There was a time when sweaters were for only for your builder – worn with those ubiquitous, baggy grey sweatpants – or school P.E kits. No longer. The sweater is having a moment, and not just for sportswear. In fact, sweating in a sweatshirt is to be actively discouraged, especially if you’re thinking of wearing one of the new breed of ultra-luxe, ultra-expensive ‘trophy’ sweaters: pimped-out classics with maximum fashion kudos.
Balenciaga, Celine and Givenchy are responsible for turning the humble sweater into fashion cat-nip. Kenzo, too, whose bright, zingy, logo embossed affair is repeated season to season in new print and hues, and has become a street style staple. The latest, a £190 number found at NET-A-PORTER , is printed with muted, pastel-coloured clouds.
Balenciaga were arguably the first to take a high fashion approach to the humble crewneck, mixing Eighties sci-fi imagery with tough neoprene, as modeled by every fashionable girl in town. Their newest offering is in black cotton and printed with an image of a Sphynx and the directive, ‘Join a weird trip’ – which you can, if you have £235 to spare and a tolerance for waiting lists. (It’s sold out at matchesfashion.com.) Givenchy takes a similar approach to the new sweat style, mixing print and imagery – rabid dogs, Bambi, Renaissance paintings - on no-nonsense cotton. Their versions for this winter - a pixelated Doberman, a religious icon – are a whacking £770 and £805 respectively, at Browns Fashion .
Slightly cheaper, but with no less fashion currency, sweatshirts by Christopher Kane feature hyper-coloured brain scans – for £275 at Browns Fashion – or the subtler statement of a plain black cotton sweat with a hook and eye motif trim, £330 at NET-A-PORTER . Lanvin’s maximalist version comes in antique rose terrycloth, embellished with sequin beetles, a steal, at £915 at NET-A-PORTER . (Obviously I’m joking. But it is rather beautiful.)
The overall effect – worn with jeans or pencil skirts, or even flung over your mother’s couture (ha!) - is a look that’s dressed up but dressed down, chic but attitudinal. (Balenciaga’s offerings, in particular, are not meant to be understood by the straight males in your life.) For those who balk at paying £800 for a piece of printed cotton – and frankly, who wouldn’t? – there are plenty of versions offered by contemporary labels like J Crew, Zoe Karssen and Markus Lupfer which offer bang for your buck. Brian Lichtenberg’s cheeky logo sweats – ‘Homies’ for Hermes, ‘Feline’ for Celine, ‘Meow, Meow’ for Miu Miu, (you get the picture) – come in at £100 at NET-A-PORTER ; MISBHV pulls off a similar trick, and costs £60 at brownsfashion.com .
On the high street, Topshop have produced a rather delectable neoprene number in red and blue leopard print for £32, and a grey marl sweat with bird crest print that has distinct echoes of its designer cousins. H&M have a perfect crewneck in slub yarn for £19.99, and I would encourage a raid on Reiss’s menswear department for their contrast-trim sweatshirt , at £69.
But what if – heaven forfend - you actually want to use your sweatshirt for its original destiny? Sportswear brands are catching on fast: Stella McCartney has produced a yoga sweat with zip sleeve detailing for Adidas; while the ever-reliable Sweaty Betty has a cropped, drawstring version in raspberry cotton for £55. Or you could always copy the girls at Bodyism, James Duigan’s temple to fitness (and hotness) in the Bulgari hotel. They all wear men’s crew necks by Orlebar Brown , which come in at £135 – proving that dressing like the boys is a very good look indeed.