41 Different Types of Sweaters

Take a closer look at sweaters and how they became not just a functional garment but also a fashionable and versatile clothing by learning about the different types of sweaters.

Woman in white sweater jumping on bed.

Sweaters aren’t just part of fashion, they’re part of culture. Songs have been written about sweaters. They’re warm, they’re soft, they’re iconic. You probably own lots of sweaters and you’ve probably worn many, many sweaters in your life. But you probably haven’t worn all the different types of sweaters on this list!

History of Sweaters

Knitted sweaters on pile above a gray chair.

Sweaters date back to the 15th century. Fishermen’s wives from Guernsey, in the Channel Islands between Britain and France, knitted “guernseys” for their husbands. The guernsey was adopted by other coastal communities in the British Isles and the North Sea and was later called a “gansey.” The gansey was knit from wool and featured a short collar and easily re-knitted cuffs. Later, these warm garments would be known as sweaters.

In the mid-19th century, the fitted woolen sweater was worn as a part of the uniform for sailors, navy and army personnel. At the end of the 19th century, sweaters caught on with everyone else. Often, men wore their sweater as outerwear. The women followed suit thereafter and soon, sweaters became an integral part of fashion.

Sweater Style

Woman posing in white trendy sweater.

Sweaters are knitted garments that go around the torso with varying levels of coverage, depending on the type of sweater you’re wearing. There are many advantages of wearing a sweater. They stretch well without tearing and they are easy to maintain as well.

The best part about knitted sweaters is that they go with everything and come in so many different colors, patterns and styles. They can also be knitted out of various yarns to create different thicknesses.

Chart: Top 10 Most Popular Types of Sweaters

Aran

Aran sweaters displayed

The Aran sweater has become a signature look of Ireland and it’s a style that has spread all around the world. The sweater style is named for the Aran Islands, which are just off the coast of County Galway. It’s a distinct style and the Aran sweater is known for being very warm, something that’s an absolute necessity when you’re on an island off the coast of Ireland. This style is a great place to start if you’re looking for warm winter sweaters.

History

Aran sweaters were knitted by women who lived on the islands out of necessity. Made as a men’s sweater, the Aran sweater provided a crucial layer of warmth for the fishermen and farmers who lived in the region. The sweaters are distinct because they’re made with specific combinations of stitches to create a visible design. This pattern is no accident. Families had their own special patterns, which were closely-guarded stitching secretes. These patterns were passed down for generations.

These sweaters are also waterproof thanks to the unscoured wool, which is naturally water-resistant.  This is why the Aran sweater became the ultimate fisherman sweater. It was distinctive, it was functional and it was fashionable.

Style

Because the designs are so intricate and take so much craftsmanship to make, these sweaters are highly prized. Different types of stitches in Aran sweaters do have specific meanings. The basket stitch is a symbol of the fisherman’s basket. The cable stitch pattern is a tribute to fisherman’s ropes. The diamond pattern is a wish to the wearer for health and success. The honeycomb symbolizes the hard-working bee.

Variations

Because the Aran islands are in the Counties Donegal and Mayo in Ireland, the Aran sweater may also be called the Donegal sweater. The Aran sweater is also commonly called the fisherman’s sweater or fisherman sweater.

Argyle Knit

Man in crossed arms with blue argyle knit sweater.

The argyle knit sweater is instantly recognizable for its pattern of interlocking diamond shapes. It’s popular on the golf course and has a preppy, fashionable look to it. 

History

The distinct argyle pattern originates with the tartan of the Scottish Clan Campbell, from the Agryll region in Western Scotland. The pattern has been worn in Scotland on all sorts of clothing since the 1600s. 

However, the pattern didn’t get noticed by the rest of the world until the 1920s. That’s when the Scottish fashion house Pringle of Scotland developed its own argyle pattern. The pattern was worn by the Duke of Windsor, one of the most famous style trendsetters of the era. He wore it while playing golf. The rest of the world noticed and argyle set the style world ablaze.

Bell Sleeve

Woman in a crop top bell sleeves sweater.

The bell sleeve sweater was inspired by a very old fashion trend. Flared sleeves date to the late 700s in Japan. Bell sleeve styles became popular in Europe during the Medieval Era. The flared sleeve look has never completely faded from the fashion scene, becoming trendy again in decades since. 

Boyfriend

Woman in a boyfriend sweater posing near the ocean.

The boyfriend sweater is made for women but it’s styled to look like a man’s sweater. This is why it’s known as a boyfriend sweater. This sweater has a V-neck design and it’s made to be somewhat loose and roomy. The ribbed bottom falls below waist-length. Because it’s made to fit loosely, this style may also be called the oversized sweater.

