Style

Sweatshirts and Hoodies for Grown Men

sweatshirts and hoodies for men hoodie

When guys come to me for style advice and ask about hoodies or athletic wear, my first inclination is to just say “no”.

Really, it’s just a whole lot easier to recommend that a novice style guy steers clear of hoodies and sweatshirts than it is to have a lengthy conversation about how to wear them successfully.

It’s sort of the way you wouldn’t give a teenage driver tips on how to roll through stop signs or blast through a yellow traffic light their first time behind the wheel.

But that really isn’t a fair way to deal with the topic as these items can have their place in a man’s casual wardrobe.

They just have to be implemented properly.

And since we have the luxury of communicating via print, let me take the necessary time to express my opinions and provide you with examples.

Why guys like sweatshirts

Everyone knows that as a general rule, hoodies and sweatshirts are essentially a criminal offense in the world of menswear.

But again and again, I get the same questions regarding exactly how, not if, one can include these athletic items into a respectable wardrobe.

So instead of railing against the everyman’s favorite wardrobe item, I motion to embrace the inevitable and learn how to cleverly incorporate them into your wardrobes.

But first, why exactly do guys like sweatshirts so much?

Sweatshirts are familiar

Reinventing your style can be a daunting task.

So it’s better to take small steps toward the end goal rather than to remain stagnant.

And it’s a hell of a lot easier to upgrade an item of clothing that’s already in your wardrobe than it is to transition to an entirely different style.

If you’re anything like me (and every guy I’ve ever known), you’ve been wearing hoodies and sweatshirts for as long as you can remember.

You may have even had your “good” hoodies that you reserved for parties on the weekend. *hangs head in shame*

So rather than taking the leap from that baggy sports hoodie to a silk and cashmere v-neck sweater, take a baby step by upgrading to a fitted hoodie.

It’ll be a huge style improvement, but will also look perfectly at home in your daily life.

Sweatshirts are comfortable

Most guys put comfort before fashion and I, too, make it a point to avoid uncomfortable clothes, no matter how good they may look.

This is a non-issue with sweatshirts as there’s no denying that a 100% cotton crew neck is going to be as comfortable as pajamas.

The preference makes perfect sense because men are physical by nature.

We resist clothing that inhibits our movement, causes us to overheat, or is too delicate to withstand normal abuse.

I’ve been randomly asked countless times “can you move this for me?” or “can you reach that shelf?”.

It would be silly to have to decline the request to help another because of excessively restrictive or fussy clothing.

Sweatshirts are affordable (usually)

With the exception of some high-end streetwear brands, most sweatshirts can be purchased in the $20 to $50 range, and will last as long as you care to own them.

This inherent affordability can help you get the intended use out of your items, leading to a more minimalist and effective wardrobe.

Items with excessively high price tags can make the owner hesitant to break that piece out for routine wear, but instead, reserve it for special occasions.

That’s fine if you have a suitable event every other week, but for the rest of us, these expensive items may end up getting annual wear at best.

That is the definition of high cost per wear.

Sweatshirts are laid back

Most men aren’t huge fans of peacocking.

For the general populace, wearing appropriate items and meshing with the business or leisure environment are more important goals than being the center of attention.

Most of us have very casual work environments and social lives.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never worn a tux (other than to my prom) and I don’t get invited to five course dinner parties.

So laid-back pieces like the sweatshirt reflect our daily lives.

If properly chosen, sweatshirts can definitely make you look put together while still being relaxed enough to grab a beer with the fellas.

Styles of sweatshirts

Hoodies

Everyone’s favorite casual wardrobe item, the hoodie can be extremely versatile, or a style disaster, depending on what you choose.

I actually refused to wear hoodies for quite a while. I see shunning hooded sweatshirts as a step along the way of becoming a more appropriately dressed man.

But once you get the hang of looking good on a daily basis, I don’t think there’s any harm in bringing back an old favorite.

For me, donning a hoodie helps make me appear more approachable and I don’t get the disapproving looks from old friends or hear “you’ve changed, man” nearly as often.

sweatshirts and hoodies for men hoodie

sweatshirts and hoodies for men hoodie

sweatshirts and hoodies for men hoodie

sweatshirts and hoodies for men hoodie

Recommended Hoodies

sweatshirts and hoodies for men hoodie

J.Crew Factory, GAPTaylor Stitch, Old Navy

Shawl-neck sweatshirt

I didn’t see these very frequently, even just a few years ago.

