Introducing: The Finest Cardigan
This is the finest cardigan you will find, anywhere.
That’s what we do with this series of knitwear pieces (like the Dartmoor): commission the finest quality possible, and design it to be the perfect partner for tailoring.
This cardigan uses a particularly fine merino yarn, making it feel smooth and luxurious, and the manufacture is the best available: fine fashioned seams, smooth finishing. Basically, knitwear worthy of bespoke.
There are details lower down on these points - illustrated with a comparison to John Smedley.
But for now, a quick back story. Six years ago I did a collaboration with Smedley to create the ‘Finagon’: my version of their standard sleeveless cardigan, designed for tailoring.
That became part of their full collection, but was discontinued two years ago. So I set out then to make my own model, with a few technical improvements, a finer merino and an elevated make.
This is the result. Two years of work, sampling and production, resulting in two beautiful cardigans, in navy and dark green.
One improvement we made over the Finagon was the armhole. This was always a little high for many readers (clear from looking back at the comments) and eventually uncomfortable as a result.
We tried three different heights before we got it right, and now have something with enough clearance for any shirt, although still not noticeable unless you’re looking for it.
We also added a centimetre to the length following similar feedback. But importantly, we kept the even tension the Finagon had in the body and ribbing. This means the cardigan doesn’t pull as much around the waist and hips, but lies flatter - again more akin to a waistcoat.
This looks clean, plus makes it easier to vary the number of buttons you have undone at the bottom.
I have two unfastened here, which works well with my mid-rise trousers. But you could just have one, which would be better for low-rise. Or indeed three, if you like that style and wear high-waisted trousers.
This kind of merino feels sumptuous, redolent of cashmere even, but is more robust. Which is what you want in something that should be a workhorse of your wardrobe.
We made it in navy and the same dark green as the Finest Knitwear, given both were so popular.
Navy is of course the menswear standard. But this green is versatile because you're unlikely to be wearing green elsewhere, and because it is dark and muted. Almost like an interesting charcoal.
Still, the green’s extra colour does make it a nice partner for warmer-coloured jackets like the biscuit pictured above (from Richard James).
The other outfit, meanwhile, shows how the navy cardigan can add a sartorial touch to a simple checked jacket and grey trousers (below).
The effect is similar to a waistcoat - framing the chest and wrapping the stomach, while adding a dark outline to the lapels when the jacket is fastened.
To anyone pining for old-fashioned tailoring, a cardigan like this can add recreate some of the waistcoat's flattering lines, but without looking too formal.
And if the jacket were less bold - say a subtle herringbone - it would create an office look that was conservative yet characterful.
Of course, a cardigan also makes a shirt-and-trousers outfit look much more put together around the office. It’s a layer of interest, without the structure of a jacket or the bulk of a sweater.
Plus it’s useful for layering, in an air-conditioned office or a chilly morning commute.
These days, that office might well be your home, and a cardigan’s practicality shows there as well, adding warmth, keeping freedom of movement, and dressing up a little for any video call.
Now the technical bits. Below the Finest Cardigan is compared to probably the best-known brand, John Smedley.
I must emphasise, Smedley makes great knitwear. I wear it and love it, as illustrated recently. But that doesn't mean there aren't ways the make can be improved.
For example, look at the image below, showing how the bottom of the placket is finished on the inside of the two cardigans.
The Smedley (left, purple) is simply folded back and sewn down. Whereas the Finest Cardigan (right, green) is tucked inside and finished more neatly.
The fashioning on the Finest Cardigan is also done more precisely, leading to a smoother finish.
In the second image above, you can see how the Smedley has a thick rib around the inside of the armhole. The Finest Cardigan, on the right, does not.
And perhaps most importantly, that effect is replicated on the front of the cardigan, where the body meets the placket (third image). Here the Smedley too has a thick ridge, where the Finest does not.
This kind of high-quality, luxurious finish is evident in many other places on the outside, from the shoulder seam to the ribbing, and elevates the whole product.
This type of finish involves a lot more work, and therefore cost. If Smedley were able to make it, it would probably mean doubling their prices. The brands that our factory, Umbria Verde, supplies sell this type of cardigan for over €350.
As with all Permanent Style products, however, we price with a lower margin to reflect the costs of operating only online. Hence the Finest Cardigan’s price of £210 plus VAT.
The finest quality, but still great value. That’s the aim.
I really hope you enjoy this cardigan. I've loved wearing it, found it endlessly useful, and love having it out there finally for everyone else to enjoy too.
It's available on the shop site in the normal sizes, here.
- Made in Loro Piana Wish 2/60 yarn
- 33 gauge knitting (Smedley is usually 30)
- Mother of pearl buttons
- Made in Italy and shipped from the UK
- Prices quoted do not include VAT or duties: these are calculated and charged by the courier, when the item arrives
- Free returns and exchanges
- Available exclusively from Shop.PermanentStyle.com
- Moderately slim fit. Do check measurements against knitwear you already own
- Back length and front length are the same
- Chest is pit to pit
- Shoulder is length of shoulder seam
- Armhole is armhole height
- Bottom is width of ribbing at bottom of cardigan
- Opening is distance from top of cardigan to where plackets overlap
- Simon is 6 foot fall, with a 39-inch chest, and is wearing a Medium
Other clothes shown:
- Glen-check jacket in Marling & Evans undyed wool by Prologue
- White twill shirt by Luca Avitabile
- Mid-grey trousers in Holland & Sherry Crispaire cloth by Cerrato
- (Worn with black-suede tassel loafers)
- Biscuit herringbone jacket in Joshua Ellis cashmere by Richard James
- Shadow-stripe shirt in cotton/linen from Luca Avitabile
- Beige trousers in Drapers cotton by Dalcuore
- (Worn with brown-calf tassel loafers)
Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt