Review: Stoffa ribbed polo (and vintage knitwear cuts)

Wednesday, March 17th 2021
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Reviewing this jumper from Stoffa is a good opportunity to discuss the current trend of knitwear being cut shorter and wider, in something of a vintage style. 

The way knitwear is usually designed to work, the ribbing at the bottom sits on top of the trouser waistband. This overlap means no shirt material is exposed, and the trousers fall in a clean line from the bottom of the ribbing. 

You can see that in the images below - front then back - where the Stoffa ribbing entirely covers the waistband of the trousers. 

Above the ribbing, there is then some excess material. This is necessary because otherwise, as soon as you move your arms, the ribbing will be pulled up, exposing that shirting underneath. 

Now with most knitwear, there is so much of this excess material that it folds down over the ribbing, covering it entirely. You therefore have three layers of the material around your waist, as it flops down and then folds back up. 

If the knitwear fits you well, and it is close enough in the waist, this isn’t a problem. But as soon as it's a little baggy or loose, those three layers can look rather bulky. 

It is the desire to avoid this look - and reintroduce flattering neatness to the waistline - that has led to the trend of (at least partially) tucking in knitwear. And it is also part of the attraction of vintage styles like this Stoffa knit. 

This vintage cut also has quite a big chest, creating a ‘V’ shape under the arms (see below). This extra space allows the wearer to move around without pulling up that waistband. 

But still, it won’t help when you raise your arms above your shoulders. If the knit doesn’t have any excess above the waist, it’s going to ride up a lot. 

And this is why this technical stuff is important. It's like a waistcoat that's too short to cover the top of suit trousers: it undermines the whole functional, elegant point of the thing. Knitwear is harder to get wrong, but many still do. 

I fell in love with this Stoffa polo when I saw it introduced last year, because of that chunky, vintage look. It seemed like the epitome of the ‘casual chic’ I’m always banging on about: sporty and relaxed, but also stylish and refined. 

I had one made, and love it no less now. I think it looks unique and ticks all those boxes. But I also think my experience with the commissioning shows why others should think carefully about length. 

I tried the new knitwear in October last year, when Maxim visited from Stockholm and held a Stoffa trunk show in the Drake’s store on Savile Row. 

The U-neck vest was not my style, and I found the collared cardigan a little too fine and lightweight. But the two polos were lovely: one more conventional, the other chunkier and ribbed. 

I went for the ribbed. Stoffa is not cheap, and if I was going to get one piece, I wanted it to be unusual as well as luxurious. At least that’s what I told myself. It also happened to be the more exciting choice. 

The samples you try on are all very short - a length you could only wear with high-waisted, up-above-your-hipbones trousers. I wear more of a medium rise, and after some agonising decided the size 48 was perfect except for the length, while the length was good on the 50. 

When I received the sweater, it was wonderful but still too short. In retrospect this was probably my fault, as it was the correct 50 length. I swear the one I tried on felt longer - and perhaps there was some slight variation between pieces - but Stoffa hadn’t made a mistake. 

Fortunately, they are able to lengthen knitwear. They do this by taking apart the side seam, up into the arms, and adding extra material there, dropping down the whole body. This does make the arms a little larger, but the result was still good on me. 

It's instructive to compare the lengths though. Overall I lengthened my Stoffa one by 4cm: the size 48 had a 56cm back length (measured from the bottom of the collar), I received 58cm, and I adjusted it to 60cm.

But a more conventional length would be around 67cm - that's the back length on a Luca Faloni size medium for example.

I think the length works for me now, and that is shown in the images here. But these are tailored trousers, cut as high as any of mine are. Jeans or anything that’s just a little lower in the rise doesn’t work. 

I’ve been through a similar process deciding on fits of Rubato knitwear (RTW rather than MTM), which I can go into another time. 

None of this should take away from the quality or overall design of the Stoffa piece. It's elegant and lovely to wear, and works wonderfully with smart things like the cream twill trousers and smart loafers or boots - or for something a little more unexpected, canvas tennis shoes (as shown).

Personally I don’t like it without a T-shirt underneath (as Stoffa often styles it), as it looks a little uncomfortable. But a nice white tee like the one shown looks good. 

The deep, pronounced rib of the sweater (apparently called an English rib) gives it a spongy handle and more of a sportswear feel, which I like too.

The only design aspect I don’t quite like as much is the collar, which looks great as pictured above - up at the back, down at the front - but doesn't always stay like that. When you move around, the sides easily flip up, looking more like a rugby shirt, or flop forwards. But if you wear it all folded down, the back doesn’t sit that cleanly. The images below show those two options.

