Style Stories

The ideal winter sweater might be a fisherman’s knit

A visual guide of reasons why
by Leandra Medine Cohen
If you buy something, I might earn a commission.

Good morning! How was your holiday break? Your New Years? Did you ~set any intentions~? One of the big ones for me is cultivating more meaningful female friendships. I have a few that are really special, but I think they’re more a function of happenstance because the friends in question demand the kind of precious respect that a true female bond needs, so I go along with it. It has only just occurred to me in fact that I don’t think I have actually known what it is to be a friend until very recently. Will be exploring this more over the next few months to be sure.

The other things that have been on my mind: regret and dopamine hits. When I was doing the market work for this newsletter yday, I encountered a number of sequined/gold things and they gave me a sour feeling in the pit of my stomach, the same one I get the morning after I have overdosed on sugar or had one more drink than I knew was good for me. It was interesting because my thesis this season has been DON’T BUY CLOTHES FOR HOLIDAY/NYE PARTIES, but still it bothered me, I think, to see the occassion-specific clothes hanging around the internet, awaiting their ill-fated markdowns and then, who knows what from there.

It got me thinking about thematic clothes and how out of date they can seem immediately after the theme has gone. How the reaction to indulging in (that is buying into) specific occasions (like Christmas or New Years) elicits the same reaction that an addictive pattern might in that makes you feel like you are possessed by a power greater than your own sense of what’s actually good for you. This isn’t to say don’t buy festive things, but it is to examine whether you’re buying something because you like it/want it or because you think you need it for some reason outside of yourself.

I bet the same thing happens when you shop fast fashion to wear something to an event once and then know you’ll never wear it again. If this feeling (the sour pit one) ever takes you over (have been there!) — that sort of “can’t look at you again bc I’m so disgusted,” it might mean that there is room for introspect/psychological surgery.

The other thing: I recently assembled a new pile of giveaway/sell bags and realized that the dopamine hit you get from clearing out your closet is almost exactly the same as (maybe a little better than) the one you get from shopping, which has totally provoked my wanting to evaluate where else I can find a rush of happy adrenaline hiding in healthy places.

To this note, I’ll be selling a lot of my clothes at the physical Club Vintage space near the seaport at the end of the month! (Jan. 26) — will keep you posted on this, and hope you can make it over.

Now without ado: a boatload of words on the titular sweaters, which you can hopefully find when you’re next meandering through the spoils of your existing clothes. It’s good to be back!

I spent a lot of time last winter trying to find a good alternative to jeans but found myself coming up short for a number of reasons that I pegged to: the durability of the alternative pants, how they paired with shoes and what they brought to the outfit but one thing I didn’t consider at all was the northernmost region of the outfit, which is silly when I think about it now because if you’re the kind of dresser who likes to create contrast in your looks by espousing the principles of several different vibes and the shoes are a lost cause on account of the limitations imposed by the weather, the key feature of what will make a pair of pants good is the sweater you pair them with.

Can you believe that whole thing was one sentence?

Maybe, for example, trousers you’d wear to work with a Top (capital T!) could be great weekend warriors with the right sweater — not as put together as a cashmere (or even wool, just finely bonded) knit a la this and definitely not as fine as a thin layer of merino a la this. What I’m envisioning is equal parts chunky and rugged, which brings me to the thesis here: a classic fisherman knit could be the whole thing of it.

Rodebjer sunglasses, Toteme sweater and boots, Raey pants —these look good

Or, you know what? I don’t actually think it has to be as literal as a fisherman’s knit but it does have to feel like it is the opposite of PRECIOUS. (Mohair works too)

LMND sweater, Michael Kors pants (another great Real Real sleeper brand), The Row moccasins

So figure a heavy yarn knit — it bonds over time and pills in what seems like an intentional way that looks pretty rugged and because of this, it does the same thing that a pair of jeans can do to an otherwise precious look — toning it down and toughening it up.

Here’s that Toteme sweater again, this time with Emi Mess pants. A good comp for the shoes could be, dare I say, these Margiela Tabi flats (the last thing I bought before a short shopping fast), and a toiletry kit from Man Repeller’s first product drop ca. 2018. Someone really wants it!

