Readers will not be surprised that I consider the John Smedley fine-gauge knitwear the best available for wear with tailoring. Cashmere is often too delicate at this level of thinness, and fine merino is versatile enough to go deal with a broad range of temperatures. It is also good value.
There are several pieces in the slim fit that I haven’t previously mentioned. Over the past few months I have been trying out all of them, and here are my recommendations.
Matthew. Perhaps most important for readers that never had a chance to buy the Permanent Style-designed Dartmoor. The Matthew is Smedley’s equivalent for its permanent range, and it is very similar. The collar is a tiny bit lower and the body a tiny bit bigger, but the only significant difference from the Dartmoor is the cuff, which doesn’t fold back. I recommend it. (In racing green above.)
Cleves. The most useful piece of knitwear you’ll own. A crewneck style, in navy it will go with any jacket (including navy) as a subtle but effective piece of layering. Indigo, above, is also nice – though too similar to denim to wear with jeans.
Kendal. Most V-necks are too shallow for any shirt, let alone one worn with a tie. This is a good length for a shirt or T-shirt, which is how I wear it – open-necked, with a jacket. The bronze colour, above, is fantastic with a white shirt. I also wear plum with a blue shirt, and navy blazer. (There are also Smedley styles with even-shallower necklines, which are really only good for wear with a T-shirt.)
Belvoir (above, in charcoal) is the rollneck. While I have one, I find all fine-gauge rollnecks uncomfortable on the neck, so rarely wear it. They are very flattering in the way they frame the face, however, and go well with tailoring, so worth a try if it’s your style.
On cardigans, there is the Permanent Style-designed Finagon of course, which I would obviously recommend. But the design and cut of the long-sleeved Kris (above, in midnight) is rather different.
I focus on slim fit throughout, by the way, less because I am slim and more because any man should have relatively close-fitting knitwear under a tailored jacket. For some, that may mean a ‘classic’ fit; but for comfort everyone should tend towards slimmer fits than normal. Good slim-fitting knitwear is also just hard to find.
Do also watch out for the two gauges of merino – 30 and 24. The 30-gauge is the thinner (it’s the number of needles to the inch) and was the material for the Dartmoor and Finagon. For Autumn/Winter, there tends to be more in the 24-gauge. It’s also good under a jacket, but less so for Spring and Summer.
While we seem to be on the subject, is there anyone out there who knows where I can find a V-neck lambswool sweater with a V-neck that is big and deep enough to be worn with a tie?
I actually find that sizing up or down between fits there seems to be very little difference body wise. i.e i wear small in bobby (easy fit) and medium in kendall. it then just comes down to prefferance in length. But i seem to also find in the 24 gauge a need to size up. (medium easy fit and large in slim) due to the thickness. I wonder if anyone else has this issue. but i am so glad i started buying smedley as opposed to other knitwear i used to. it does seem to fit much bettwe once you have your sizing preferances nailed.
Cheers Adam. I did use to do this too – wearing small where i wanted a slimmer fit. It often has problems with length of body or sleeves though, as you say. It’s also worth watching for size issues that aren’t always immediately apparent, such as the armhole seam being closer to the neck, which can cause discomfort under the arm. Interesting on the 24/30 gauge
Hi Simon, I am going to be in London in a couple of weeks. Could you please give me some good places where to find John Smedley products?
Pretty much just the Smedley store… There’s only one, although it might also be worth a quick look in Selfridge’s or Harrod’s as they stock slightly different products (and more slim fits). In fact, if you want slim fits then it’s worth calling the shop ahead of time and asking them to get those styles in. Normally takes about a week.
Hi Simon, I recall you a while ago endorsing Anderson & Sheppard Haberdashery for close fitting knitwear. Does today’s post now mean that your prefer Smedley over A&S? Also what are the differences, if any, between Smedley and A&S?
Hey. No, not really.
The reason Smedley is so reliable is that all the knitwear is the same. There are small variations (30/24 gauge, merino/cotton) but basically it is all the same thin knit, just in different colours and styles. So you can buy across the range reliably and easily.
A&S is very different. They stock dozens of designs from many different manufacturers, all with widely differing styles, weights, knits, fits and materials. So you get a much wider variation, but it is less consistent. If you want a particular sweater in a crewneck rather than a V, chances are they won’t have it. Ask in Smedley, and chances are they will.