Cable Knit

Multicolored cable knit sweaters

The cable knit sweater is actually a variation of the Aran sweater that originated in Ireland. The cable pattern is centuries old but continues to be highly stylish. Cable knit sweaters are known for being thick and warm. These sweaters are very densely knit to be thick and insulating against winter weather.

Cable-knit sweaters are known for a unique cable pattern, but it is there for more than just aesthetic appeal. It also adds warmth and a little texture, giving it a relaxed look that you can wear anywhere you need to go. It is meant more for casual occasions, but if you wear it with dress slacks or a skirt and a blazer, it can look quite dressy. Cable-knit sweaters are both comfortable and fashionable, which is one of the many reasons for their popularity.

Cape

Woman wearing a blue cape sweater over an orange turtleneck long sleeves.

Cape sweaters are a variation of ponchos that are styled a lot like standard capes, the historic outerwear that still appears occasionally. Cape sweaters are highly fashionable. They can be worn as indoor or outside wear. Unlike many other types of sweaters, cape sweaters are only worn as a layer and can’t be worn without a shirt.

Cardigan Sweater

Man wearing a hat and cardigan sweater during autumn.

The cardigan is an iconic sweater style marked by its button-up design and wide V neck. The name of this sweater style comes from James Thomas Brudenell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan. He came to fame for leading the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War. 

Fashion designer Coco Chanel made the classic cardigan popular in the fashion world in the 1920s. She preferred button-up style sweaters that didn’t mess up her hair when she got dressed. Queen Elizabeth, another style icon, is also known for wearing cardigans. Versatile and fashionable, cardigans can be men’s or women’s sweaters.

Style

Cardigans continue to be highly popular. with all the top designers offering up their own twists on this fashion classic. Cardigan sweaters are most associated with loose-fitting, button-up styles with V-neck designs. However, any button-up or zip-up sweater can be called a cardigan. This is why the cardigan may also be identified as a full-zip sweater.

Variations

The cropped cardigan is a favorite cardigan style that ends at or above the waist. 

Open front cardigans have no zippers or buttons to hold them closed. They’re styled to be open all the time, leaving the layer underneath quite visible.

Cheerleader

Teenage girl wearing a cheerleader sweater against a wooden background.

The cheerleader sweater is a nostalgic and very retro look today. But once, this sweater was worn only by men.

History

Cheerleading began in 1880s and cheerleading teams were made up only of men. It wasn’t until the 1920s that the sport was open to women. They didn’t dominate the sport until the 1940s and WWII, when the men were overseas. 

By the 1970s, cheerleader sweaters had taken on their signature look: close-fitting, waist-length sweaters with someone large shoulders and upper sleeves. Often, these sweaters were detailed with a letter to represent the school. It was in the 1970s that cheerleading as a sport was significantly changed and the uniforms became more athletics-friendly.

Cowl Neck

Jessica Szohr wearing a cowl neck sweater.

The cowl neck sweater has a wide, long neck that can be folded down. Cowl neck styles of clothing became highly popular in the 1930s, but the neckline itself originated in ancient Greece. 

Crew Neck

Crew neck sweatshirt on a hanger.

The crew neck sweater, or crewneck sweater, has a short, ribbed collar that is round in shape and made to sit just around the base of the neck. According to Gentleman’s Gazette, this collar style was originally named after the fisherman who first wore the crew neck look.

Cutout

Woman in a white cutout sweater against a beige background.

Cutout sweaters, also styled as cut-out sweaters, look very modern and very sexy. Cutout sweaters are distinguishable for what’s not there in the design. Cutout sweaters feature sections that leave skin bare. The sweater may have cutout shoulders, a piece of the chest or back strategically cut out, cutouts in the arms. Cutouts can be anywhere to create this style that teases with just a little bit of extra skin. And though this style looks quite fresh and trendy now, it actually began more than 50 years ago.

History

Cutout designs in fashion appeared in the 1960s, when women were playing with style and flipping fashion norms upside-down. Women started showing more skin at this time and cutout fashion was the perfect way to celebrate that. This is also a perfect sweater style when you want to be fashioanble and a little bit sexy, too.

Style

Now, cutout styles are still very much on trend and they’re still seen all the time. Even though they’ve been a part of fashion for decades, cutout sweaters are still a little bit sexy and a little bit daring in any style. 

Fair Isle

Man in a fair isle sweater on a picturesque landscape.

The Fair Isle sweater is probably best-known for being favored among the Royal Family in England. And if it wasn’t for the royals, it’s likely that very few people would have ever heard of these somewhat simple but almost universally adored sweaters with their pretty colors, charming designs and soft wool construction.

History

The former Edward VIII, known for most of his life as the Duke of Windsor, is responsible for all sorts of men’s fashion items that have become staples today. The Fair Isle sweater is no different. These sweaters first came to fame because the Duke liked to wear them. He was photographed wearing Fair Isle sweaters, which pretty much guaranteed their success. 

