How to Wear a Cardigan

With the colder months right around the corner and the temperature dropping, it’s time to start thinking about your Autumn/Winter wardrobe.

One of this season’s key pieces is set to be the cardigan – a humble piece of knitwear that quickly became a timeless classic, worn by style icons throughout history. It’s safe to say we know a bit about cardigans – after all, we’ve been making them for decades.

To help you get involved in one of Autumn Winter’s best seasonal trends, we’ve decided to share some of our knitwear knowledge.

Here’s our guide to how to wear a cardigan, and what to wear with one, but first, a little history lesson…

When was the first cardigan made?

The origins of the cardigan stem from the Crimean War, which took place in the mid-19th century. British Army Office, James Brudenell (the 7th Earl of Cardigan), supposedly invented the cardigan when the tails of his coat were burnt in a fire.

A cardigan originally referred to a knitted sleeveless vest, but has since been broadened to define the knitted sweater with an open front that we know and love today.

Design icon Coco Chanel has been credited with popularising the cardigan, as she hated how sweaters would mess up her hair when she put them on or took them off.

Throughout the last century, the cardigan has been donned by fashion idols like Steve McQueen, Kurt Cobain, Daniel Craig, and Tyler, The Creator.

Each of these figures of finery has put their own spin on the cardigan, proving its worth as a versatile must-have piece.

To explore our illustrious history of creating high-quality knitwear for golfing legends, royalty, and more, discover the History of Lyle & Scott here.

Anyway, now you know about the history, it’s time to look at how to wear a cardigan…

How to wear a cardigan

When choosing what to wear with a cardigan, you’re only restricted by your preferences. The piece’s main strengths lie in the fact it’s comfortably functional: the cardigan pairs with all types of outfits and can be worn on any occasion.

Depending on how you like to dress, the cardigan could be patterned to help you stand out or a block colour, which is more suitable for building outfits and layering.

Speaking of layering, the classic button-up cardigan silhouette can be used as a stylish substitute for overshirts or shackets – elevating seasonal outfits with a more refined look.

Classic pieces of knitwear, like the cardigan, are comfortable choices for smarter occasions too – pair a cardigan with a blouse or shirt when you’re in the office.

Kurt Cobain wears a mohair cardigan at Nirvana's MTV Unplugged concert in 1993

What to wear with a men’s cardigan

If you’re looking for a cardigan you can wear a lot, an easy-to-pair colourway is a must, so consider navy, black or grey pieces.

Our Brushed Cardigan is an understated piece that benefits from a soft, textured material. Pair your Brushed Cardigan with other capsule wardrobe staples, an Oxford shirt and some smart trousers, like cords, for an outfit that’s suitable for days in the office or nights out you want to get dressed up for.

The naturally retro stylings of a cardigan are great for casual occasions too, so experiment with colours and patterns when selecting your cardigan. The men’s Archive Textured Stripe Cardigan is a throwback to the cardigans of the ‘70s punk movement,  with its multi-coloured stripes and design.

This vivid cardigan is a proper statement piece that can be paired with a plain T-shirt and a pair of jeans; similar to the thrift-store stylings that Kurt Cobain wore in Nirvana’s legendary 1993 performance on MTV Unplugged.

For those chilled-out days lounging at home or heading out running errands, the relaxed fit and fabric of a cardigan make it a cosy alternative to other midlayers, like thin jackets and overshirts.

So next time you’re planning a comfortable, laid-back outfit, consider a piece like our Block Marl Cardigan, which features a large logo that harks back to sportswear pieces of yesteryear, and a pair of comfortable joggers.

What to wear with a women’s cardigan

Styling and wearing a cardigan is easy when you know how. Once you’ve picked out your preferred style; cropped, button-up, or maybe something longer, it’s time to start pairing it with casual and smart outfits aplenty.

For cropped cardigan outfits, which give the impression of a higher waist, a long T-shirt dress or pair of jeans can be worn to accentuate your height and makes for a timeless pairing.

The versatility of the button-up cardigan is not to be sniffed at either; this cardigan’s a stylish wardrobe essential that is suitable for all casual occasions.

In terms of what to wear with your cardigan outfit, we recommend keeping it understated. For example, you could pair our Striped Cardigan with a plain T-shirt for a classically preppy look that can be worn with shorts or trousers and trainers.

What’s next?

Now you know how to wear a cardigan outfit, take a look at our selection of men’s and women’s knitwear using the relevant button below. The collections include timeless silhouettes that are backed up by over 140 years of craftsmanship – helping you dress for every occasion.

‎ ‎ ‎ ‎ ‎‎ ‎

Explore the Lyle & Scott blog for our Beginner’s Guide to Golf, information on our partnership with Rick Shiels, and in-depth looks at the Madchester Music Scene and The Smiths.

For more fashion-focused content, including our blog detailing the History of the Harrington, and an in-depth look at the relationship between fashion and football, explore our dedicated style blogs.

The History of the Harrington Jacket


The History of the Harrington Jacket

Explore the history of an iconic piece of clothing, the Harrington jacket.

2022-06-10 06:59:47By Lyle & Scott

Where Fashion Meets Football


Where Fashion Meets Football

2022-07-18 07:03:32By Lyle & Scott


Lyle & Scott do not claim ownership of any images unless otherwise stated.

Lyle & Scott

Lyle & Scott

Writer and expert