Introducing: The Finest Cardigan

Wednesday, May 27th 2020
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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. 

The merino we used is Wish 2/60 from Loro Piana - the same as the Dartmoor but not quite as delicate as the previous Finest Knitwear

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.

Other details:

  • 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

Measurements:

  • 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

 

Length Chest Shoulder Armhole Bottom Opening
Small 62cm 48 30 26.5 39 29.5
Medium 64 50 31 27.5 41 30.5
Large 66 52 32 28.5 43 31.5
Extra large 68 54 33 29.5 45 32.5

 

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

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Matt

Nice cardi but still very expensive for £250.

Carl

Very nice! I am leaning against the green one as I would probably want some contrast with navy jackets and also were as a more stylish alternative to horrible christmas sweaters and things like that in the cold months. But I wonder if there is any occasion where the navy one would be better, for example with a grey suit. I will probably mostly were it with flannels and a light blue shirt without a jacket. I would love to buy both but are on a budget.

Damian

Hi Simon,

This looks to be another beautiful and unique product so congratulations on getting it into the market. Can you please add some advice on washing; frequency, methodology, cleaning materials, drying, ironing etc?

Regards,

Anonymous

I think the dark green with a pink shirt and blue trousers would look nice.

Nick

Hi Simon, nice cardigan! I hope it will be a recurring item in the shop, as it’s good to have staples that can be relied upon. I also really like the Richard James jacket, I know it didn’t achieve the Neapolitan look you tried to emulate, but as its own thing it looks very nice. What’s the pen btw?

Gilles

Sumptuous ! Another piece to add to my wardrobe, after my two finest knitwear (navy V neck, green crew neck). You’re not showing any picture wearing a tie. Any specific reason?

Manuel

Any plans to do a version with sleeves? I love the finest knitware and would like to add an other piece in this wonderful quality, but I just can’t help myself against sleeveless cardigans falling in the same category like vests, vents, or cuffs, all resembling an odd oldmanish look.

Jan

Hear hear. This is a lovely garment, I’m sure, but I can’t wear a sleeveless cardigan without feeling like I am wearing a costume. Same with turtlenecks, very stylish on some people (and rational to some extent), but I will never wear one – just feels affected / old fashioned / je ne sais quoi. I do like pleats and cuffs on my trousers and don’t mind wearing my trousers a bit higher than the 2020 average hight so I guess it all just boils down to (fairly random) personal preference / taste. Well done Simon and look forward to your next project!

Ludwig Von Repentigny

Garment measurements can be sometimes wrong. Would you recommend small or medium for someone who is 5 10, 165 pounds, quite lean and wears size 38 in jackets?

Ludwig Von Repentigny

Thanks! I meant, the measurements we make ourselves when measuring something we own. I have a BrooksBrothers cotton vest in medium and it seems similar to the medium you offer, but I might like something a bit more fitted, so perhaps I’ll go with small as you suggested…

Jan

That is great service but also a terrible waste of resources. I would have thought you would be a bit more conservative with sending stuff around the globe just for a fitting!

R Abbott

Looks like a beautiful product. For me, the challenge with cardigans is the length – cardigans have to fit just right to avoid looking old fogeyish. With ordinary sweaters that are gathered at the waist you have some flexibility in regard to length. But if a cardigan is just slightly too long, it looks ridiculous. Unfortunately, given my height (5.7) and waist (37), this would be too long for me. I take it these cannot easily be altered, right?

By the way, are you thinking of doing another run of the finest sweaters? I have a navy v-neck which is great for layering with a sports coat, but would be nice to have one in crew neck as well.

SC

Any particular reason why Finest Knitwear has been discontinued? I would think those basics made with quality would consistently be in high demand?

SC

I see…offering something that may not be readily available from other shops, which people may be want…how about a survey/vote of other unique items you yourself would like to wear, as well as your readers may be interested in, and see if it would be feasible to manufacture?

Otávio Silva

Hey Simon. Great product, as always. Could you elaborate more on the even tension in the body and ribbing? It is not clear to me what that means, exactly.

Thank you.

Otávio Silva

It makes perfect sense now. Thank you.

Do you intend to add some colors in the future, like an olive green, some shades of grey or camel? I think they are versatile and popular enough to have a minimum demand.

Neil Tang

Hi Simon,

I think this is a great piece to add to a wardrobe. Especially as an alternative to a vest in an office environment.

