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Types of Sweaters

All types of sweaters for men and women! Discover the various styles of sweaters and make one yourself

What are the different types of sweaters?

Fashion can be a true poke in the eye when it comes to terminology. 

Have you ever found yourself in the situation of asking a shop assistant for a sweater but not being able to describe what you want?

Not only are there many terms that seem to mean almost the same thing, but also there are many subtle variations distinguishing them and calling for a different name.

In this article, we will clear things up for you. You will be able to enter a shop and ask for a wool shawl collar fisherman cardigan knowing exactly what you mean. Cool, isn’t it?

Are you confused by other types of garments as well? If you feel hopeless do read what are the types of clothes you can find in a look. 

If you are going for a classic outfit and you want to layer your sweater, then check our guide to types of shirts. If you want inspiration for what to wear underneath your sweatshirt, read our article on tank tops.

But first of all…

Before digging into the realm of the types of sweaters, one could be wondering, what is a sweater? 

You may have asked yourself this question when you realized that in English we can use different words with a very similar meaning: sweaters, jumpers, pullovers, sweatshirts…

Is there a difference between these terms or are they synonyms? Let’s find out. We will rely on the most knowledgeable source…the good old dictionary!

Types of sweaters
Image source: Pinterest

What makes a difference between these terms is not the shape or material of the object they signify, but where they are used!

According to the American Merriam Webster:

    • A sweater is “a knitted or crocheted jacket or pullover”
    • A pullover is “a pullover garment (such as a sweater)”, you don’t say?
    • A jumper can be a “child’s coverall, a sleeveless one-piece dress worn usually with a blouse, a loose blouse or jacket worn by workmen”
    • A sweatshirt is a “loose collarless pullover or jacket usually of heavy cotton jersey”
    • A cardigan is “a usually collarless sweater or jacket that opens the full length of the center front”

According to the British Oxford Dictionary, instead:

    • A sweater is “a piece of clothing for the upper part of the body, made of wool or cotton, with long sleeves” and is considered a synonym of jumper
    • A jumper is “a piece of clothing for the upper part of the body, made of wool or cotton, with long sleeves and no buttons”
    • A pullover is “a knitted piece of clothing made of wool or cotton for the upper part of the body, with long sleeves and no buttons”, but it is still considered a synonym of the previous two
    • A sweatshirt is “a piece of clothing for the upper part of the body, with long sleeves, usually made of thick cotton and often worn for sports”
    • A cardigan is a “jacket made of wool like a sweater but fastened with buttons down the front”

What seems to differ between these variations, then, is the consciousness of the making process of the garment and if it is open or not. 

A sweater in the USA can be knitted only, while the UK definition leaves it vague, even though sweaters, like t-shirts and underwear, are always knit. 

The contrary applies to the pullover, which is the only one with a specific production process, knitting, according to the UK entry. 

A sweatshirt in the USA can be open like a jacket and in the UK it is associated more with sportswear.

If these are subtle differences, the word jumper can create a lot of confusion. In this article, we will use this term with the British sense.

This said, the umbrella term ‘sweater’ and its associated words are used to describe a thick item of clothing that can be open or not, usually worn between autumn and spring.

Some historical facts about sweaters!

Sweaters started as a type of workwear in the 14th century. Thanks to their warmth and water resistance, they were used by outdoor workers like fishermen. 

They can be also called jerseys because they were produced in Guernsey and Jersey isles during the 15th century. 

Types of cardigan sweaters were popularised at a later time, in the 19th century. Their name comes from the Earl of Cardigan who, during the Crimean War, wore a collarless knitted jacket.

In the second half of the 19th century, they became a piece of sports clothing too. 

From the beginning of the 20th century on, with innovative designers like Coco Chanel, Jeanne Lanvin, and Elsa Schiaparelli, they became staples of feminine fashions too

Vintage style sweaters
Image source: Pinterest

Different types of sweaters sleeves and necklines

After these historical notes, let’s try to make a sense of the diverse range of types of sweaters for ladies and for men.