Many other members of the Royal Family have worn Fair Isle sweaters, including Princess Diana, Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton and little Princess Charlotte, who wore an adorable Fair Isle sweater in her second birthday photo.

Fair Isle sweaters may have reached royal status, but these garments definitely started with humble origins. They began, fittingly enough, on an island north of Scotland that, yes, is called Fair Isle. It’s a somewhat isolated island where high fashion certainly wasn’t much of a concern in the early 1800s. That’s when the sweaters were first made for fishermen living in the area.

The distinct patterns are what set Fair Isle sweaters apart. Often made in pullover, button-up or cardigan designs, the patterns on the sweaters help distinguish them. Today, Fair Isle sweaters are still made using these centuries-old patterns, though plenty of imposters exist as well. 

Style

True Fair Isle sweaters are still hand-made and the waiting list to get one is years long. However, many designers have drawn inspiration from the patterns of Fair Isle sweater styles to mass-produce similar styles that resemble these carefully hand-made creations. 

Fanny

Woman in a purple fanny sweater sitting on a wooden table.

The fanny sweater isn’t always considered to be a distinct style in the fashion world, because this sweater may actually be made in many different types of styles. The distinguishing feature of the fanny sweater is that it is a long sweater, ending below the hips and covering one’s backside. Many different types of sweaters can meet this characteristic and also be called a fanny sweater.

Grandpa

Grandpa in a striped sweater with Jack Russell Terrier dog on his lap sitting on a leather chair.

Like some other types of sweaters on this list, the Grandpa sweater isn’t any one specific sweater design. A grandpa sweater may be a cardigan, a pullover, a sweater vest or any other type of sweater. What sets the grandpa sweater apart is the busy, often brightly-colored pattern of stripes. The stripes are typically horizontal, though this is not a requirement. Other patterns may sometimes be included in the design with the stripes. 

Mock Turtleneck

Blue fleece mock turtleneck sweater

The mock turtleneck is a variation of the classic turtleneck, but over the years this has become a viable style of its own. In both sweaters and other types of clothing, the mock turtleneck, or mock neck, is a close-fitting collar that covers about an inch of the neck. 

Mock neck styles are very similar to a turtleneck in the way they look, with the difference being that the neck itself isn’t as constrictive or as large as a regular turtleneck sweater. If you like the look of a turtleneck, but don’t like the way the collar feels on your neck, the mock turtleneck sweater might just suit your fancy. Mock neck designs also come in a wide variety of fabrics and colors.

Off-the-Shoulder

Woman sitting on stairs wearing an off-the-shoulder sweater.

Off-the-shoulder sweaters, sometimes stylized as off the shoulder, are a signature look of 1980s fashion. Look at any movie or TV show of that era and before long, someone will show up with a form-fitting sweater that bares the shoulders. This look has recently re-emerged on the fashion scene and fashion history proves that shoulders will also play a big role in women’s style.

History

Shoulders in women’s fashion have always been sort of a symbol of feminism and feminine power. Bare shoulders made an appearance in women’s fashion as early as the 1890s. They were a staple of female style again in the 1970s and in the 1980s, becoming a signature sweater look.

Style

Off-the-shoulder sweater styles are still being created by today’s designers. The retro look from the 1980s can totally work when it’s done well. So feel free to play with this look. Because in women’s fashion, shoulders are empowering.

Open Knit

Smiling woman wearing an open knit sweater in bright orange with matching bow headband.

The open knit sweater is more of a manufacturing technique than a type of sweater. In open knit designs, the yarn is loosely woven together, rather than tightly so. This leaves small holes in the fabric. Sometimes, these holes are visible so you can see through the sweater. Open knit designs vary in how loose the weave is and in style. Any type of sweater may be made in an open weave design. These designs are cool and lightweight and not made to add much additional warmth. Don’t pick one of these if you’re looking for a cozy sweater; open knit sweaters are all about style.

Poncho

Woman holding a cup of coffee covered in a pancho sweater.

The poncho itself has ancient origins. The simple design has been worn for thousands of years. It’s a simple square or rectangle of cloth with a hole in the center for the wearer’s head. This ancient design has been made of many materials and it’s been adapted into a fashionable sweater style, too. 

Puffed Sleeve

Hipster women wearing puffed sweaters and black hats.

Whether you’re a fan of period movies and TV or you’re just a fan of “Anne of Green Gables” stories, you’re probably aware of the puffed sleeve style of days past. Puffed sleeves are very much associated with the Edwardian era depicted in “Anne” stories, when fashionable women of the 1890s wore big, billowy puffed sleeves with their voluminous skirts. Actually, the trend is much older than that.

History

Puffed sleeves first made their appearance in fashion in a big way during the Renaissance, making the look centuries older than the Edwardian era. The look became particularly trendy again in the 1890s and made another reappearance in the 1930s. Now, they’re back on the fashion scene again.