Here, for example, is Toteme’s speckled country knit paired with grey suit trousers you might wear to work. I added grey socks and a pair of satin ballet flats to create a more durable canvas for surprise, but any pair of actually-durable shoes/boots (in particular, in fact, the kind for inclement weather would be great here) could work. Then I tied the tiger print toiletry kit-as-bag in for consistency against the off-color shoes. Same formula imagined one other way:

This is a Skall Studios knit with Maria McManus pants and ballet flats from The Row; these or these could be good

But you don’t even necessarily have to be wearing suit pants/trousers. It could work with jeans:

Carlota Cahis sweater, Jeanerica jeans, Khaite sandals and bag. The bag and the sandals/tights combo are dressy enough to counterbalance the jeans and the sweater/white t-shirt under the sweater make better sense of the tights in the look (to the extent that the ratio of layers on both are evenly balanced: the tights cover my toes while the t-shirt covers my decollete).

Now that I think about it, this is basically the same dressing formula, just modeled in different silhouettes. But it’s worth including — can’t say enough good things about these Babaa sweaters. (Styled here with Citizens of Humanity jeans, Saint Laurent slingbacks and tights like these)

Or a mini skirt

Kind of a wildcard, tbh, not even actually sure I myself am sold but something about the fisherman shoes and the fisherman sweater paired with a tiny ass patent leather skirt makes me laugh. Maybe the sweater just needed to be like, light blue or something. Skall Studios knit, Courreges skirt, Grenson fisherman shoes.

Come to think of it now though, maybe this sweater type also makes wearing non-pants more feasible, reasonable, etc.

Here’s one layered over a light blue knit with a Nylora tennis skirt and black rubber-sole boots

Works with heels too

Here, too, are some bike shorts

Back to pants though, corduroys:

Babaa sweater styled with Nue Notes corduroy pants (these from Theory are a good alternative; Doen boots and the one thing we haven’t discussed yet at all but which is significant: jewelry pairings

The world is kind of your oyster here. Which is actually, honestly, the real reason I feel strongly about recommending you reconsider (or consider) the thick-yarn knit — it goes with everything much the same way a pair of jeans would, and could add that element of surprise to any look.

Always remember, never forget, a belt could change everything.

This oatmeal v-neck is a pretty good one to carry you through the Spring and I especially like the shape because it’s pretty wide, but also cropped enough to let hang over your pants, but not so cropped that it looks awkward. Am also always trying to reveal a sliver of t-shirt, some sign of life beneath the huge knit, and the v-neck makes it really easy to execute on that deliverable.

The key thing I’d say is being intentional about creating the contrast — you’ll notice when I paired the sweater with jeans, I went one degree far on the accessories front. Stockings and patent leather slingbacks on one hand, strappy wedges with gold hardware on the other. (This is all in the captions, just mentioning again in case you prefer it laid out here too.)

What I like most about this overall rec is that you likely don’t have to buy a new sweater to make it work — there’s got to be an itchy wool knit lying somewhere in your ether, no?

But if you need a few references, with material descriptions and all, I first suggest checking out L.L. Bean

This one is $99 and reminds me so much of Becky Malinsky. If you still prefer less print, this is a great one and color to pair with light-wash jeans/khakis)

Or Etsy — the heavy durable wool on these kinds of sweaters is actually one of the few knit weaves that seem to get better with age, so surveying the vintage offering first makes sense. And if that’s not for you, the luxury pick is no q this Toteme one:

$680 — or surprisingly 40% off and not sold out yet on Moda Operandi in a lovely shade of beige

With Babaa in at close second.

Babaa sweater, 215 Euro — there are a lot of good options, in partic on page 1, so feel free to poke around

Then tbh, I’ve been wearing the Carlota Cahis one like hell, but it’s for a little more spice.

Carlota Cahis sweater, $206 - very good w cords.

If you’re looking for luxury in the way of price that reflects quality and quality that reflects authentic artisanry, the Danish brand Skall Studios practically specializes in this. The one thing I’ll say though: itchy is itchy. Full stop.

Skall Studios Danish wool sweater, $365

Finally, I teased this above in one of the captions — the part about jewelry with the rest of the look. What I’ll say for now is that so long as you’re going for a similar balance as demonstrated in most of the above, you’ll want to add or eliminate jewelry from the precious category accordingly. Using your wrists as accent points is the easiest way to get it right — try a gold chain like this, a shiny one like this, a delicate watch if you have one and if your ratios are overwhelmingly rugged-to-soft, pearls are the easiest add. Lately, I like them more in the ears than I do on the neck, but that is personal preference. I’ll break this whole science down at some point this winter but for now, I gtg.

Signing off yours,