For this edition of our sartorial debate series “For and Against,” Highsnobiety’s Jian DeLeon and Noah Thomas weigh in on the merits (or lack thereof) of cardigans, the most cuddly yet controversial species in the knitwear kingdom. Can the buttoned sweater transcend tragic hipsterdom? Or is it a piece of knitwear with commitment issues? Time to hear both sides.
For: “Mo’ Money, Mohair Problems”
When I think about cardigans, I think about “Lovefool,” the super catchy ՚90s song by that Swedish band The Cardigans. But when I’m not thinking about that (try to listen to it without getting an earworm), I’m thinking about Nirvana on MTV Unplugged in 1993.
I still can’t get over Kurt Cobain’s absolutely bonkers fit that launched a thousand collections from designers like Takahiro Miyashita of Number (N)ine and Shane Gonzales of MIDNIGHT STUDIOS. That oversized olive green mohair cardigan — like The Dude’s rug in The Big Lebowski — really tied everything together. The Frightwig tee he wore underneath was just the icing on the cake.
It’s safe to say that the cardigan’s long left its preppy origins and is now associated with the ՚90s nostalgia and emo culture that gave it a second life. When I see cardigans, I think more Rivers Cuomo than Steve Urkel; there are a ton out there that instantly elevate any fit into something that hits the sweet spot between stylish and stoner.
Cardigans are like pleated pants. If you go too far, you risk looking like a literal dad or grandpa instead of subtly capturing the essence. But if used sparingly, it can create that perfect storm of old-meets-new style that goes down in history — you know, like when Kurt Cobain covered Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World.” — Jian DeLeon
Against: “Cardigans Are Just Scarves With Sleeves”
Cardigans suck because there are already so many beautiful jackets to wear, and there are already so many beautiful sweaters to wear. And yet, the cardigan is neither of these things. It’s essentially a scarf with sleeves. I don't really see the point of a sweater with buttons, or the weird neckline you end up with when a cardigan’s buttoned. It almost looks like a V-neck, which makes it even worse.
There is literally no type of weather where you look at the temperature and think that a cardigan would be optimal. And when you think of the type of people who wear them, the first thing that comes to my mind is Carmelo Anthony wearing an ugly fedora with a terrible cardigan over a sloppy button-down.
Look, I get it. For a lot of people, cardigans are what you wear when you’re trying to clean up a little and look smart. But life has taught me that people who look smart are different from people who are smart. And often, the latter are the last type of people you’d ever see in a cardigan. I’m a strong proponent of the statement sweater, but there’s other ways to do it. — Noah Thomas
Be sure to catch more of DeLeon and Thomas quipping about dripping on The Dropcast, Highsnobiety’s weekly podcast covering the latest products and streetwear news.