There’s a reason stylish luminaries like Tyler, the Creator swear by the best sweater vests for men: when it comes to year-round layering, the silhouette remains undefeated. The sweater vest’s gradual emergence as a streetwear staple beloved by the most discerning dressers in the world—and the type of enthusiasts who document their every outfit—clinches it: There might not be a cooler piece of knitwear on the planet.
The Best Sweater Vests Shopping Guide
All of which is good news for you and your feebly-protesting credit card. Because the kooky knit’s surging popularity means there’s never been more options on the market, from woolly designer versions in kaleidoscopic colors to Supima cotton takes so soft you might mistake ’em for sleeveless hoodies. Wear one with the type of unfussy button-downs we’ve been championing as winter winds down in earnest, and then swap out the shirt for a tee (or ditch the shirt entirely!) as the crocuses start to bloom.
To help you get on board with the cool-again layering hack, we assembled a heavy-hitting roster of the best sweater vests for men available right now—each and every one of them further proof that the once fuddy-duddy knit is really, truly a must-have item.
The Best Classic Sweater Vest
Over the years, Fair Isle, the centuries-old Scottish knitting technique, has survived countless fashion tailwinds, and it’s easy to see why. (The real deal will usually run you a pretty penny, but the pattern’s ubiquity today means it’s more accessible than ever.) J.Crew’s cashmere version doesn’t cost nearly as much but the price belies the quality involved. Sure, it might not come straight from the Shetland islands, but for a couple hundred bucks you can afford to cop spare—and when your grandkids swipe it from your drawer a few decades from now you’ll be happy you doubled up.
The Best Off-Duty Sweater Vest
When you think of sweater vests, the first thing that probably (and understandably) comes to mind are preppy prints made from an assortment of merino wools and cashmere. But when you want to slip on one for an early morning walk to the nearby cafe—or to catch up with friends over brunch—you can leave the argyle prints at home. Fear of God’s fleece vest has everything you love about the brand’s popular sweats, minus the sleeves. It’s slightly oversized without being too baggy, and applies the sturdy trademark rib knit featured at the waist to a high V-neck with dropped armholes. Pair it with your slightly less casual long-sleeve button-downs for a funky mix—or ditch the shirt entirely.
The Best Budget Sweater Vest
Land’s End, it should be noted, doesn’t quite have what you might call a “storied designer pedigree”. (There are no grizzled industry craftspeople laboring over every stitch in an airy European atelier.) What it does have, though, is a history of turning out quality basics that won’t fall apart after a couple of wears, let alone a few tussles with the laundry machine. Case in point: this cheery eggshell yellow sweater, made out of a hearty cotton-modal yarn that prevents pilling and helps the sweater retain its shape in the long run, no matter how many times you dribble your Pét-Nat all over the front. Size up for a fit that’s more downtown skater type than backup tenor in an all-boys church choir, and prepare to be plied with the inevitable “Where’d you get that?” double-takes.
The Best No Budget (and No Frills) Sweater Vest
As much as we dig a wild-style pattern, it’s not a prerequisite to an excellent sweater vest. Exhibit A: Stoffa’s neutral-toned spin on the silhouette, made in Italy out of pure, locally-sourced cashmere soft enough to pique the interest of anyone with a hankering for the finer things in life. That deep, rounded neck promises to give your undershirt the shine it deserves, so best to come correct in that department while you’re at it.
The Best Sweater Vest Your Grandpa Probably Owns, Too
Ralph Lauren put aspirational American style on the map by making stuff exactly like this: gently-tweaked prep staples that hearken back to the not-so-good-old days without veering into cosplay. The Americana maestro’s snazzy button-front vest traces its pattern to the window panes of Britain’s famed haberdasheries neatly paired with a birds-eye knit. If that kind of attention to detail while paying homage to quality menswear from years past isn’t proof you’re going to hold onto this excellent knit for the long haul—assuming, of course, your pop pop doesn’t swipe it for himself first—we don’t know what is.
The Best Sweater Vest of the Moment
Few designers are so quintessentially English as the eclectic Sir Paul Smith. The designer’s wacky take on traditionally preppy styles are like a breath of fresh air in a dark and stuffy lounge. Take this electric red and purple pullover made from wool (with a hint of nylon for stretch). It’s sleek enough to pair with chinos and still look like you mean business, but can give off much chiller vibes when layered over your favorite white T-shirt and blue jeans. Wear it when the weather gets really dreary for a dopamine boost everyone will appreciate.