Hope that makes sense. Perhaps putting it another way: go to Smedley for your (under-tailoring) staples; go to A&S for variety
Any idea why Smedley stopped production of the Finagon in indigo?
I don’t know that they have. Sometimes (annoyingly) colours disappear on the products when they are out of stock. Unless Smedley have told you it’s no longer being made, I’d guess that’s what has happened.
How do you rate the cotton Smedley products Simon?
Great as well, but I always prefer wool where possible – only cotton when you need something fresher and cooler
Adam / Simon, just to be clear, are you saying that the slim fit stuff has the same body shape as the easy fit but a shorter length or that a medium size is similar to a small but has a longer body?
Personally, I love the fit of the slim pieces but they are far too short (I think I must have a freakishly long torso) and barely reach the top of my trousers. Perhaps sizing up to an XL is the solution to get more length…?
The answer to the first point is neither: slim fits all have a slimmer body shape than ‘easy’ fits. You can size down to try and get a slimmer fit (it will necessarily be slimmer because everything is smaller), but then the length will be shorter, because everything is smaller.
The length should only relate to the size, and not the fit.
Any advice on slim fitting short sleeve polo shirts for summer?
Sunspel and Orlebar Brown look promising.
Hey David – have a search on the blog. I’ve written about both Orlebar Brown and Smedley ones before
Bespoke nyc. In response to that question in my experience you just have to try as many sizes in both fits as possible. Once you have your ideal then the consistency is like no other brand I have known or used. Which is why I am so glad I now only really but smedley knitwear. I bought my easy fit Ones when slim fit was not as available. I had to size down to get that body size. The length differences are small and the body difference is slight sizing up and slimming down but if I am honest for me a Kendall In slim is better. On the easy I have to roll back the sleeves as far as possible. However the difference is small enough that I am not going to replace them yet but I will as they come to the end of their life. Which actually is so long as they last and last. But that is the fit on me. On you it could be totally different and obviously your preferences will. I actually have a friend who is slimmer than me but his height and frame mean he wears the same size in both fits. But once you start you won’t stop. And there is always really good sales for the more seasonal colours (to fill the need for a splash of colour now and then) because they change them every year with only slight shade differences.
Thanks Adam. I’m a huge fan of Smedley and have a number of their sweaters already. Unfortunately they have very few distributers in the States, with only limited ranges, so it’s hard to do much experimentation. They do also sell via their online store but don’t cover the cost of return shipping (fair enough I suppose but international shipping is really expensive for private customers.)
Anyway, the Bobby in L is the perfect length but too baggy, while the Kendal in L is the right fit around the chest, but too short. Think I may just take the plunge and try the Finagon in an XL…
Prior to this article I’ve been looking at the Kennaugh, but am now wondering what the difference is between it and the Cleves; they same to be virtually identical, crew neck, slim fit, New Zealand Merino wool pullovers. The only difference I can make out from the John Smedley website is that the Cleves has classic fashioned shoulders and the Kennaugh has fully fashioned shoulders; I must confess I’m not even sure what that means, and does it make much difference?
Kennaugh is thicker – 24 gauge rather than 30
Just a quick question about your advice to wear heavier suits. I’m particularly taken with Fox Flannel’s London Lounge book – but each fabric comes in at 18oz (500g). Is that too heavy for a suit? Will it wear hot?
Obviously depends on when and where you wear it, but yes it will be a lot heavier than anything you are used to and be best in cold temperatures.
Very informative post with useful follow up comments, thank you. Reminds me why I read your blog!
i’m looking for a cream color knitted blouson, what’s the best website to search such item? thanks
I’m not sure I’ve seen one anywhere I’m afraid. Sorry
Can you recommend another knitwear brand that makes a somewhat thicker jumper, could go under a jacket?
I have many smedleys but I want a slightly thicker navy polo neck that they offer. But I am not talking “chunky” either. Seems to be quite a challenge to find a good old fashioned Scottish brand which does.
