The fine, soft weave of a cashmere sweater denotes an impeccable sartorial sophistication, due in part to King Edward VII, who, in the 1930s, popularized Pringle of Scotland’s V-neck versions. Whether hunting on the moors of Balmoral Castle or lazing about in Buckingham Palace, the fashionable (and, at the time, rebellious) royal always paired his jumper with a dress shirt and an impeccably knotted silk tie. Along with Edward’s paramour, Wallis Simpson — who once commissioned an extravagant cashmere and ocelot pullover — the workaday cashmere sweater went from simple cold-weather staple to bone fide fashion statement in its own right.
Culled from the down on the neck of fine-haired Capra hircus laniger goats of Northern India’s Kashmir region, cashmere sweaters have, until recently, remained luxury items with prices ranging from $300 to $1,000 and up. Canadian winters may demand warmth and comfort but, where cashmere is concerned, at what cost?
If the current economic crisis has had one undeniable upswing for the fashion-minded, it’s that this sought-after luxe wool has been democratized. Granted, these bargains aren’t artisinally knit by Scottish crones huddled around a peat fire, like those sported by Bonnie Prince Eddie, and the wool is doubtless of relatively dubious Chinese provenance. Still, cashmere sweaters are now within reach of just about everyone, both at high-end retailers and, unbelievably, at your local supermarket. Here are three affordable options.
This season, Canada’s iconic luxury retailer offers cashmere sweaters for $195. Available in muted colours (black, moss, plum and grey), their house label’s offerings come in three styles: classic V-neck, round collar and zip-up cardigan. A relatively heavy-gauge knit, these sweaters give a sophisticated seasonal lift to denim when worn with a collared shirt — with or without a tie. The cardigan can also easily take the place of a sportcoat.
The global Swedish fashion discount chain has stepped up its menswear game over the last few seasons, with most stores showcasing a men’s suiting area. Look on the shelves in the more formal floorspace (by the suit separates) and you may still find classic cashmere V-necks in basic black for $125.
Leave it to Joe Mimram, Canada’s affordable fashion impresario, to beat out the competition. Joe Fresh’s thin-knit V-neck cashmere line boasts 10 different colours. While not as lofty or heavy as the competition’s, these sweaters are still perfect for layering under a suit jacket. At only $99, it’s easy to build up a collection of basic colours or branch out to pops of colour like muted coral, vibrant aubergine or seasonal bright green.
Image courtesy of Muzaffar Bukhari.