Modern Style

Puffed sleeves have become very trendy again in the fashion world. Many different styles of blouses are being made with puffed sleeves. Sweaters are no exception. Puffed sleeve styles can be made to suit any type of sweater, but it’s most common in cardigan and cropped sweater designs.

Pullover

Man in a pullover sweater talking on phone.

The pullover sweater was the first type of sweater to be called a sweater, a name that was given to it in the U.S. When you think of a sweater, you probably imagine a pullover. This is a sweater with a simple collar and no buttons or zippers. The completely closed design is put on and taken off over the wearer’s head, which is why this style is called a pullover. These sweaters are not always chunky sweaters but they are mostly made to be somewhat loose around the torso.

History

Knitwear was being made in the islands of the English Channel as far back as the 1400s. Knit tops were first made in the islands of Guernsey and Jersey. This is why the first sweaters were called guernseys or jerseys. When the knit tops found their way to the U.S. in the 1890s, they were called sweaters. Athletes were the first to wear sweaters and the look quickly caught on from there.

Variations

The half zip and quarter-zip sweater is a pullover sweater with a short collar that zips to the chest, in half zip designs, and to the collarbone in quarter zip designs.

Raglan Sleeve

Woman in a high bun wearing a blue raglan sweater.

The raglan sleeve sweater, sometimes simply called raglan sweater, is distinct for the way it’s put together. Raglan sweaters are made with no shoulder seams. Rather, the shoulder seam runs across the front of the chest. The sleeves are attached to the sweater at the collar to create one long seam all the way down the length of the arm. 

This is a very comfortable style with a nice, somewhat loose drape on the body. Raglan sleeve styles are used often in cropped sweaters because it creates a loose, almost seamless fit.

Ribbed

Woman with afro hairstyle wearing a ribbed sweater.

Just like the name suggests, ribbed sweaters have a “ribbed” look, similar to corduroy. You can find these sweaters in various thicknesses and colors. Ribbed sweaters give you great texture without all of the bulk that a regular sweater has. It is a lightweight sweater but if you pair it with a blazer you can wear it when it’s cold outside.

Roll Neck Sweater

 A folded roll-neck sweater against a white wood plank background.

Roll-neck sweaters are sometimes confused with turtlenecks, but in roll-neck sweaters, the neck part isn’t as high. Meant to be worn mostly for casual occasions, it is essentially a combination of a crew neck and a turtleneck. It does have a high collar, but it is not normally as high as a turtleneck, and it has an edge that is rolled a little.

Scoop Neck

Woman in a scoop neck sweater holding a take away coffee.

The scoop neck sweater, or scooped neck, has a wide, rounded neck. This design exposes the entire neck and some of the collar bone. Scoop neck sweater styles are often made in cardigan and cropped styles, though many different types of sweaters can be made with a scooped neck. The scooped neck design is a popular neckline in women’s clothing. You can always wear a scoop neck sweater with a collared shirt to show off a pretty blouse instead of your neck.

Set-in Sleeve

Carefree woman wearing a green set-in sleeve sweater.

In set-in sleeve sweater designs, the sleeves are actually sewn onto the body of the sweater, meaning the sweater has two separate pieces of fabric that were sewn together. Because of the extra stitching and the seams usually used, set-in sleeves look very professional and are, therefore, frequently worn by business professionals and those aiming for a dressier look.

Shawl Neck

Man in an autumn scene wearing a shawl neck sweater.

The shawl neck sweater, sometimes called the shawl collar sweater, has been worn by a slew of Hollywood’s well-dressed leading stars. It’s been worn by the likes of Steve McQueen and Daniel Craig, not a bad endorsement. 

Style

According to Thread, the shawl collar became popular in the 1920s. Clearly, it has been a favorite choice in style ever since. The shawl collar is usually only seen in cardigan and V-neck designs. You won’t find a lot of shawl collar pullover designs. This is because the design of the collar needs a little room. A shawl collar cardigan is a great additional layer for any outfit.

The shawl neck collar is made with extra fabric that creates a distinct shape that frames the wearer’s face, neck and chest. When the shawl collar has enough extra material to be folded down, it’s called a foldover.

Shawl collar styles are so named because the tops of the sweaters look like shawls. There is extra fabric sewn around the neck area to keep you warm and comfortable. Shawl collars are good for both casual and formal wear, or even if you need a replacement for your hoodie. They are also worn by both men and women, so they are not only attractive sweaters, but they can be fashionable as well.

Sweater Dress

Woman wearing a sweater dress.

Knit clothing dates to at least 1275. So far, this is the oldest piece of knitwear ever found. By the 1350s, many articles of clothing were knitted. Fisherman sweaters appeared in England and various items of clothing were made out of sweater material. But it was none other than Coco Chanel who made the sweater dress a thing. Chanel gave the term sweater weather a whole new, fashionable meaning.