That’s true, and no one has the range of Smedley. It’s worth looking at the bigger retailers, Ralph Lauren and so on, as well as smaller outfits like Anderson & Sheppard
Simon, you’re exactly right about the quality and design of the John Smedley knitwear being second to none. I recently ordered the Dorset in expresso,the Bryn in bordeaux,and the Wyvern in ski blue. I was also considering ordering the Dorset in british racing green,but decided against it at the time. I’m currently rethinking my position on this color.
Please advise on your opinion of the Smedley british racing green and how to wear it best.
I like it as a colour generally Scott, but there is a lot of black in the weave of this version. This actually makes it quite a nice, unusual colour, but it might not be the standard green you’d expect
That’s actually why I like it. How would you recommend wearing the Dorset polo and the Bryn cardigan in this color?
Simon – is the collar on the Matthew high enough to be worn with tailoring without disappearing beneath a jacket collar? I remember that was one of the reasons for a higher collar on the Dartmoor.
It was, and it’s not quite as good as the Dartmoor – it’s more of a compromise between wear with tailoring and wear without. That said, it’s still the best out there that I’ve found.
Is there any slim cut Smedley T-shirt you would recommend? I recently tried the Braedon, but it’s stil quite baggy, although they say it’s a slim cut.
The slim cut t-shirts are all pretty much the same unfortunately
Hi Simon, Smedley have a new fit ‘standard’. Do you have any information on it? Regards
Went to Smedley last weekend, and left quite happy. First time I’ve found a sleeveless cardigan that was tight enough to look good under a jacket, and without the gaping armholes I’ve grown resigned to. Realized after the fact that I had bought the PS-designed Finagon.
Best regards, Florance
Simon would love your update on this article. Some of the models listed in the article of been discontinued and oddly have been replaced by models with a different fit than slim. Any thoughts on the current equivalents of the above? Thanks!
Yes, I’m afraid the fits are entirely different now. The ‘slim’ and ‘regular’ fits have been replaced by a ‘standard’ fit that is part way in between them.
Simon, what do you think about magnetic cobalt color knitwear? Is it versatile enough? Regards Henry
Cobalt isn’t that versatile, no. Best as an accent colour under other things, and in small amounts, eg a cardigan under a jacket. But even then, it is so strong that you wouldn’t want to wear it that often. More one to buy when you have all the basics and want something a little more unusual
Simon, agreed regarding cobalt but John Smedley offers Magnetic Cobalt which is much darker in shade…
Ah, sorry yes I didn’t realise that was so different.
I haven’t seen it in the flesh so hard to tell I’m afraid. It looks almost like navy?
Simon, it’s a shade of deep blue
OK, thanks Henry.
Have a look at it in person and consider both how dark it is and how strong the colour is – how saturated. I wouldn’t worry about the first point, but if it’s a much stronger colour than navy, then you might not find it that versatile.
HI Simon, I only recently discovered this blog and I’m enjoying it a lot. It’s handily coincided with me discovering (rediscovering?) wool as a material, so it’s an invaluable resource! Plenty to take in, but it’s definitely spurred me into giving my wardrobe a bit of a revamp.
Anyway, if I may, I was wondering if you had an experience with Richard James fine Merino knitwear? They don’t give too many details on their website other than Made in Italy, but you’ve been very complimentary about their bespoke offering so wondered if this was similarly highly regarded.
I know John Smedley is pretty much the go to, and with RJ at a similar if not higher price point, I’d probably just stick with JS, but they’re on sale at an extremely good price at present so was considering picking one or two pieces up. Perhaps at that price it’s more or less a win-win either way!
Very pleased you’ve discovered it, and that you’ve rediscovered wool. Please do ask questions like this any time on the site when you have them, it helps other readers too.
As to RJ merino, I wouldn’t put the ready-made clothing in the same bracket as the bespoke really – they are different beasts. The RTW has some nice pieces but it is not as high up as a Savile Row suit quality.
I’d be certain the RJ merino is good, and it might be better than Smedley, but I don’t know. I’d say there’s certainly no risk in getting it if the price is that good
Yes it’s a shame wool seems to have largely fallen out of the wider consciousness. I just happened to notice one day that my wool peacoat (I had thought little about what it was made of before) appeared to be keeping me nice and warm in comparison to my companions in their bulkier padded coats, and was nicely shedding the light drizzle that we tend to be blessed with in the UK.
Anyway, many thanks for the response, I have gone ahead, so we shall see!