There are two factors that are the most visible and make a sweater recognizable. These are its neckline/sleeve combination and its texture (meaning its knit patterns). 

Starting with the sleeves and neckline types, the next sections will give you a straightforward idea of their differences and looks.

If you are interested in knowing more about sleeves in general, read our guide to types of sleeves.

Let’s start with the sleeves!

Drop shoulder

The line of conjunction between the bodice pieces and the sleeve is straight and is past the shoulder joint. The effect is less fitted compared to other types of sleeves, and so it is often used for oversized sweaters.

Dropped shoulder wool sweater
Image source: Pinterest

Modified drop 

It is very similar to the drop shoulder but instead of creating a straight line, it curves slightly at the underarm. The conjunction sits closer to the shoulder joint, but still off it.

Sweater pattern
Image source: Ravelry

Set-in

It curves into a dome to follow the natural line of the shoulder. It gives a fitting effect.

Set in sweater
Image source: KDD & CO

Raglan

The seam runs diagonally from the underarm to the collarbone. It allows for more ease of movement, so it gives a fitting sporty look.

Peregrine contrast sleeve navy english ribs sweater
Image source: Comptoir Irlandais

Circular Yoke

There are no single pieces for the sleeves that give a seamless effect.

Circular yoke type of sweater
Image source: Pinterest

Dolman

Like the circular yoke sleeve, the dolman has a seamless effect. It can be T-shaped or start narrow at the wrist and widen at the shoulder for a batwing sleeve.

Black sweater
Image source: Lulus

Sleeveless

The sleeveless version of a sweater is called ‘Vest’.

Sweater vest
Image source: Pinterest

Now, the necklines!

Crew-neck

It is a round collar and can present a bulky edge.

Types of sweaters for men
Image source: Gutteridge

V-neck

V-shaped collar that makes it more visible and easier to wear neckties and classic dress shirts.

V neck side slit sweater vest
Image source: Pinterest

Turtleneck

A long tight neck that reaches the jaw and that is rolled downward.

Turtleneck sweater
Image source: Mango

Mock (turtle) neck

Shorter and less fitting than a turtleneck, it doesn’t need to be rolled. 

Mock turtle neck wool knit sweater
Image source: Pinterest

Cowl neck

It follows the same principle of the turtle neck, but it is so wider and looser that it can show the collarbone. It creates big fold drapes.

Cowl neck knit sweater
Image source: Club Monaco

Shawl collar

A wide neckline that folds downward and creates side lapels on the front of the sweater. The width of the lapels is variable.

Men's shawl collar cardigan
Image source: Mountain Grind

Boat neck

This neckline runs in a slight curve from one shoulder to the other, showing more or less cleavage depending on how high it sits on the collarbone.

Boat neck knit sweater
Image source: CrastyCraft

Polo collar

A turnover collar and placket with a variable number of buttons or none at all.

Long sleeve polo knit sweater
Image source: Olive Clothing

Buttoned or zipped neck

Similar to the polo collar, it has a placket with buttons or a zip. It can turn over when untied for a similar effect.

Linen cashmere sweater with polo neck bilbao
Image source: Maison Montagut

All these sleeves types and necklines can be paired for an infinite series of combinations. 

Once you decide which combination you prefer, you can also consider whether you prefer it matched to a pullover or cardigan style, or to a more casual sweatshirt.

8 different types of knit sweaters

As mentioned before, all sweaters are made of a knitted fabric. This can have a hand-made look or be made with obvious machine knit fabrics like interlock or jersey.

In the hand-made style sweaters, the knit fabric can create raised motifs or contrast patterns for an important texture. 

The fine machine-knit fabrics, instead, have a flat look and can be printed.

If you want to dig more into the different characteristics of fabrics, knitted and woven, read our blog on types of fabrics.

Check also the types of cotton fabrics, they can be knitted too. There are many types of polyester fabric as well in fashion,  be sure to check them out! 

Aren’t you sure about the difference between natural and synthetic fibers? With our guide to the types of textile fibers, everything will be clearer! 

