When to Wear a V-Neck, Crew-Neck or Cardigan

Hogan and Palmer

The two most common and versatile sweater designs are the v-neck and crew-neck (round neck).

If you wore two sweaters in exactly the same cloth, weave and colour, with the only difference being the design of the neck, they’ll still look very different when being worn. Knowing which to wear and when, with what, isn’t complicated and relies on a few basic guidelines.

McQueen

McQueen

Collar:

Choose a v-neck or crew-neck based on the collar of the shirt you’re wearing underneath. v-neck’s and crew-neck’s look best when they compliment the collar of your shirt and each design works better with different collars.

  • Button down collars work best with v neck’s. The nature of the button-down is that its lines are mainly vertical, forming an inverted “v” at the peak where the collar joins the shirt and a regular “v” down towards the first and second buttons (assuming the shirt isn’t being worn with a tie). With a v-neck sweater the lines all follow a similar pattern and work together. Button-down collars aren’t as well suited to crew neck’s as the more narrow opening of the sweater typically pulls the collar together, looking like the top button has been done up, which never looks right without a tie.
  • Cutaway collars work with both v-neck’s and crew-neck’s, but usually work better with crew-necks. The sharply cutaway collar has more horizontal lines and the collar can sit inside the neck of the sweater without sitting to high (as the higher collar stance of a button-down tends to do). The wider opening of a v-neck doesn’t do as good a job of holding the shirts collar inside the neck opening, meaning the collar will tend to fall and stay out of the neck opening, which never looks right.
  • Standard collars (neither overly narrow or cutaway) will usually work with both neck options and are the safest option. I only wear button downs or cutaways (personal preference) but if you wear a standard collar then either sweater will usually work fairly well.
Paul Newman. V-Neck.

Paul Newman. V-Neck.

Ties:

If you want to wear a tie with knitwear, do it with a cardigan (link on how to how to wear cardigans), not a sweater. With a sweater, there isn’t enough space created between the knot and the neck opening and it makes everything appear cramped. It also has an unmistakable look of “motor registry clerk”….. not that there’s anything wrong with that. It’s no surprise to regular readers that I’m a huge fan of the cardigan as one of the most stylish and versatile items you can own.

Wool cardigan, knitted tie, cutaway collar

T-shirts:

For a v-neck sweater, wear a crew neck t-shirt and use the small amount of colour visible from the t-shirt to pick up on something else you’re wearing. A simple casual outfit would be a grey v-neck sweater, faded blue jeans, white street shoes and a white t-shirt. 3 colours, no complexity and always looks good. A v-neck sweater with a v-neck jumper just shows more of your neck, which is fine, but the crew-neck t-shirt will always look better.

For a crew-neck jumper, both v and crew-neck sweaters are fine, as you won’t see the shirt beneath, anyway.

Body shape:

V-neck’s are more slimming. Heavier set men better suit a v-neck as the “v” has a slimming effect on the eye. Crew-neck’s look great if you’re slim, but make heavier men appear even wider.

Summary:

Pick your sweater based firstly on the collar which you’ll wear it with, don’t wear either with a tie and choose the right sweater for your build.

Alternatively, if you’re Paul Newman, Steve McQueen or Arnold Palmer, wear whatever the hell you like and you’ll still make the rest of us look like hobo’s.

Andrew is an Australian born writer, covering the world's leading bespoke tailors and craftspeople in menswear, with a focus on authentic quality, over branding. He spends most of his days running his successful (god knows how) consulting company and travels frequently to Europe for work and writing. He's a passionate cyclist, former trainee professional golfer and lover of all things Cocker Spaniel. He's married to his best friend and significantly better half, Mehri.

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