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First… there’s nothing wrong with a hoodie. And despite what the above image may indicate, no one is making the case for guys everywhere to trash their collection of hoodies. That said, if you’re the type that’s open to elevating your look, even just a little bit, when dressed down? Then these alternatives to the ubiquitous hooded sweatshirt are worth exploring.
All of the below hoodie-substitutes offer many of the same advantages of a hooded sweatshirt (i.e. easy to layer, casual, comfortable) yet will look a bit more aesthetically appealing to most. Think more purposeful, and less just rolled-outta-bed. Again, these are just suggestions for alternatives. So if you’re on team hooded-sweatshirt, don’t get your strings in a twist.
#1. Shawl Collar Cardigan or Pullover
Target Goodfellow & Co Casual Fit Chunky Cardigan Sweater – $34.99 J. Crew Wallace & Barnes Cable-knit Shawl-collar Cardigan – $85.44 w/ TAKENOTE & THESKIMM ($178) Lands’ End Cotton Modal Shawl Collar Pullover Sweater – $32.97 w/ TREATS ($65.95) Amazon Goodthreads Shawl Collar Cardigan – $40 B.R. 100% Cashmere Cable Knit Shawl Collar Cardigan – $358.80 when 40% off ($598) a guy can dream, right? Schott NYC Waffle Knit Thermal Wool Blend Pullover – $80 Old Navy Fair Isle Shawl Collar Cardigan – $50ish ($69.99)
As close to a hoodie as it’ll get, yet you ditch the extra bulk of a hood, and replace it with a more streamlined, yet still neck protecting shawl collar. Besides, 99% of the time the wearer of a hoodie isn’t actually wearing the hood on his/her head. So is it really that much of a feature you need? These cardigans are often made from wool, but cheaper cotton versions work too. The cardigan style almost always swaps out the zipper of a hoodie for buttons, which classes it up a little. Something you’ll want to have for around the house/apartment.
#2. V-neck Sweater over a Slim Colored T-shirt
UNIQLO Merino V-Neck – $39.90 Goodthreads Merino V-Neck – $35 Amazon Buttoned Down Brand Cashmere V-Neck – $109
This combination gets a bad rap for really no good reason. Sure, self-proclaimed style aficionados abhor a visible white undershirt under a sweater or button up (yet even then, when it’s a decent looking white tee at the base, it can be done)… but this isn’t that. And remember, you’re not going to address the United Nations in this getup. We’re looking for hooded sweatshirt alternatives. It’s casual, but still a little more put together. Use your favorite slim-fit, plain (no graphics), complimentary color tee, and layer it under a well fitting, merino or lambswool V-neck sweater. Wear with jeans or chinos.
#3. A Crewneck Sweater with a little character
J. Crew Factory SLIM Fit Cotton Cable Sweater – $45ish Bonobos Yak-Wool Waffle Crew – $158 Banana Republic Wool-Blend Cable-Knit Sweater – $71.40 when 40% off ($119) Old Navy Textured Tartan Crew-Neck Sweater – $34.99 ($49.99) EXPRESS Merino Wool-Blend Thermal Regulating Striped Crew Neck Sweater – $69.90 Target Goodfellow & Co Crew Neck Nep Sweater – $29.99 Made in Scotland Shaggy Wool Megatron Man Sweater – $170
Think bold stripes. Or maybe it’s made in a knit or a texture you wouldn’t normally reach for. Or color blocking. You get the drift. There’s nothing wrong with a plain crew of course, but often those extra details dress down the sweater. And if you’re replacing a hoodie, that means you’re already pretty dressed down.
#4. Chore Jacket / Chore Blazer
Wallace & Barnes Slim-fit Chore Blazer in Italian Ripstop Cotton – $150 Wellen Cotton/Hemp Stretch Chore Jacket – $128 Banana Republic Wool Blend Chore Jacket – $89.40 when 40% off ($149) Bonobos Wool Chore Jacket – $198 J. Crew Chore Jacket in Brushed Lambswool – $66.24 w/ TAKENOTE & THESKIMM ($138)
Made from cotton or wool, chore jackets are the kind of thing “sporting” men used to wear when working on their property (land, farm, estate, whatever). Now some of us just wear one out to a casual kill-the-hangover (or watch other people kill-their-hangovers) brunch. And maybe some leaf raking will happen in one later on. They’re hugely convenient. An easy on/off layer, not too heavy, and does all the things right that their cousins the shirt-jackets sometimes don’t.
#5. Long Sleeve Polo Shirt
Banana Republic Italian Merino Long Sleeve Polo – $53.70 when 40% off ($89.50) UNIQLO Extra Fine Merino Long Sleeve Polo – $39.90 Nordstrom Regular Fit Long Sleeve Polo – $29.75 ($59.50) J. Crew Wool Blend Polo Cardigan – $61.44 w/ TAKENOTE & THESKIMM ($128)
Not everyone’s style, but a long sleeve polo (or heck, even a rugby ) is plenty casual, and still loses the bulk of that hood hanging off the back of your neck. Plus it looks great under sportcoats and even less structured suit jackets. A note about the Banana Republic option shown above. That’s a size medium on 5’10” / 195 and while the fabric is great, it felt a little short in the tail/torso length on my frame? But I have a longer torso (stumpy legs here checking in). So just be aware of that.
#6. Fisherman’s / Mariner / Nordic Sweater
Banana Republic Wool/Nylon Heritage Mariner-Stripe Sweater – $77.40 when 40% off ($128) Wellen Headlands Sweater – $138 Finisterre Hawkes Crew – $109 Lands End Men’s Lighthouse Birdseye Crew Sweater – $44.97 w/ TREATS ($89.95) Banana Republic Hertiage Ribbed Knit Wool/Nylon Sweater – $77.40 when 40% off ($129) Goodthreads Men’s Merino Wool Crewneck Birdseye Sweater – $45
These made-for-the-sea style sweaters almost always have something a bit different about them. Crewneck sweaters with buttons on the shoulder were originally worn by French onion & garlic merchants crossing the channel to sell their produce in England. Why buttons? Because they used to have extremely tight mock-necks that you couldn’t just stick your whole head through. They were knit this way to keep the cold spray of the ocean out, and the warmth of the person wearing it in. Since your head is bigger than your neck (no, really… I swear), the wearer would put it on unbuttoned, then button up the shoulder so the neck would then be encased in sheepswool. Now it’s just a design detail, but unbuttoning the button close to the collar really does seem to help it lay easier over a t-shirt. Other nautical style cues include variations of thicker knits, bold stripes, etc. And they’ve gotta be made out of wool or a mainly wool blend. Why? Wool still keeps you warm when it gets wet. Cotton doesn’t. Cotton will kill you if you get wet and need to stay warm.
#7. A Slim, Lightweight Wool Cardigan
Amazon Goodthreads Merino Cardigan – $40 J. Crew Washable Merino Wool Cardigan Sweater – $47.04 w/ TAKENOTE & THESKIMM ($98) GAP 100% Merino Wool Cardigan – $40 when 40% off ($79.95)
For those that are looking to replace a zip-front hoodie for that easy on/off layering. Don’t knock the style. Don’t think you can’t pull it off. Don’t go all “but I’ll look like Mr. Rogers.” Just try one. Put it over a t-shirt. Or a polo. They’re game changers.
#8. Knit Sportcoat
Target Goodfellow & Co Knit Blazer – $49.99 Nordstrom Men’s Shop Knit Sportcoat – $198 Banana Republic Slim Wool-Blend Knit Blazer – $178.80 when 40% off ($298) Made in Italy Brooks Bros Wool/Cotton Knit Sportcoat – $349 ($698) Good Man Brand Slim Fit Textured Sport Coat – $328
These are not your grand-dad’s yacht club blazers. These are the super comfortable “swazers” that can look good with a t-shirt or henley… as well as an OCBD. Could you wear a hoodie over that henley? Sure. But the sportcoat looks terrific too.
This post originally ran in 2015, but has since been updated with current product suggestions.
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