Why women love a man in a chunky knit sweater

Colin Firth in Love Actually - LMKMEDIA
Colin Firth in Love Actually - LMKMEDIA

In an increasingly divisive world, there are few things upon which we can all agree. Christmas? Divisive. Tax cuts? Polarising. The new Marilyn Monroe film? Don’t even start. But there is one thing that even the most curmudgeonly person would fail to be aggrieved by, and that’s the sight of a lovely man in a lovely knit. Or rather, the sight of any man in a lovely knit, since a lovely knit can even make a despot look cuddly.

With the arrival of October comes peak knitwear season, and never more usefully than in 2022, when many of us have already decided that layering up is more financially prudent than turning up the heating – or even putting it on at all. Happily, knitwear is the one item of clothing that British men don’t often get wrong. Fleece might be popular this season, but it’s a rotter to get right, and can end up making the wearer look like he’s off to climb Mont Blanc, rather than the pub that is his actual destination.

Most men might imagine that it’s the sight of Daniel Craig in a tux, smouldering while holding a gun, that causes a woman’s heart to pump faster. Actually, it’s Colin Firth in a chunky jumper. There’s something about the juxtaposition of tough guy and cosy knit that is particularly pleasing, though the hypothesis works equally well when you replace “tough guy” with “pop star”, “sportsman” or even “monarch”. In each case, it’s the unexpectedness that appeals.

Take Harry Styles, a man who tends to be found prancing around on stage in something directionally androgynous, custom-made by Gucci. But when he wears a knit, the connotations are less sex symbol than boy next door, and fans seem to want either to mother him or cuddle him, depending on their age. Granted, Styles’s choice of knitwear is more directional than most men’s, but whether he’s in his Rowing Blazers sheep jumper or his patchwork J W Anderson cardie, the effect is the same.

Likewise, a woolly jumper is not King Charles’s habitual attire, so when he wears one, it reminds us that he enjoys his downtime. As a patron of the Campaign for Wool, and a staunch supporter of British heritage, it’s only fitting that the King has an eye for a good knit. Like most men, he looks surprisingly fetching in a jumper. No matter how cold your radiators remain, a man in a knit can’t fail to warm your heart.

We’re talking the sort of cardi your geography teacher would have worn, if they had shopped at Cos or Matches. Daniel Craig and David Beckham do it well: think neutral, earthy tones (beige, greige, cream) so the emphasis is on the texture rather than the hue. A thick rib always works well, with extra brownie points for a shawl collar. The ultimate cardi man? The Dude in The Big Lebowski.

A purist, this man likes, at least by his own estimation, to wear the definitive example of everything: Adidas trainers, Levi’s jeans, Aran jumpers. While he would balk at being called a hipster, he is definitely an overthinker, a details man who wants his own choices to be seen as unimpeachable. When autumn rolls round, out comes his faithful Aran jumper, ideally sourced from the Aran Islands themselves. Cream of hue and cable of knit, Arans have been worn memorably by Ernest Hemingway, Pablo Picasso, Steve McQueen, Ewan McGregor and Adam Driver in House of Gucci.

The least exciting knit of the bunch, but also the most popular – for obvious reasons, not least that it can easily be worn over a shirt or under a suit without anyone going “Ooh, I like your jumper”, a statement that could be embarrassing. Lambswool man is far happier in a suit than in a sweater: it’s what he wears to work, and he likes the authority it yields. Usually found wearing navy, charcoal or black variants, fans include Giorgio Armani, Pharrell Williams and the new Prince of Wales.

No knit is too silly, colourful or eccentric for this man: his confidence is off the charts, nor does he take himself too seriously. Patchwork? Polka dot? Shaggy? Slogan? Bring them on. Harry Styles is the master (Vogue recently anointed him “king of charming knitwear”) but see also Eddie Redmayne, Gyles Brandreth, Kid Cudi, Schitt’s Creek’s David Rose and Tom Daly, the latter so attached to jumpers that he knits his own, and has even launched his own range of knitting patterns.