It isn’t very cold in Hong Kong, or at least not for long. Even in January the temperature ranges between 13 and 18 degrees Celsius (55 to 64 Fahrenheit). Right now, it’s a spring-like 20 degrees, and feels decidedly balmy to the Brit abroad.

But as far as the locals are concerned, it’s cold. When your summer regularly climbs above 30 degrees, accompanied by high humidity, 20 is cold.

The formal cardigan

The businessman in Hong Kong, young or old, typically resorts to a cardigan in this climate. The cardigan is dark, a blue or a black, occasionally a grey, is buttoned up and for the large part remains beneath the jacket. In this combination it looks smart, the rough wool of the cardigan contrasting nicely with the smooth worsted suit.

(A decent rule of thumb here as regards texture – a silk tie was traditionally smart as it contrasted with the heavy flannels worn by most men. As today’s suits tend to be worsted and ever-smoother, a woollen or knitted silk tie may achieve the same function.)

The cardigan has become such an object of fashion in the past few years that seeing men wear it as an everyday, smart item of clothing is a revelation. This cardigan is not brightly coloured, striped or ill-fitting. Unlike a fashion cardigan it is not too tight, as it is when worn by the punkish and presumably trendy. Nor is it loose and slouched, done up by one button if at all.

It is like a waistcoat, only a little more relaxed; a little less tailored, a little less formal. More apt, perhaps, for wearing with an odd jacket. And like a waistcoat, the cardigan in this ensemble is best when it is not fancy. Dark and buttoned, with the bottom button possibly undone, depending on the cut. Like the waistcoat it can also work well to keep a tie in order, though again this item should be conservative – what you add in number of pieces, take away in colour and pattern.

Until you are jacketless

The only disadvantage to a cardigan is that it inevitably looks scruffier when you take your jacket off. This is true of waistcoats to a certain extent – they are obviously designed to be worn with a jacket, avoiding the exposure of one’s shirtsleeves – but even more so of a cardigan, which can rumple and bunch more easily.

If you tend to take your jacket off as soon as you get into the office and rarely wear it again, I recommend you avoid a tie with such cardigans and opt for the slightly tighter fit to keep them close to the body.

The Hong Kong man, being a traditionalist, has none of these problems. And it’s bloody freezing – 20 degrees! So they wouldn’t want to go jacketless anyway.

Notify of
1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Ron Schwartz

“If you tend to take your jacket off as soon as you get into the office and rarely wear it again, I recommend you avoid a tie with such cardigans.”
For a different viewpoint, please see Cary Grant in the Grass is Greener.