But with the popularity of shawl-neck cardigans, the styles are starting to merge.

And I’m a fan!

Seriously, this is a good stepping stone for guys looking to up their style game, without making a drastic leap.

With the shawl-neck sweatshirt, you get all the comfort and familiarity of your old hoodies, but to the average passerby, you’re wearing a smart sweater.

It’s a win-win.

sweatshirts and hoodies for men hoodie

sweatshirts and hoodies for men hoodie

sweatshirts and hoodies for men hoodie

Recommended Shawl-neck Sweatshirts

sweatshirts and hoodies for men hoodie

Dissident, Old Navy, Orvis, Tommy Bahama

Classic crew neck

Originally born as an alternative to itchy wool athletic jerseys, the cotton sweatshirt has become a casual wardrobe staple, thanks to cool guys like Steve McQueen.

The wrong sweatshirt can make you look like an awkward teenager, while the right pick will make you look like an accomplished man enjoying a little leisure time.

sweatshirts and hoodies for men hoodie

sweatshirts and hoodies for men hoodie

sweatshirts and hoodies for men hoodie

sweatshirts and hoodies for men hoodie

Recommended Crew Neck Sweatshirts

sweatshirts and hoodies for men hoodie

J.Crew Factory, GAP, Taylor Stitch, Old Navy

Buying advice

Sweatshirts (especially the hooded variety) are usually associated with criminals, slackers, and those not yet old enough to operate a motor vehicle.

Rather than discard sweatshirts altogether, we just need to take away the offending aspects – namely immature design and incorrect sizing.

Style

Nothing says, “I couldn’t care less about my appearance” than a massive logo on the front of a hoodie.

Luckily, there are tons of grown up options out there.

If you aren’t exactly sure what makes a sweatshirt more grown up or are just starting out on your road to building a better wardrobe, you can’t go wrong with solid colors.

Marled or heather fabric (like my shawl neck), a stripe across the chest or arm, or color blocked (different color body and sleeves) sweatshirts would also be a good place to start.

But err on the minimal side if you want the item to appear more sophisticated.

For a retro aesthetic, consider white details such as drawstrings and zippers like my hoodie above. It has a 1980’s athletic wear vibe to it.

Size

If you were to consider my height (6’2″), weight (185 lbs), and muscular development, I’m sure you’d guess that I’m wearing at least a large in most sweatshirts and hoodies.

The blue hoodie I’m wearing above is a MEDIUM from Old Navy, the navy crew neck is an H&M MEDIUM, and the gray shawl neck sweatshirt is a SMALL from J.Crew.

“Holy shit, you’re tiny!”

I can hear it now.

But the truth is, I’m usually one of the bigger guys in most situations.

When shopping for clothes, I don’t go with what size I think I should wear. I try on shirts until I find one that’s too small and then size up one.

I highly recommend you follow this approach when buying casual clothes.

Formal attire is a little different, as it’s purchased by actual measurements versus the standard small, medium, and large.

Material

The standard for sweatshirts and hoodies is 100% cotton, but I’ve found that a blend of around 40% polyester or other synthetic is tremendously useful in helping the garment maintain its original size and shape.

As mentioned above, we buy sweatshirts and hoodies because they’re non-fussy clothing items and who wants to have to air dry and iron their hoodies?

How to wear

For the style-conscious man, the goal of casually wearing a sweatshirt isn’t to appear to be on your way to the gym or recovering from a bad breakup.

It’s to blend the comfort and familiar aesthetics of active wear with an otherwise refined and put-together look.

Keep other elements understated:

  • Classic sneakers or retro trainers will look more natural than new fangled running shoes.
  • Dark or subtly washed jeans are better than excessively destroyed, stitched, and patched designer jeans.
  • Keep color palates and patterns neutral for best results.
  • Make sure your grooming is on point to avoid the “hung-over run to McDonald’s” look.
  • Add personality with accessories like watches and bands, bracelets, and sunglasses.

Don’t go overboard

My intent isn’t to help you justify to continue to wear sloppy sweatshirts, ratty jeans, and running shoes (if that’s what you’re currently doing).

It’s to let you know that despite what some men’s style purists may say, it’s perfectly fine to wear sweatshirts and hoodies if the situation calls for it.

If you work in a formal office environment requiring you to look your best for clients, there’s no point in trying to pass a North Face fleece as outerwear.

If, however, you’re a blue collar guy and want to be comfortable on the weekends, you can absolutely include familiar items in your wardrobe.