History

Coco Chanel debuted dresses made in jersey wool in the 1920s, setting the stage for the sweater dress as we know it today. Knit dresses caught on with women and they’re still a popular look today. Sweater dresses are made in all sorts of different styles but typically these dresses are form-fitting. 

Sweater Vest

Woman in a long sleeve polo topped with a green vest sweater.

Sweater vests are sleeveless and meant to be worn over some type of shirt. They can have round necks or V-necks, and they make a perfect accompaniment to a business suit or become a casual outfit when paired with jeans. Sweater vests look great over dress shirt styles.

The sweater vest is a fashion staple. This sleeveless sweater has been worn by Presidents and First Ladies, A-list celebrities and trendsetters everywhere. The sweater vest can look nerdy chic, preppy cute or professional and polished. It looks great on a college professor or a fashion model. Best of all, sweater vests pretty much never go out of style. 

Style

The sweater vest can be made in roomy, loose styles, close-fitting designs or cropped looks. It’s made in a variety of colors and patterns and can be paired with many other clothing items to create a layered outfit. 

Tennis

Woman in a white tennis sweater holding a gold trophy.

The tennis sweater is a truly classic look. It’s also an incredibly specific piece of fashion. By strict definition, a tennis sweater is either white, off-white, ivory or cream in color. It has a V-neck and it is knit in a cable knit pattern. To be a proper tennis sweater, it must also have colored bands along the neckline. Sometimes, additional bands of color are added at the sleeves and the waist. However, this part is optional. 

Style

The tennis sweater was on the fashion scene in the 1930s and has never faded from popular style since. Every year, many designers unveil their newest tennis sweater looks. The classic white sweater design is still worn by tennis players and style enthusiasts around the world.

Turtleneck Sweater

Woman in a bun hairstyle wearing a black turtleneck sweater.

The turtleneck sweater is a style classic that provides extra warmth for the coldest days. Turtlenecks first appeared in fashion in the 1800s. Because the look became popular with polo players, turtlenecks also became known as polo neck shirts

History

Some of the earliest sweater styles featured turtlenecks, extra-long necks that are typically folded down. The fold-down design allows the turtleneck to be customized so it looks good on all necks. Since those early sweater days, the turtleneck sweater has been worn by Hollywood celebrities and style gurus of all types.

Style

Turtleneck sweaters are extremely popular and with good reason. Not only do turtleneck sweaters come in a variety of fabrics and colors, but they can also be appropriate for both casual and more formal occasions. If you wear them under a blazer, you can wear them almost anywhere. As long as you don’t tuck them in and they aren’t too tight for your size, they should look great no matter where you wear them.

Twinset

Woman in a purple twinset sweater flashing a sweet smile.

A twinset is really two types of sweaters. This is a cardigan that is paired with a pullover. Both are made in the same material, color and pattern. This is why this look is called a twinset.

Ugly Christmas Sweater

Man against an orange backdrop wearing a Christmas hat and an ugly Christmas sweater.

The ugly Christmas sweater is truly a unique fashion trend, celebrated not because it’s stylish but because it’s so bad it’s good. The purpose of the ugly Christmas sweater is to wear a sweater that’s highly embellished so that it’s gaudy. If it lights up or has doodads hanging off it somewhere, even better.

History

The ugly Christmas sweater is a pretty new fashion trend when compared to some others on this list. The first mass-produced, Christmas-themed sweaters seem to be the jingle bell sweaters of the 1980s. The only trouble is, the bright, holiday-themed sweaters were meant to be fashionable, if a little cheesy. 

But soon enough, people embraced the over-the-top, brightly-colored designs. Vancouver, Canada claims that it was the city where the first-ever ugly sweater party was held, back in 2002. Either way, Vancouver now hosts a yearly Ugly Christmas Sweater party. The party serves as a benefit that raises money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation, according to ThoughtCo

Style

Any sweater can be an ugly Christmas sweater, though the loud designs are perhaps best displayed in pullover and cardigan styles. 

The trend of wearing ugly winter holiday-themed sweaters has spread beyond Christmas. You can also find ugly Hannukah sweaters and non-denominational winter-themed ugly sweaters that contain no specific references to any particular holidays.

Just remember, if it makes you laugh out loud or groan outright, it’s a perfect ugly Christmas sweater.

V-Neck

Model wearing a V-neck sweater, white pants, and a Panama hat.

The popularity of the V neck sweater is thanks to none other than Edward VIII, who became best-known as the Duke of Windsor. One of the most famous and romantic figures of the 20th century, the Duke of Windsor made history when he abdicated the throne of England to be with the woman he loved. He is only slightly less well-known as a trendsetter. Pretty much everything the Duke of Windsor wore became a huge fashion trend that everybody had to have. The v neck sweater is no different.

