With cold weather en-route, there’s no better time than the present to bolster your defences and combat the chill with trusty, reliable knitwear - think rollnecks, crewnecks, cardigans and v-necks - from some of the UK’s leading manufacturers that value Made in Britain just as much as we do. So, here’s our guide to the key pieces you need from the likes of John Smedley, Peregine, Slazenger Heritage and William Lockie, the latest addition to our arsenal of British brands, all of which offer timeless staples that you won’t want to ever take off.
For keeping body temperature up when the mercury really drops, think heavy-gauge rollnecks. Whether you are at sea or on dry land, Guernsey and submariner-style sweaters offer warmth and comfort, together with a handsome, rugged style that is perfectly illustrated in the above image of Michael Caine in The Eagle Has Landed (1976).
Peregrine "Guernsey" Polo Neck
With office dress codes becoming increasingly more relaxed by the day, the fine-gauge rollneck has had a bit of a second coming. Easily incorporated with our Conduit Cut suiting, dressing tonally in shades of navy and grey is a fail-safe option as Robert Redford perfectly demonstrates below.
Robert Redford demonstrating how to master tonal dressing: with a smile. c.1960.
For this, look to John Smedley. Founded in 1784, it produces some of the world’s finest within its factory which is just north of Derby. Their Cherwell rollneck is made from an extra-fine, 30 gauge Merino wool which means that it's thin enough to replace a shirt without added bulk. We have them in midnight blue and grey, two colours that work with just about anything.
John Smedley "Cherwell" in Charcoal
When pairing rollnecks with less formal winter tailoring such as tweed jackets, pure cashmere knits continue to be a popular choice. Steve McQueen combined a navy version with a brown herringbone jacket to great effect in the 1968 action movie, "Bullitt". The look was completed with grey flannel trousers and suede "Playboy" chukka boots.
Steve McQueen on the set of "Bullitt" (1968)
As mentioned earlier, we've recently added William Lockie to our offering. Founded in 1874 and still run by the founding family, it is based in Hawick in the Scottish Borders. The company specialise in cashmere knitwear, and the Oxton rollcollar model is a perfect example of their timeless style.
William Lockie "Oxton" Cashmere Rollcollar
If you’re required to wear a shirt and tie to work but still need that extra barrier of warmth, there’s nothing easier than throwing on a simple crewneck sweater. It’s arguably the most versatile item of knitwear a man can possess and you really can never have enough.
A young HRH enjoying a well-balanced meal, c.1970.
John Smedley (who have a Royal Warrant and could quite possibly be the manufacturer of HRH's above) offer a couple of incredibly fine and lightweight options in charcoal and black. To some, they might be thought as too sombre but they're understated, which trumps what might be perceived as dullness.
John Smedley "Farhill" Pullover
With its decorative pattern work, the Aran crewneck sweater has certain similarities to the Guernsey. It takes its name from the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland, and was originally knitted by members of the fishing community. They used unscoured wool that retained its natural oil (lanolin), making the garment suitable to be worn in wet conditions. By the 1950s, the sweaters had become commercially available, with the United States becoming an important export market.
American actor Ryan O'Neal wears an ornate Aran crewneck, c.1970.
Peregrine’s wonderfully decorative Aran knits come in beautiful and rich tones, such as seafoam and cinnamon in addition to their natural coloured yarn, "skiddaw". They are made from soft, locally-sourced wool, and if that's not enough to entice you into the brand, it was found in 1796 and is still family-owned. What's not to like about that?
Peregrine "Hudson" Aran Jumper in Skiddaw
Richard Gere in American Gigolo (1980) wears a half-zip sweater beneath a sports jacket. A perfect winter layering ensemble.
Next up, we have the half-zip sweater, which is becoming more popular by the day, especially in the tech world. Versatile given the fact that it has a stand-up tall collar that can expose and enclose the neck, allowing you to regulate your body temperature in ways that a rollneck can’t, we often see it being worn as a replacement for a jacket and worn beneath an overcoat. John Smedley has always been a progenitor of the style, and its Tapton model is made from an extra-fine Merino wool.
John Smedley "Tapton" Half Zip
When worn properly – i.e with something beneath to cover one’s chest as anything but is an abomination – a v-neck sweater can look particularly attractive when worn with a jacket, as the lines of the neck-opening follow the lines of the lapels. This creates harmony, balance and frames one's face well. However, fine quality knitwear, such as the Bobby V-Neck from John Smedley, can create a smart look without a jacket, concealing much of the shirt and leaving a small space around the neck where your tie ought to be.
Daniel Craig in the John Smedley "Bobby" V-Neck
While it can lift the formality of a business look, the v-neck also has its place in the sporting arena. Sean Connery wore the Slazenger Heritage v-neck in burgundy in Goldfinger (1964) – as well as many Conduit Cut suits – with a polo shirt beneath with the collar rakishly spilling out over the jumper.
Connery alongside Gert Fröbe in Goldfinger (1964) wearing a burgundy v-neck from Slazenger Heritage
Similar to the rollneck, the cardigan has also seen something of a renaissance given the fact that men are increasingly less required to wear a jacket to work. Some cardigans feature some of the same design details, like John Smedley’s Oxland model with three buttons to close and a notch lapel. Going without any of the structure, canvas and linings of a traditional jacket, throw it over your shirt and tie combination for a comfortable and smart look in the office. It’s available in black, charcoal and grey.
John Smedley "Oxland" Cardigan
While the majority of the garments mentioned in this article are either made from cashmere or wool, William Lockie offers a cardigan made from 100% natural camelhair which features a raglan shoulder for extra comfort.
George Lazenby as 007 in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969)
This classic style was famously adopted by George Lazenby in his role as James Bond. It is lightweight, soft and luxurious, and is complemented with real leather buttons for an elevated touch.
William Lockie "Datchet" Cardigan
A round up of winter knitwear could not be complete without referencing the classic shawl collar cardigan. The design was a staple wardrobe item for Hollywood actor Steve McQueen and contributed to his status as an international style icon.
Steve McQueen, sailing in style
Our favourite item in the William Lockie collection is their ribbed shawl-collar cardigan, knitted from a four-ply cashmere yarn. It represents the epitome of fine Scottish cashmere knitwear and would form a precious part of any gentleman's wardrobe.
William Lockie "Windsor" Shawl Collar Cashmere Cardigan
Browse our entire knitwear offering, here.