What is a sweater?

Alongside cardigans, fleeces and other forms of knitwear, a sweater is a clothing option for keeping warm on cold days. Although all of these items of clothing are designed for the same purpose, a sweater is often long-sleeved, baggy, made from wool and capable of producing more heat.   

Available in a variety of styles, colours and fittings, sweaters are one of the most popular items of clothing for wearing as a second layer. The term sweater originates from as early as 1882, when the title was given to vests and jumpers used in rowing. Early sweaters were made thick from wool intentionally as a method of forcing the user to produce sweat and lose weight. As such, a sweater’s purpose was implied in its title - i.e. literally designed to make the user sweat.   

In modern fashion, the word sweater is often associated in America as an alternative word for jumper. However, although many Americans may recognise a jumper as a sweater, the difference in the UK is that a jumper is a second layer over your t-shirt while a sweater is recognised as woollen, thick and baggy.   

 Read on for more information on sweaters, such as whether you can wear them for formal occasions and how best to store them when you’re not using them.  

Are sweaters formal?

Sweaters are rarely put into the category of being either casual or formal. Instead, you’re able to use a sweater for any occasion as long as you style them correctly.   

A sweater of any colour is likely to go well over a t-shirt with a pair of jeans or chinos and casual shoes, but you will need to include a few more carefully chosen items of clothing in order to make the piece formal. For example, you could wear a blazer over the sweater and bring the entire outfit together by adding smart trousers and dress shoes. Alternatively, if you want to appear smart casual either for a semi-formal occasion or simply on a day out, you could wear a smart shirt under your sweater and finish with chinos and a pair of boots. 

However, although it may be possible to make a plain sweater formal, sweaters with outlandish designs or colours are best saved for casual outfits, as it would be difficult to attempt to make this suitable for a formal event.

An older man wearing a sweater in the kitchen

Should sweaters be hung or folded?

As with any item of clothing, you may be wondering whether it’s best to hang or fold a sweater.   

Although some thin sweaters may be okay hung up in a wardrobe, it’s often advisable to fold them instead. This is due to the fact that coat hangers can ruin them by leaving marks in the shoulders or pulling a thread and damaging the material.   

For thick sweaters, it’s possible to fold them around a coat hanger to avoid damage due to how stretchy and baggy they can be, but as there would still be a chance of causing damage, it would be best to fold them up and store them safely in drawers or on a shelf in your wardrobe.

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