Sweatshirts may be all the rage, but nothing layers as elegantly for spring as a lightweight sweater. The perfect addition to a suit or a pair of Levi's and a slim-cut buttondown, a bit of merino will get you from now through Memorial Day weekend in style. It's a vital piece in every man's wardrobe, says Christopher Bastin, creative director of Gant Rugger.
When layered properly, a thin sweater can both keep you warm and bring "a different kind of elegance than a sweatshirt," says Bastin. "It also packs a bit more 'I’m a man' than a sweatshirt does – if that's what you're aiming for."
Keeping in mind a lightweight sweater can (and should) be worn on its own, Bastin recommends every guy own two to three solid standby pieces. "You need a navy, a cream, and a color – pastels always work for spring," says Bastin. "Avoid heavy knits to eliminate awkward layering."
As with most garments these days, the subtle tweaks comes with the fit. Make sure the sleeves aren't too wide, the body isn’t too long and that it doesn't make you look bulky. Dress it down with a pair of nicely worn-in jeans and sneakers; it's a clean look that always works. For a more "dressy but messy" look, keep the jeans, but opt for a white shirt, a shantung silk tie (Bastin likes a four in hand knot) and a club blazer. It's a smart, preppy look that doesn't lean toward schoolboy.
And while Bastin is more of a solid color guy when it comes to sweaters, one can easily complement an outfit of solid colors with something subtle like a classic Breton stripes for a slight maritime touch. Depending on your location (Maine and Washington we're looking at you), lightweight cashmere or wool can be worn well into fall. After all, cashmere is like champagne: It's never the wrong call, but it can be expensive.
That's why it is important not to overlook mixed blends. "Ten percent cashmere normally provides enough softness without being too warm," says Bastin. "Cotton with the addition of a bit of silk is how we got our version so damn nice."
Lastly, if you opt for a simple layering tee, Bastin advises going for one that has a wider neck than the sweater. "It gives you a springy and effortless look," he says. "Women aren't the only ones who should show collarbone." [Gant Rugger Crue Sweater $50; gantrugger.com]