preppy look is one that never leaves the style undercurrent. Think Dead Poets Society or Happy Days and you’ll get the image: cardigans and tank tops, tastefully inconspicuous and actually quite cool. Plenty of genuine articles are available in vintage clothing stores if you want to throw yourself into the look completely.

The 1970s gave us a true knitwear icon when Paul Michael Glaser, a.k.a. Starsky, with his partner Hutch (played by David Soul), fought California crime by sliding over the hood of their Ford Gran Torino until they got their man. Sliding was facilitated immensely by the long chunky cream and brown patterned cardigan he so adored, its chunkiness saying “man of action” in a way that knitwear can easily fail to do.

Knitwear made a reappearance in the 1990s with the grunge look. This time the knit was chunky and colourful, designed to keep its wearer warm during festivals and enjoying life as a New Age Traveller. Unapologetically informal, this look was accompanied by combat trousers, boots and dreadlocks for a slightly rugged hippy vibe.

Nowadays, of course, the men’s knitted sweater is everywhere, and has shrugged off the old image of suburban husbands reading the Daily Mail in their conservatories. Shows like Friends helped make light knitwear fashionable in an age of layering, pulled off with equal aplomb by fussy Ross, professional Chandler and hunky Joey. Simple and body-shaped, this style remains in vogue and looks set to stick around.

So there’s men’s knitwear and there’s men’s knitwear. Dozens of looks can be achieved, from sensible to rebellious, and without doubt the knitwear a man chooses says an awful lot about his personality and his aspirations. Just don’t mention Alan Partridge.

Author Bio: Nigel Cooper created this article for Voodoo E-Commerce on behalf of Rokit, providers of vintage mens knitwear and other items of mens vintage clothing.


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