The types of knit sweaters will be listed below. There aren’t major differences between types of sweaters for guys and types of women’s sweaters

You may note that the different types of sweaters for ladies can be less boxy and slightly curved to follow the natural S-shape of the body. 

This is not always the case though, because oversize and tank sweaters as well are popular styles in women’s fashions.

If one of the following styles is more common to be found in the types of men’s sweaters or vice versa, it will be mentioned.

The list starts with the raised tri-dimensional motifs and continues with the contrast patterns. Keep in mind that you can find combinations of all these types of sweaters!

Plain-knit

It’s the most common and easy-to-wear sweater there is!

It presents no pattern but the stitches can also be wide and so give the pullover or the cardigan a thicker texture.

The variety of colours and thickness allows you to have one for each occasion and weather conditions!

Seamless raglan jumper
Image source: Olive Clothing

For the office or formal occasions, you can wear it without distracting patterns or colours. 

For a more casual style, you can pick your favourite colours! 

The choice of materials is wide, do read below for a list of common fibers.

Cable knit/Aran/Fisherman

These names all stand for the same type of sweaters. They present decorative stitches that create intricate patterns. 

The variety of stitches, and so of patterns, is endless. Each of them had a symbolic value originating from the Irish fishing communities.

Aran cabled fisherman sweater
Image source: Aran Sweater Market

The most traditional one is off-white, but nowadays you can find them in many other tones.

It has a chunky effect so it belongs more to casualwear and outdoor wear.

Ribbed

Ribbed pullovers and cardigans have vertical stripes created by the type of stitches used during the knitting process. These lines increase the stretch of the fabric.

Cozy ribbed knit cardigan
Image source: Miss Kate’s Fashion

Popcorn Sweater

It is made using the popcorn stitch that creates bobbles all over the surface of the garment. The effect is fun and cheering, don’t you think?

Rose blush popcorn sweater
Image source: Pinterest

Even though there are some rare examples of men’s popcorn sweaters on the web, you can see them mainly in womenswear and childrenswear. Perhaps, Harry Styles will set a trend next year, who knows! 

Argyle 

An argyle sweater is recognizable for the geometrical pattern that the different coloured yarns create. It presents diamonds and lozenges that overlap.

It derives from a tartan pattern of the Clan Campbell of Argyll, in western Scotland! 

You can find more ‘traditional’ colours that give the wearer a classic and retro style, or more modern combinations.

Types of sweaters for women
Image source: Pinterest

Discover the various types of clothing aesthetics on the SuperLabelStore blog!

Yoke/Fair Isle 

The yoke sweaters are very recognizable as well, even if you can’t pin down a unique pattern like with the Argyle. 

There are many figurative and abstract geometrical elements that can be knitted in these wool friezes!

Different types of sweaters
Image source: Pinterest

The pattern can have single bands or expand throughout the sweater. The most common one has a band that highlights the shoulders and details at the cuffs and lower hem.

Ugly Christmas Jumper

This is more of a joke than anything else. An anti-fashion trend popularised during the last few years. The uglier the design the better.

Ugly Christmas sweater
Image source: Pinterest

It is a modern tradition that originated in Canada and was mystified with no doubt by Mark Darcy from Bridget Jones’ Diary and Ron Wisley from Harry Potter’s saga. 

They received their ugly but sweet sweaters from their loving moms…prepare your poker face for the next Christmas!

There are other types of sweaters that have similar functions to the previous ones but, for one reason or another, cannot be considered equals to pullovers or cardigans. These are:

Tunics 

Don’t think about religious or ancient clothing!

In a modern sense of the word, a knit tunic top is a hip-length lightweight layer you wear in contact with your skin or over an undershirt.

Knit tunic top
Image source: Pinterest

It is less warm than a sweater but heavier than a shirt or t-shirt. Most often, it has long sleeves.

Sweatshirts

They are often in cotton or synthetic fibers, the most common are jersey and interlock. You can’t see the knitting stitches like with the sweaters unless you use a magnifying glass.