Just remember to keep the style sophisticated, the fit right, and the rest of the look sharp. Then you can keep your beloved sweatshirts in rotation without sacrificing style.

All the best,

Nate

10 Timeless Wardrobe Essentials

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24 Comments

  • Reply
    Lands
    October 9, 2015 at 11:59 am

    Really liking all your articles. Due to a bodyshape regularly in flux and not earning as much as i’d like, i’ve opted for the thrift store option to start building a proper wardrobe. Was interested to where you stand on throwing away clothes, do you have any hard and fast rules on what should be chucked? ie; excessive wear, branded, rarely worn impulse buys. I’m not wasteful, but definitely time for a clearout!

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 9, 2015 at 2:26 pm

      The fluctuating body weight is definitely a hurdle to building a wardrobe and thrifting is probably your best solution. I don’t have any hard and fast rules, but like to donate styles I’ve outgrown or anything I haven’t worn because it’s just not “me.” I don’t mind wearing worn clothes, as long as it isn’t stained. I always keep frayed shirts and sweaters for hiking and manual labor. My best tip would be to take everything you think you can do without, bag it up, place it in the basement or garage, and see how you get on without it. If you made a mistake, no worries, just go and get the missed item from the bag. If you aren’t missing those items after a few months, go ahead and donate them.

  • Reply
    Mike
    October 9, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    Nate,

    Like the choices, by my question has more to do with jeans. I have difficulty finding jeans in my waist size (29) that will accommodate my upper legs comfortably. I’m no Tom Platz, but even the 569s are more snug than I’d like. Yours seem to fit well, but are not too snug. Recommendations?

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 9, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      I’m with you on the big thighs, small waist issue. Everyone has different proportions, so this is a highly individualized issue. My top tip is to try on as many different brands and fits as possible. You’re almost certainly going to have to size up in the waist. Manufacturers are expecting guys with a 29 inch waist to weigh 105 lbs. I’m actually writing an article on this very subject for another site. If you’re signed up for my newsletter you’ll get an email when it’s published. Head to the department store this weekend and good luck!

  • Reply
    `Cristiano
    October 9, 2015 at 4:08 pm

    You are the best dressed American I’ve ever seen. I really dig your blog which I’m following with increasing interest. My wife also thinks your style is remarkable and you have a great sense of fashion. Great job Nate.
    Cristiano (from Italy)

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 10, 2015 at 2:17 pm

      Thanks, Cristiano and wife! I’ll take your comments as even more of a compliment considering you’re from Italy and probably surrounded by phenomenal style on a daily basis. Glad to have you as a reader!

  • Reply
    Jacob
    October 9, 2015 at 4:11 pm

    Nice article, Nate. I think a big mistake most guys make with hoodies is they wear some that are too large for them. I have one jacket hoodie (zipper front) that shows off the musculature of my upper body without appearing to be skin tight. I typically pull the sleeves up to 3/4 length while wearing it. Comfortable and a step up from the overly baggy pajama look.

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 10, 2015 at 2:18 pm

      That’s spot on, Jacob. I also find myself pushing my sleeves up most of the time, unless I’m wearing a button down underneath.

  • Reply
    John Tyndall
    October 9, 2015 at 5:27 pm

    I’m looking forward to your article on jean sizes that you mentioned in your reply to Mike.
    I don’t have to much trouble buying shirts that fit, and I’ve pretty much abandoned hoodies, but pants are a chore.
    The whole skinny jean trend seems to have caused manufacturers to tighten up all their styles.
    The thing that kills me is the way pants shrink in the dryer even if they did fit in the store.
    I have found some 569s that fit well, but will Levis serve for date night?
    I feel like the little red tag on the back pocket just screams for casual weekend wear bumming around the house, not for dinner out and entertainment.

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 10, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      You’ve made a very good point about manufactures being influenced by trends. Levi’s, for example, changes the proportions of their various fits every so often. That’s why I have a pair of 504s from probably the 90’s and they fit perfectly. But a current pair of 504s in the same size won’t even accommodate one of my legs. As for date night, the red tab and seagull wing stitching do scream casual weekend wear, but the good news is that you can remove them. You can carefully cut off the tag and use a seam ripper to remove the stitching and tag. I’ve done this before on a pair of rigid Levi’s and they came out looking as dressy as a pair of jeans can get. Let me know if you want an opinion on which pair to get.

