Style | November 3, 2020 8:18 am

Pick Up a Home-Only Cardigan for Maximum Fall Coziness

What, that old thing? That's my house sweater.

don draper cardigan
Don wasn't home often, but when he was, a cardigan was never far from hand
Mad Men/AMC

We’re all looking for comfort these days. Warmth, humor, familiarity: all trending topics as we dust those guides on hygge somebody bought us a few years ago that we promptly put on the part of the shelf for books teaching us hobbies we never came close to mastering.

But anything to insulate us from everything going on in the world is welcome right now. For me, that means revisiting a show that I watched in its entirety just a few years ago, New Girl. Nothing feels easier than a 2010s show about a group of friends living in a loft in simpler, less plague-ridden times. That’s what I can handle, so that’s what I’m going with.

In my state of mindless consumption, however, I was struck by inspiration in the form of the house-only cardigan. In the episode called “Fancyman”, Jess (Zooey Deschanel) starts to grow a crush for Russell (Dermot Mulroney), who is a bit older and much wealthier to her. Her roommate Nick (Jake Johnson), ever the class warrior, goes with her to a party at Russell’s house as backup to help her tell off the rich old guy, whose daughter Jess teaches. But when they get there, things change. Nick is lured by Russell’s office, which “smells like leather, Teddy Roosevelt and wistfulness.” He especially likes the cardigan that Russell has draped over his reading chair. It’s a sweater for the house only, and it’s really the epitome of cozy.

Duds you only wear around the house aren’t a new thing by any stretch of the imagination. For some, there’s the smoking jacket. Others like to lounge around in a robe while working. Or maybe you’re an Adidas tracksuit kinda person. All fine choices, but the cardigan that you only wear in the comfort of your own home, or, if you’re lucky enough, a single room, is the easiest to justify. It’s good for the workday but also nice for signing off. You can wear it while you’re answering emails, then keep it on when you switch over to Scotch-and-novel mode. The cardigan that barely ever makes it outside is the perfect comfort item. Its minimum usage will mean it will stick around for a long time. If the elbows start fraying, you can just patch those suckers up.

Look like a stately old gent. It’s easy if you try. Just remember a few things to look for when trying to nail down a perfect home-only cardigan.

1. Weight is key

Since I don’t know what your home is like, this is something you’re really going to have to figure out for yourself, but keeping comfort in mind is of the utmost importance here. So if you work in a room with a draft, go warmer; if your room is already heated and toasty, list toward the lighter side. Fabric plays a big part in this, so something like a Ralph Lauren cotton-lined cardigan is the perfect in-between sweater. It will keep you warm, but you also won’t overheat in it.

Ralph Lauren

Ralph Lauren Cotton-Linen Shawl Cardigan

2. Keep it loose

Get something with a bit of breathing room in it. This is especially important if you want to layer, which you might be into doing on especially chilly days. I’ve got this old Barbour zip-up I bought a few years back that remains one of my absolute favorite items of clothing that I own. The main reason is because it’s already warm as hell, but if I need to wear a thick flannel under it, it’s still fine. A V-neck from Acne Studios, for instance, is perfect. A little baggy, but not too wild.

Acne Studios

Acne Studios V-Neck Cardigan

3. It doesn’t have to be a shawl collar

As noted above, the V-neck is perfectly fine, but shawl collars are preferred if you’re into that sort of thing. Totally up to you.

4. Cable knit is king

If you are going with the shawl, you can’t ever really go wrong with a cable-knit. Something grey like Banana Republic offers, or you can really treat yourself and get a camel hair cardigan from Brooks Brothers, but that looks so good that you probably want to show it off outside of the house — and that’s honestly fine. The “house-only” rule is a loose one. This is about what makes you happy.

Banana Republic

Banana Republic Cable-Knit Cardigan Sweater

5. Avoid the half-zip

This is my own weird little thing — ignore it if you want — but I feel like the act of putting on the house-only cardigan is as important as the sweater itself. That’s why I’m against anything you have to pull over your head. Half-zips are fine, but I’d say leave those for your short trips to the grocery store or something.

Brooks Brothers

Brooks Brothers Camel Hair Shawl Collar Cardigan

6. Take care of the damn thing

Obviously the most important rule here. Don’t hang your home-only sweater on a hanger and don’t throw it in the wash; drape it over a chair and get it dry cleaned. Treat it nice. This is a classy sweater, after all.