This has improved over time, as Agyesh (Madan, Stoffa founder) said it would, but it’s still a little unruly. Others may also be more relaxed about it than me - certainly Agyesh is when he wears his. It’s just something to be aware of when admiring the style of that collar online. 

I should also mention that I recently tried the Stoffa washable trousers, which are really nice. 

I had them made in the same basketweave as my first taupe pair, covered here. I have since washed and ironed them several times, and they’ve reacted well. Ironing isn’t that easy on this soft material, but then it also doesn’t hold a sharp crease anyway. 

My only tip would be to go with the belted option on the trousers, rather than the side tabs. On the side-tab style, the front corner above the zip sticks out a little on mine, which would be covered if worn with a belt.

In other Stoffa news, a greater range of their clothes is now available on the online shop, here. They’re planning to put new ranges on there every three months. 

The Ribbed Polo is not currently available to buy online, but you can see more images of it here. It costs $700 (made to order). There is a round-up of the knitwear available here

Other clothes shown:

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

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Anonymous

Greetings Simon,

While the quality of this jumper is no doubt supreme, I dislike its structure that confers such a “slouched” shoulder look. In addition, given that its MTM, I am puzzled why it is so short.

Peter Hall

It does appear to be quite loose over the chest and shoulders . Certainly not an unappealing look, but is different from the slim cut which appears to be in fashion for knitted polos. I’ve often wondered why designers don’t put a little added thickness at the edge of polo collars to give a little more sturdiness. Great look with the cream trousers.

Gabriele

Hi Simon, I think it would be useful to see a photo of your full figure to really appreciate the effect that the shorter sweater has on the overall look.

Magnus

I quite like the polo collar without buttons – it looks very clean and modern.

Is it just the length that is alterable via MTO or can other aspects of the fit be changed as well?

Gregoire

Simon
I must implore that you try and show the clothes rather than doing your best impression of David Gandy!

Gregoire

I think you know ha, a valiant attempt at a defence though!

Julius

Great look. I love the tennis shoes but I imagine it to be quite hard to keep them clean. How are your experiences with them? Do you wear them for tennis?

JJ

This is a lovely knit, really like the style. On a separate but related note, you have said that you do not like “oxford-style” tennis shoes such as these. Why the change of heart?

Also, is this Trunk´s “York” T-shirt? If so, what do you think of it and how would you compare it to your Warehouse ones? Thanks.

Malcolm

Just following up on the York T-shirt. I’m looking to buy white t-shirts to go under new Drakes merino polo and Smedley’s. What would be your t-shirt/underwear of choice for this purpose – Trunk, Sunspel (underwear t-shirt maybe), Hamilton&hare seamless t-shirt or something else. I think you’ve tried all all these products in the past.
You say the Warehouse t-shirt is best on its own but it looked nice under your Colhay’s crew here: https://www.permanentstyle.com/2020/10/knitwear-and-necklines-with-ciardi-overcoat-in-british-warm.html. Just bought the same Colhay’s crew so really interested in your thoughts. BTW really like the Colhay’s crew, which I’m sure I wouldn’t have come across without the blog

Malcolm

Thanks Simon. but I wonder whether underwear t-shirts are more fit for purpose under a polo than a tee that can be worn on its own, especially in the case of finer knits such as Smedley? Maybe I’m over thinking it?

Anonymous

Since it’s $700, I assume it’s cashmere?

Paul

Hi Simon,
On the subject of trousers I notice that Anglo Italian have some nice chinos but they have side adjusters and belt loops which seems a little strange.
Paul

Anonymous

I know that receiving free product and or money for posts is against your ethos here at PS but I think some of these brands should be paying you for your images and the skill you have clearly developed as a model

Stephen

Hi Simon,
Looks good. The styling of the trousers is as you say very important.
Vintage style in a new piece which is not easy to find.
GRP also have some good pieces of a similar type from time to time, at a lower price point, although obviously not in cashmere.
You continue to inspire us.

Dante

The collar pics toward the end make for a fun game of spot the differences.

I really like the style, although I tend to not like how ribbed knitwear looks on me, so probably not for me. The one thing I’m not crazy about design-wise is how different the collar is compared to the rest of it — when I saw the thumbnail I thought it was from a polo shirt layered underneath or something. Does Stoffa offer a heavier collar option?

Also can I ask where the lovely location is?

Josh

Great to see you in a pair of the oxford Doek‘s! I just wish they were made larger than UK size 10, though Vans authentics are a cheap and otherwise very similar alternative that work surprisingly well (Scott Simpson has a multicoloured pair that he wears a lot with his own line of trousers). I believe most of your coverage of sneakers with more formal clothing isn’t so recent and was close to the peak of the Common Projects era, but having seen the likes of Scott and Ethan Wong wear oxford-style canvas sneaks with formal trousers, I do think the previous advice to stick to derby styles really doesn’t work for sneakers, or at least is an inferior choice. Trainers are casual enough; I think you need that neater, unbroken swathe of canvas in the oxford styles to make up some formal ground and strike the right balance with sharper trousers.