  • Reply
    Walt
    October 9, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    For the love of God remove that nasty, dangly cord that manufacturers have in hoodies. Serves zero purpose, looks whack and gets in the way. If you must wear a hoody, rip it out as soon as you buy it.

  • Reply
    David
    October 10, 2015 at 1:15 am

    Excellent article, Nate.

    Turning sweats and hoodies into a good look can be challenging, but your advice is spot on. Shawl collar tops are definitely one of my favorites.

    By the way, in regards to the question about jeans with room in the thighs, y’all could potentially take a look at Barbell denim. They designed their jeans with the ‘athletic’ body in mind (small waist, big thighs and glutes). They’re not cheap, but it’s high quality, USA made denim. Just a recommendation.

  • Reply
    Lyle
    October 10, 2015 at 5:12 am

    Getting clothes that fit properly is definetly important. Having been quite skinny I was always getting clothes too big to try and hide how small I was. However it just served to make me look even smaller haha. It was uncomfortable and I felt self conscious at first in fitted shirts but after a while of getting compliments I got used to it and actually saw how much better it looks.

    On the topic of jeans I second trying on many different brands. I found a great nice looking pair of no name jeans at a discount store for about $15 and they fit great. So no need to buy crazy expensive ones either. Big thighs are a burden when jean hunting but I’ll take having a harder time finding jeans so I can hear plates rattling when I’m squatting anyday.

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 10, 2015 at 2:43 pm

      You said it, Lyle! There’s no hiding a skinny frame in baggy clothes. Carrying around more muscle than the average man is definitely a good problem to have and I’ll take that over being able to easily slip into skinny jeans any day. Shopping at discount stores and resale shops is a good way to get exposed to numerous brands.

  • Reply
    Rob
    October 12, 2015 at 2:12 am

    Probably getting off-track, but the business of jeans for the fit male is significant. I have had extreme difficulty finding plain-pocket, well-fitted jeans. I am a medium-framed guy that has lifted weights and cycled for fitness. Means I have the narrower waist with muscular legs. Tried most regular brands with no success. Right now the two that are most accommodating are a pair of Clavin Kleins from JCP, Levis 541 and the Bonobos Straight fit (but sized up one waist size – works though. $$$). Shrink-to-ft 501s are close, but still not overly good. Problem with Levis is all the crazy washes they have – but not enough variation on “regular” colors and fades.

  • Reply
    David Briard
    October 20, 2015 at 5:07 pm

    Not surprised about being a 6,2 inch tall guy and wearing a medium. Clothes in the States always seem like they’re made for big fat people. I’m 5,10 and 163 lbs and it’s a real pain to shop. In Asia and Europe however, it’s great for a guy my size!

    • Reply
      Nate
      October 20, 2015 at 6:48 pm

      It seems like the “fashion” brands like H&M or teenager stores like American Eagle have the sizing right. In those I’m usually a large or extra large, but in grown up brands I’m a medium or even a small. I think it’s funny that some of my friends who are shorter and lighter than I am insist that they wear a size or two bigger. Doesn’t make sense.

  • Reply
    S. Brown
    May 20, 2016 at 2:26 am

    Advising young guys to stink up their wingtips with no socks is very uncool. That’s not dressing like a man. It’s dressing like a slob whose wife makes him leave his shoes outside on the porch.

  • Reply
    John
    July 24, 2016 at 8:05 am

    Hi Nate

    Thanks for this eye-opening and informative article. The most insightful piece of advice was that on size: it seems ready-to-wear items are almost always made with the taller/bigger gentleman in mind, because most people are more likely to buy clothes that are too big for them rather than the other way around.

    However, in trying to make smarter choices, I noticed that, although small size sweaters overall fit and look so much better on me than medium size, they also feel very restrictive in the arms/forearms when worn over a shirt – I am 5’7″ tall with 37″ chest and skinny arms, by the way.

    Have you experienced this yourself? And do you have any suggestions on what to do about it? Thanks again.

    • Reply
      Nate
      July 25, 2016 at 5:25 am

      I wish I had experience with the arms of anything being too tight, haha! But with my body type, I’m usually just stretching the chest in everything. It definitely sounds like you should be wearing a small, though. You may just have to shop around for different brands until you find one that works in both the body and the arms. Are they actually skin tight or do they just feel snug. You can always email me a pic at nate@ironandtweed.com and I’ll take a look and make a recommendation.

  • Reply
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    July 27, 2016 at 12:28 pm

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