There are several styles of sweatshirts, some can even work for an evening informal event or be worn under a jacket.

Blue cotton jersey sweatshirt
Image source: Pinterest

Hoodies

A sweatshirt with a hood. To pull over or zip up. 

It looks even sportier than the other one, but as we can see, there is always a way to dress up even the most casual of garments!

Knit hoodie sweater
Image source: Pinterest

Sweater Materials

Considering that the main function of sweaters & co. is to provide warmth depending on the season you are in, the fibers used are usually on the thicker side of the spectrum

Still, you can also find lighter sweaters for the mid-seasons and summer evenings.

The most common materials used for sweaters are:

    • Wool (cashmere, alpaca, merino, lamb, bouclé, shetland)
    • Cotton (jersey, rib, interlock, cotton yarn)
    • Synthetic fabrics (polyester, rayon, nylon, fleece)
    • Silk and linen are sometimes used for lightweight fine sweaters

DIY sweater projects

Now, it’s your turn!

Types of knit sweaters
Image source: Pinterest

Prepare yourself to knit or sew your next sweater, cardigan, sweatshirt, or whatever you liked when reading this article!

First of all, plan ahead your sweater making with our guides on how to sew and learn to sew if you aren’t an experienced sewist yet.

If you already know everything about sewing and knitting, we still recommend you to read about our sewing hacks and our best sewing tips and tricks, you could always learn something you didn’t before! 

You may also like these advanced sewing techniques

About materials, check our articles on sewing fabrics and sewing threads types and tricks

Aren’t you convinced about making a sweater yourself yet? Let yourself be convinced by these 10 reasons to start sewing your clothes.

Are you convinced and proud of your creation? Put your stamp on it!

SuperLabelStore helps you in this matter with custom woven labels, care labels, and hang tags

The project ideas you will find in this article are divided into two sections:

    • if you want to hand-knit or crochet your pullover or cardigan, you can skip the rest and jump to the second section
    • if you want to sew your sweaters with a machine-made knit fabric, read the section just below 
    • if you want to make a DIY project but you are fed up with sweaters, then choose one from the lists ‘easy beginner sewing projects’ and ‘35 intermediate sewing projects

All types of sweaters
Image source: Mel Poole on Unsplash

Sew your sweater

    1. A hoodie! 

Let’s start with the most sporty option on the list!

Follow this tutorial that shows you the full process of making a unisex hoodie and gives you a link for a free pattern in different sizes in the description box!

      2. Casual cardigan!

Follow these video instructions to sew a cardigan without a pattern! You only need to take your measurements. 

      3. Turtleneck jumper!

Ok, this is one of the rare examples of how you can sew a pre-knitted fabric into a sweater.

You need to find this type of hand-made-look fabric first. Visit your local stores and browse the internet…you will find something for sure! 

This can be a unisex tutorial as you can simply trace a sweater you already have, not only turtlenecks of course!

Knit or crochet your sweater

    1. Crochet your next vest!

This beautiful V-neck vest is only a few stitches away! Download this free instructions and pattern for the Patons Crochet Trinity Vest by Yarnspirations. 

Crochet trinity vest
Image source: Yarnspirations

      2. Mock neck sweater

Follow this free guide for the Kaleidoscope Sweater by Purl Soho. You use two colours for a marbled effect. The mock neckline is adorable!

Kaleidescope sweater
Image source: Purl Soho

      3. Lightweight raglan and semi-boat neck pullover

For those who need a fresh layer over your summer outfits…search no more! 

Here’s the perfect project you were looking for. It is beginner-friendly and you have two options for the materials.

You can knit this pullover by Purl Soho both in linen-blend yarns or in silk blend yarns. 

Follow the free instructions for the linen version here and for the silk version here.

Lightweight raglan pullover cattail silk
Image source: Purl Soho

You can now go on sewing or purchasing the perfect combination of your favourite sweater neckline, sleeves, and pattern types… Now the intricate world of knit sweaters has no longer any mystery for you!

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