History

The Duke of Windsor popularized the V-neck sweater in the 1920s. After he was given a Fair Isle sweater vest, he was seen often wearing Fair Isle and other sweater styles, including the V-neck. Soon, everyone was wearing V-neck sweaters to emulate his elegant, effortless style. 

Style

These sweaters have a collar shaped like a V, hence the name. There are many advantages to wearing a V-neck sweater. Not only are they very attractive and trendy, but they can elongate your body and make you look taller, which women in particular love. They can be made out of many different fabrics and colors.

V neck sweaters really should be considered a basic item when it comes to what’s in your closet, because they can be worn in so many different circumstances, whether you want to pair them with your skinny jeans or a pretty skirt. You’ve probably already added this neckline to your list of favorite styles for all sorts of tops.

Woolly Pully

Also known as the commando sweater, the woolly pully is a military sweater. It was made for WWII soldiers, specifically for British SAS commandos. The sweater soon spread to other military personnel and then to everyone. 

Style

The woolly pully is distinct for the leather patches on the shoulders and the elbows. The wooly pully typically has a crew neck collar and ribbed cuffs. This sweater is made to have a nice, straight drape and falls below the waist, with no cinching at the bottom. It can be a serious or a cute sweater, depending on how you style it.

Materials Used for Sweaters

Closeup of multicolored knit sweaters.

Sweaters are distinct for being knitted garments but they can be knitted from a huge variety of materials. What your sweater is knitted from and how it is knitted will determine its thickness, warmth level, drape and softness.

Animal Hair

Like wool, hair is harvested from animals to make sweaters. In fact, cashmere is a type of hair, though it is often marketed as and thought of as a type of wool. Since cashmere comes from goats rather than sheep, it’s hair.

Other animal hair used to make sweaters include alpaca, made from alpacas. Angora is made from rabbit hair. Mohair is another type of goat hair. Mohair is distinct for its somewhat stiff, short fibers. Angora is extremely soft and used to make the finest animal hair sweaters.

Cashmere

Cashmere is the most expensive type of wool. This is so well-known as a luxury material, there’s an entire “Seinfeld” episode about it. Cashmere is a type of goat wool that’s incredibly warm and soft. It takes a lot of wool to make a single cashmere garment, which is why cashmere sweater styles are so expensive. The name comes from the Kashmir region, where the wool originated in the 1200s. 

Cotton

Cotton sweater styles are lightweight, durable and cool. You can wear them in both the summer and the spring when there’s a late-night chill. Although it is mostly considered casual wear, a cotton sweater can look dressy if you know how to accessorize it.

Linen

Because linen is breathable and absorbs moisture even better than cotton, this is one fabric you’ll only want to wear when the weather is warm. Linen can wrinkle, which is one of the reasons many don’t like it. However, linen is a light material that comes in various colors and designs and it will keep you cool as nothing else will. It is also a very attractive material.

Sheep Wool

Other than cotton, sheep wool is used for most sweaters. There are various types of wool sweater types that you can choose from. They each vary when it comes to softness and warmth, but the most common types are Shetland, Merino and lambswool, the latter being the result of the first shearing of the sheep.

In regards to softness, Merino ranks first, followed by lambswool and Shetland. If you have a sweater that is itchy, it was likely made of Shetland wool, because Merino wool is much softer and more comfortable.

Silk

Sweaters made entirely of silk are difficult to find, but you can find sweaters made with silk as an insulator. It may also be added to the knit to add to a sweater’s aesthetic appeal. Silk is not only comfortable and soft but it is also a durable material that does a great job of retaining heat. In most cases, you are going to find silk blends but they are nonetheless very soft and comfortable sweaters. Silk sweaters come in various designs and styles, so you can get one in any color or size you need.

Synthetics

Synthetic materials, or man-made fibers, are also frequently used to make sweaters. Acrylic, polyester and other common synthetics can be made to mimic the softness and warmth of natural wools. Like natural wool, synthetic fibers can be dyed in a huge variety of colors.

What’s in a Name?

Sweaters can be a bit of a confusing garment, especially if you’re trying to do a little online shopping. Sweaters go by many different names…and those names change depending on where you happen to be. 

In the U.S., a sweater is a knitted garment worn on the upper body usually as inside clothing. A sweater may also be called a pullover. In the UK, this same garment may be called a sweater, a pullover or a jumper. In the U.S., a jumper is a woman’s sleeveless dress. This garment is called a pinafore in the UK. How are you doing so far?

Now, it gets really confusing. In the U.S., a sweatshirt may also be called (incorrectly) a sweater. A sweatshirt is actually a cotton or cotton blend item worn on the upper body that is not knitted. In the UK, a sweatshirt is called a jersey. In the U.S., of course, a jersey is a specific type of athletic shirt.

