Vintage Treasure: The Cowichan Cardigan

January 23rd, 2011

It’s hard not to look cool in a chunky shawl collar cardigan. They are some of my favorite pieces to wear come dead of winter. I’m talking one inch thick, 5+ pounds and warm enough to call a coat. That kind of chunky.

Look for one knit using a thick yarn with a simple pattern in neutral colors and you’ll find yourself wearing it for all kinds of occasions. And it doesn’t have to be super luxurious cashmere. In fact, the harsher the wool, the more bad-ass (and manly) the sweater.

Can’t afford to pay $400+ for a hand-knit piece, go vintage! I got this one for the price of breakfast (well, maybe brunch) and it’s one of my current favorite pieces. Of course I went with a Cowichan knit – have to represent for my Canadian people. You can get these hefty hand-knits in all kinds of knit patterns, from flying eagles to dancing cowboys. My suggestion, however, is to stick with an abstract pattern for best versatility.

Here, 3 ways to wear a chunky/manly cardigan.

1. Casual Throw-Over


Some people would say this sweater is old and ragged – to me, it’s got swagger and charm. It’s also heavy enough to serve as outerwear on mild fall/winter days. Just throw it over a couple solid layers for an easy and nonchalant casual look perfect for a laid-back weekend.

The beige & brown knit pattern on this sweater provides a relatively neutral palette, making it easy to pair with complimentary colors. It looks great grounded by navy blue with burgundy as an accent color – as we see here in all three looks.

Bonus Tip: sometimes these old sweaters begin to pill and shed. All they need is a little haircut – give it a quick shave with a garment grooming stone or, even better, an electric lint remover.

Bonus Tip II: a henley is a very versatile, and underrated, layering piece. It can look great on it’s own, under an open washed shirt (as shown here), or layered over a shirt and tie. Post on henley layering coming soon.

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Pima Corduroy Trouser in Chestnut

  • Vintage chunky “cowichan” zip shawl cardigan ·
  • Watch by Montblanc Timewalker Automatic ·
  • Suede chukka boots by John Varvatos ·
  • Tan leather gloves by Hugo Boss ·
  • Necklace from NYC street vendor ·
  • Navy washed cotton shirt by Steven Alan ·
  • Brown alligator watch band by Montblanc ·
  • Burgundy henley by Ralph Lauren Polo
  • · Brown corduroy jeans by H&M

2. Insulating Layer


The problem with slim-cut cotton trench coats and macs? They are typically only one cotton layer and thus not very warm – even with removable liners, which are usually lightweight wool.

The solution? Thrown a a heavy knit under it to help insulate your outfit and add some interesting and inviting texture.

Bonus Tip: as i wrote previously here, a gingham shirt can work in fall/winter too, as long as the pattern is tight and the color is of cool or neutral warmth – like this medium brown.

Bonus Tip II: I originally bought these low-cut duck boots as a casual summer “rain loafer”. Recently I’ve been using them in colder weather as a gratuitous way to show off my growing collection of wool socks (the pair shown here is the same style as the pair offered as part of the current giveaway).

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Brown Gingham Shirt

  • Vintage chunky “cowichan” zip shawl cardigan ·
  • Mac trench by APC ·
  • Lowtop rain boots by LL Bean ·
  • Brown woven leather gloves by Hilts and Willard ·
  • Burgundy corduroy jeans by Levis
  • · Brown Gingham Shirt

3. Business Casual Outerwear

A quick and easy way to add a style punch to a business-casual outfit that looks a little too “stuffy”, “uptight” and/or “stiff”: throw your manly, rugged cardigan over it.

Bonus Tip: fold your knits, don’t hang them – especially the chunky ones. Because of their weight, hanging will cause them to stretch out and loose their shape – not to mention create unwanted “nippling” where the hanger ends punctures the shoulders.

Bonus Tip II: If you take only one tip from this site, this one would be near the top of my list: style your outfit while you are choosing the clothing from your closet, then throw the pieces on and forget about them. Obviously if your dress shirt comes untucked, it’s fair game – but don’t be the guy picking and pulling at his outfit all day. It’s okay if it isn’t perfect (it usually looks more natural and appealing that way anyway). Being overly concerned about how your clothes look is noticeable, unattractive, and counterproductive.

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As always, thanks for reading.

Yours in style,



White USA Oxford Shirt

  • Vintage chunky “cowichan” zip shawl cardigan ·
  • Watch by Montblanc Timewalker Automatic ·
  • Tan suede gloves by Uniqlo ·
  • Midnight trousers (part of suit) ·
  • Midnight vest (part of suit) ·
  • Brown alligator watch band by Montblanc ·
  • Brown herringbone tweed tie ·
  • Brown leather wingtips by Scarpe di Bianco
  • · White oxford shirt by Thom Browne

Thanks for reading.

Yours in style,

Dan Trepanier


Photography by Alex Crawford.