I’m 5ft 9” and concerned that the length on the small size (62cm) might end up too long. 59-60cm looks to finish just right.

As some have already commented, a relatively snug fit on a vest is important to achieve a contemporary look.

Can we expect any shrinkage after a wash?

Would definitely love to pick it up if it fits.

If there is enough demand or feedback, I hope you can consider offering a slightly shorter length (60cm) in your future release of these if you do them again.

Thanks!

Ben R

Any advice on how much a waistcoat, or in this case a cardigan vest, should be revealed above the buttoning point on your jacket? I’ve heard a few different takes over the years, and I was curious of your opinion.

Andrew Poupart

Looks very good, Simon. I still wear and enjoy my Finagons and I’m happy to see you’ve developed an improved version. I was disappointed when Smedley discontinued the Finagon and I found its replacement to be very disappointing. The collar of the replacement simply doesn’t sit flat under a jacket. So, I’m happy to pick up one of these new products. I’m sure it will be a hit!

Andrew Poupart

I received my (dark green) cardigan a few days ago. What an exquisite product! Much nicer, in my opinion, than the Finagon. Beautiful, fine-gauge knitwear. The only downside is I’ll have to wait many months to actually wear it! Oh, well.

I know you’re not keen on “showy” colors, but should you make this product in a burgundy (crimson being too much to hope for!), or a sand/gold color, I’m all-in!

Excellent product, Simon, thank you.

Joseph

Congratulations on this new launch, Simon. An excellent addition to what is probably the most fine-tuned and consistent range of RTW knitwear that can be found anywhere.

Something I’ve been thinking about – is there room for a trouser project in Permanent Style’s future? The closest I can remember is the one from the Drake’s collaboration. Any plans to do another trouser project more akin to the knitwear and outerwear you’ve created?

Joseph

No, not at all. I was just wondering what your perspective would be on that – on whether there’s a gap there that needs filling, as you would say. And seeing as your answer is based on a vast wealth of experience, I’m pretty convinced that as it stands trouser options for all occasions are plentiful enough that a PS version wouldn’t need to be made.

Thanks for indulging my curiosity Simon, I hope it hasn’t been a bother. Cheers

Anonymous

Impossible to find a really hardy but stylish trouser. Something I could walk, bike, shoot etc in

Alfonso

Simon

It’s possible the question from Otavio is more about the purpose of the ribbing than its dimensions etc, as you have answered.

If I may; the ribbing will hold the bottom of the cardigan close to the wearers body. The overall length of the cardigan relative to the length of the wearers torso will then determine if there is and loose cloth above the ribbing which forms a “fold”, or wether there is a smooth flow down the torso will no visible “fold”. Furthermore, you can, if you wish, creat a “fold” by hitching the ribbing up slightly above where it would normally come to rest.

Pretty basis stuff really but worthy of explanation.

Max

Hi Simon,
another topic… how about a next “Style Guide” or “Lookbook”? Would love to see more of these beautiful photographs in book. If planned, you must include some of Jamies outfits, too!
Keep it up, Simon! One can easily see all the efforts you put into writing and picturing. Great work!

Serdar

Love this, Simon! One big question though, if you don’t mind: I am 6’6” so naturally wondering if you’ll be offering a “Tall” version of this? I’ve purchased knitwear from you in the past and they’ve been simply too short (while everything else was spot-on). Any input here?

Anonymous

Simon i’m quite sad that i’m too small for these sizes…. 🙁

Gonzague

The dark green wool – grey button combo is superb.
Given the aim of delivering the best product on the market, would a 40+ gauge not have been preferable?

Ludwig Von Repentigny

Can you talk about the length of the opening, and why you chose this length? Seems other cardigans, like the ones by Drake’s, have shorter openings and maybe this looks more casual.

Ludwig Von Repentigny

Yes, that’s what I meant. Sorry, I lack the vocabulary for those specifics… Good answer, thanks!

Emerging Genius

Sleeveless cardigans invoke images of clock watching dusty civil servants in some backwater government office performing some meaningless task. I don’t see the attraction no matter how it’s spun.

It’s a garment that prematurely ages you. I’m sorry, I see no attractiveness in cardigans.