I would definitely be keen to hear more about your sizing experience with Rubato’s knits too 🙂

John

Hi Simon,
This is an unusual piece indeed. In addition to the Tshirt, I think a light blue button down oxford shirt underneath could work too.
What do you think of the fresco-like fabric Stoffa use for their trousers?
John

RT

I’ve been looking longingly at this pullover online for some time, it I’ve hesitated to place an order because I was uncertain about the general fit and, particularly, the length. This article has confirmed the necessity of trying different sizes. I’m torn between the grey, as you have, and the cream too.
I love the way you’ve styled it here. It’s exactly how I imagined I’d wear it, though with flat-fronted trousers, pleats being something I generally avoid. Having said that, your pleated trousers here look so good that I’m tempted to give them a try.
A quick question about the washable Stoffa trousers – did you buy the RTW ones or were they MTM?

RT

Great, thanks Simon. I have a well-established MTM pattern for trousers with Stoffa, so I think I’ll try to order some washable ones. Thanks, again.
Richard

Paul

I think you have achieved the right balance Simon between chest/arm width against length.
Chunky grey cashmere goes very well with cream cotton or woolen trousers.Luxury.
Would you consider wearing one of your button down shirts under the sweater?

Erik

Great piece as always, Simon! Would love to hear your thoughts on Rubato as well, especially as it’s a bit more accessible than stoffa. Always been curious after seeing one on Weinas’ IG.

I’m also kinda interested in the Saman Amel loom.

Felix

My impression is that unusual casualwear is where the clothing hobby comes most closely to descending into nerdwear (and often enough crosses the line). It is neither fashionable or modern to the eyes of the general public, nor does it conform to the relatively unambiguous conventions of good taste for tailoring and classic menswear. In general I would say that any clothing that, as you put it, “needs to be understood” or takes insider knowledge to be appreciated is a little silly, be it sweaters that are too short, or Japanese WW2 replica jackets, or jeans you put it your freezer to avoid washing. I also think there is something both a little effeminate and stuffy about meticulously coordinating such casual outfits. And why on earth would you worry about keeping sneakers clean?

This criticism is of course way over the top regarding the actual outfit in this article, which looks good except the sweater being intentionally too short – it’s more about the general tendency.

George

I think I am prone to agree!

Peter

I think it’s a great look Simon
I prefer high waisted trousers with volumenous pleats for comfort.
I just don’t get this thing about tucking knitwear in. On a garment like this and any other in a 2/2 rib the waist would need to be 3 inches bigger to accommodate the additional bulk.

Julian

I love it. It looks elegant and comfortable. I am so over that snug fit.

Dave Staplin

Very nice, Simon, and none of that shirttail hanging out of the bottom that somehow became the style.

John

Did you take same size in Doek as EG?

Anonymous

Do you consider these shoes as an alternative to common projects for the purpose of casual chic footwear?

Felix

Diemme Jesolo sneakers could be an in-between alternative.

JB

Simon, I’ve seen and felt this ribbed polo at a trunk show, but haven’t tried it (no good sizes to try for me at the time). How would you compare the quality and feel compared to the new 2 and 4-ply cashmere offerings from Saman Amel?

Doeks

Hi Simon,

Decided to pull the trigger on a pair of Oxford Doek´s in Ecru. They are really comfortable compared to the usual suspects such as Converse, Superga and more.

I find them work well both with cottons and tropical wool for a more casual vibe. I also find it hard to match with different colors and reaching out to have your opinion on which colors you find the Ecru color works with.

Taupe Shorts from Stoffa – Works well
Pearl Grey Tropical from Stoffa – Works Well
Chocolate Basketweave from Stoffa – Not sure, the shoes looks sort of yellowish with the brown tone.

Hopefully have a pair of Ivory coming through which should work really well as well.

Anything else you would suggest?

Reason for highlighting the brand is because there is a lot of picture of them in the wild and potentially its easier for you to assess the color.

Best

joe

Do you have any recommendations for canvas trainers that work well with smarter trousers, such as the cotton stoffa trousers mentioned above?

MM

What features of the 45r make them more refined than the doek oxford? How about compared to the superga 1705?

Michael

Simon,
I have this same polo, except in navy. It’s a wonderful piece, but I agree, the collar is a little unruly. Specifically, when worn down, it doesn’t look good underneath a jacket. In many of the stoffa pictures, they wear the collar over a jacket. What do you think of this look? It feels a little showy to me, but it could be that I’m not used to seeing it.