Things change again if you’re talking about a sweater vest. That’s because, in the UK, a sleeveless sweater is called a slipover. 

FAQ

Warm sweaters hanging on a white rack.

Now that you know more about the many different types of sweaters there are, you may still have questions about sweaters. How do you wear them? How do you care for them? Which types should you be wearing? Get the answers to all the most-asked sweater questions.

  • Can sweaters be tailored?

The standard sizes aren’t exactly perfect and they aren’t even uniform across all brands, anyway. It can be hard to find a sweater that fits perfectly. The good news is, sweaters can be tailored. Most sweaters can be tailored as easily as any shirt. 

You can do all sorts of things to give a sweater a custom look, too. If it’s too short, try adding fabric to the hem. Chiffon, lace and other materials look amazing as a sweater extension. Sleeves can be shortened and the waist can be slimmed, too.

  • Can sweaters go in the dryer?

Wool sweaters are notoriously hard to machine wash and dry. It’s a reputation that has been well-earned. If you’re wondering about whether you can put sweaters in the dryer, the short answer is no. In most cases, you definitely don’t want to put a sweater in the dryer. It can lose shape, pill, even unravel.

You must lay sweaters flat to dry and make sure they maintain their shape. Most sweaters shouldn’t even be machine-washed and if they are, they can only be washed in cold water. Check the care label carefully and follow all instructions for cleaning your sweater. In many cases, sweaters may be marked dry clean only.

  • Can sweaters have zippers?

Many sweater designs have zippers in full, half or quarter-zip designs. Some sweaters also have decorative zippers that serve no function other than to look cool.

  • Can sweaters be hung?

Most sweaters should not be hung up on hangers the standard way, no matter how nice the hanger. Wool and knit fabrics can stretch out and lose shape when hung. Sweaters should always be folded. But if you’re low on drawer space, you can fold a sweater in half and hang it over the hanger, according to StyleCaster.

  • Can sweaters have hoods?

As the list above proves, sweaters are made in many different styles. Many different types of sweaters can have hoods. Many sweaters made to be outerwear are styled with hoods. These styles range from casual to dressy. There are many casual, hooded sweater designs that are made to resemble the classic sweatshirt hoody.

  • How are sweaters made?

Sweaters are knit from yarn or fibers in specific patterns and designs. All sweaters were once handmade but now, sweaters are widely mass-produced and made with machines that do the knitting. Some sweater styles and brands are still knit by hand, which generally makes them more expensive than the machine-knit brands. 

Anyone can actually learn how to knit and make their own sweaters if they are so inclined. All you need is the knitting needles, the yarn and a pattern to follow.

  • How should sweaters fit?

You want every piece of clothing you wear to fit well, no matter what it is. Sweaters are no different. However, it’s not always easy to know how a sweater should fit. 

Unless you’re wearing a cropped sweater style, the hem of the sweater should hang past or just at your waist. The shoulder seam should end right at the end of your shoulder, rather than extending beyond it. The sleeves should end at the base of your thumb or just before it. 

The body of the sweater should feel comfortable with no more than a little extra material. The sweater should not feel too loose or bulky around your body anywhere. 

  • How do you know if a sweater is too small?

If you feel a pulling or a tightness in the sweater when you move in your shoulders, chest, back or waist, then your sweater is too small. You’ll also know your sweater is too small if it doesn’t comfortably cover your wrists unless it’s a three-quarter sleeve style.

  • Should I buy sweaters a size up?

Sweaters will shrink if they are put in the dryer….so all you have to do is not put your sweaters in the dryer. Don’t buy clothing that doesn’t fit you properly with the expectation that it’s going to shrink. As long as you avoid exposing your sweater to hot water or hot air in the washer and dryer, your sweater will not shrink. 

Always buy clothing in the right size for your body. Because when an item shrinks, it doesn’t perfectly shrink to a smaller size. It will not shrink uniformly. Rather, the sleeves may shrink more than the body, or vice versa.

  • How do you know what size sweater to buy?

To find the right size of sweater, go by the same chest, length and sleeve measurements you use for a shirt if you’re buying online. Look at sizing charts carefully and choose the right size based on your measurements, not on a specific letter or number. If you’re buying clothes in person, just keep trying on sweaters until you know you have a good fit.

  • Which wool is best for sweaters?

Wool is a favorite sweater material because it’s warm and insulating even when it’s wet. It’s naturally soft and it’s used to make the finest sweaters. But there are a lot of different types of wool to choose from. So which one is the best?

Fluffy kitten sleeping on a knitted sweater over wood plank table.

Cashmere wool is certainly the most expensive. It has a reputation for luxury, but there are varying degrees of cashmere wool. The finest quality comes from China. Merino wool is also very high in quality but it costs less than cashmere. Both merino and cashmere wool are very warm. 

Some people are allergic to wool. Alpaca is a great alternative. This is a camelhair option that is soft and warm. Alpaca is used to make sweaters because it’s insulating and soft but does not contain the lanolin that can cause irritation to wool allergy sufferers. Alpaca is hypoallergenic, according to Field & Stream.

  • Where can you buy high-quality sweaters?

There’s a huge variety of places where you can purchase sweaters, from online stores to local thrift stores to department stores. But no matter where you shop, you can always find low-quality sweaters, too. 

Familiarize yourself with the materials used to make sweaters and get into the habit of checking what every sweater is made of. Examine the tightness of the knit and the quality of the stitching as well. 

Look for specific features that make a garment a quality garment, rather than trusting a brand name or a price tag. Even a high price tag doesn’t guarantee quality.

  • Can you wear sweaters in the summer?

Many types of sweaters can be worn even in summer. In fact, a lightweight sweater can be the perfect thing for a cool summer night or a windy day at the beach. The beauty of sweaters is that they can be knit to be lightweight or heavy, very thin or very thick. They can even be made in open weave designs that allow for a lot of airflow, which is the perfect style for summer wear.

Sweaters are a great addition to a summer outfit when you want a layered look so you can be ready for whatever the day or night may bring.

  • Which type of sweater is the warmest?

There are many different types of sweaters that can be warm, depending on the materials they’re made from. Cardigans and pullovers are mostly closed designs so they can provide a lot of warmth. 

However, most of the warming power of a sweater depends on what it’s made from. Wool is naturally insulating, which is why it’s a popular sweater material. Cable knit sweaters are usually the thickest, which makes them highly insulating as well.

  • What do you wear with a cardigan?

Cardigans are extremely popular and they’re available in all kinds of styles and colors. But let’s face it, there is a wrong way to wear a cardigan. Unless you’re careful with your look, a cardigan can age you. So how can you wear it well?

Wear a cardigan with a button-up shirt. This looks good if your cardigan is fitted, rather than loose. T-shirts are great for casual cardigan looks. 

  • What’s the sweater the Dude wears?

“The Big Lebowski” has become a huge cult classic. Many people are familiar with the popular lines and just about everyone is aware of the Dude, played by Jeff Bridges. Throughout the film, the Dude wears an interesting sweater, along with his pajamas. So what’s that sweater that he’s wearing?

According to experts at BAMFStyle, the Dude is wearing a Cowichan sweater. This is a type of sweater that is made with lambswool in a distinct, geometric knit pattern in two different shades of brown. The sweater first came to notice in the 1850s when European settlers came into contact with the Cowichan Native American tribe. The European adopted some of the Native American weaving patterns into their knitwear, creating this unique look.

Traditional Cowichan sweaters are still made by hand in Canada. However, because of the popularity of the look, many companies produce their own versions of this sweater that are machine-made. Traditionally-made, hand-knit Cowichans sweaters will be labeled as such, so you can buy the authentic sweater if you like. The specific pattern of sweater worn by the Dude is available through commercial manufacturers.

The Cowichan sweater worn by the Dude in the movie is a cardigan with a shawl neck collar. 

  • Which sweater material won’t pill?

Any sweater, no matter what it’s made of, can pill. This is simply the nature of the sweaters, as they are knit garments. The material that is perhaps least likely to pill is merino wool, as reported by Who What Wear

Pilling occurs because of friction. It happens when something rubs against knit fabric, an event that’s simply bound to happen. To remove pills, you must carefully cut them off the fabric.

  • Can sweaters be repaired?

A lot of minor damage on sweaters can be fixed. Little holes, missing buttons, unraveling seams, all this can be fixed with a needle and thread. Anyone who can make a stitch can make minor repairs to sweaters, according to Martha Stewart.

  • Which types of sweaters are good to wear over a dress?

Pairing a sweater with a dress is a great look that’s been seen on many celebs. You can choose just about any kind of sweater you want to pair with your dress but you do need to know how to style it. Once you learn a few tricks for wearing a sweater with a dress, you will always love your look.

Woman in pink sweater dress blending on its background.

A cropped sweater or a cardigan always works well with a dress. But you aren’t limited to these choices alone. You can still wear long sweaters and big, blousy sweaters.

Put on your dress and then your sweater. Let the sweater hang down naturally. Take a skinny belt in any color or design and place it around your natural waist. That’s just above the hips, right around your belly button. Now, gently pull the sweater out until just the bottom of the sweater is still under the belt. Blouse out the sweater so it hangs down. 

References:

Gentleman’s Gazette: The Sweater Guide

Heddels: Know Your Wools: Cashmere, Lambswool, Angora and More

Real Men Real Style: 5 Tips To Buying A Quality Sweater | How To Buy Mens Sweaters | A Man’s Guide To Sweater Buying

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