Ludwig Von Repentigny

In my style experiments, it’s not something I thought would work for me. But in the end, my thin merino wool gray and navy cardigans (sleeved) are some of the items I end up wearing the most. It’s a very flattering look on the right body type, and it shows confidence. I see more young people wearing them than older folks, at least here in North America.

PS FAN

“Clock watching … blah blah blah … meaningless task … no attractiveness.”
OK. But they are warm, without all the bunching up of long sleeves. I’ll take one in every color!

Sam

I keep coming back to the glencheck jacket – truly gorgeous!

Werner Scherer

Hi Simon,
have you ever heard about a very exclusive cashmere yarn 3/80. Is extremely fine with a very soft touch. If you may interested in this, contact me please, I sell some pieces of this yarn in our shop In Munich.

Nicolas Stromback

Simon, given the fact that I am a 44 inch chest even the XL will be too small for me?

Carl

And if you (unfortunately) are a 46/56. Do you think it would work?

Jan Heitmüller

Hi Simon,
I just ordered the cardigan in both colours.
I was too late with the reversible Valstarino and the lightweight Friday Polos but this time, timing was spot on. Thinking about a sleeveless cardigan, I had looked your site for some styling cues (as I have grown accustomed to) :-). I found the old Finogan thread at the bottom of which I saw your reference to your new cardigan project!

I absolutely love your niche, Simon. Cool, high quality products, timeless and a good value.
Other possible PM projects that come to mind (if I may): A leather belt (reversible?), a lightweight raincoat, a Gaziano Girling PM made-to-order shoe (vintage brown Oxford with tasteful detailing?).
Keep up the great work, Simon.
Best regards
Jan

MB

I assume since this is merino wool it’s good in hot weather? I find merino wool can sometimes be so fine it looks a bit…dainty or effeminate? Doesn’t look like that’s an issue here.

Ajay

Simon, Looks like a great cardigan! Curious where you stand on the Smedley range of products these days. By extension of inclusion in your book, you had once effectively dubbed their knitwear the “finest in the world.” Lately, it seems like you are as high on them as you were previously. These days, what is your top ranked off the rack knitwear brand?

Ajay

I meant to write, “NOT as high.” Sorry.

Roy Beadle

To Nicolas and Carl in relation to the queries about XL – I’m a 46 inch chest when buying jackets and having just received my XL cardigan from Simon (great quick service btw) confirm it fits me just fine. I’d describe it as snug rather than roomy – so ideal for wearing under a jacket. Very happy with fit and quality. Hope that helps.

Cameron

It arrived in the US within four days. Excellent fit and finish, as promised. Thank you Simon.

Tim

I have the navy and it’s really nice. Things I like:

-no pockets, I think the pockets give a rustic look
-It’s cut on the short side, so works with trousers that sit on the waist
-the buttons are small and subtle; I’m not a fan of large or leather buttons
-it is thin, there are no problems wearing it under a jacket
-the cut is really nice
-the navy is a nice, dark navy

I love dark green, especially in knitwear, but a sleeveless cardigan is going to stand out on its own and, for me, is already pushing the boundaries in terms of looking smart vs. looking dandy-ish. If I’m going to wear a sleeveless cardigan, everything else about it needs to be toned down – the color, the buttons, etc. I think the green, even though it’s dark, might be a bit too far for my style. However I’m certain many people with a bolder sense of style will wear it well, and objectively it does look really nice.

If this is your first sleeveless cardigan, as it was mine, the navy is perfect for testing the waters.

Rafael Ebron

Nice cardigan. If you end up making a shirt in the madras cloth or the pink oxford, I’ll grab those too. The striped oxford is probably my favorite shirt though.

Joel

Simon,

Is your glen check Prologue jacket quarter or fully lined?

John

Hi Simon, this looks beautiful and i am very tempted. It brings a new angle to my knitwear collection that isn’t another crew neck or long sleeve polo. I was hoping for your thoughts on a few points:
1) blue shirts are the most common color in most mens wardrobe, so do you think a navy cardigan works, or is it too much blue?
2) Related to that, do you plan to release this in dark grey/charcoal? I think that would nicely offset the peppiness of sleeveless cardigans, making it more casual.
3) Is the M a good fit on you, or would an S work too? I took the same size as you in oxford shirts and bridge coat, both of which fit well.
Many thanks.

Mbb355

Does the green sleeveless cardigan work under a classic dark navy blazer or are the colors too close?