Taking stock of my closet the other day, I counted seven different types of navy blue sweater. They were all roughly the same hue, but their fabrics ran the gamut: shaggy wools, slinky cashmeres, ribbed cottons. Folded in my closet in situ, they looked nearly identical; it was impossible to distinguish the boxy crewneck from the oversized knit polo. Jeez, I thought to myself, with not a little chagrin. Do I really own seven of the same sweater? I do—and frankly, I refuse to apologize for it.
Like most folks, I’ve always had at least one dark blue knit in my rotation. But recently, it’s become a default. On most days, I size up my closet, survey the selection, and then shrug my shoulders and give in: Guess today is another navy sweater day.
I’m not in denial about my, uh, collection. I’m aware that it probably seems like overkill. (Did I mention I have seven?) But to me, a deep bench simply means I’ll always have the perfect starter for any occasion. Because for a whole lot of guys, the navy blue sweater occupies the rare sweet spot between casual and formal—and whatever it lacks in personality, it makes up for in dependability. Need to dress down a suit? Navy knit polo or V-neck sweater. Upgrade your sweats and sneakers? Navy cashmere crewneck. And that’s not even getting into the magic of the navy blue sweater in cotton, which feels less precious and only looks better the more lived-in it gets. (Plus, it’s machine washable!)
At this point you’re probably thinking, Wow, this dude has totally lost it. And also: Why navy? Why not black, gray, or green? First of all, you’re not wrong. Second of all, who are you kidding—I own sweaters in all those colors, too. But over the years, I’ve found that navy sweaters complement the most stuff with the least effort. They look killer with chinos in khaki, olive green, black, and, surprisingly, navy. (The textural contrast is key.) They play nice with slate-gray wool trousers or black work pants. And there might not be a single piece of clothing that looks better with faded blue jeans.
I guess what I’m saying is that my penchant for navy sweaters isn’t about sweaters, or at least not just about sweaters. The preference speaks to a larger shift in how I dress years in the making. I’m 32, and I’d like to think I’m not a total menswear grump—I still nurse a soft spot for funky shoes and the occasional weird jacket; I can’t imagine begrudging anyone else for taking risks on their own style journey.
But the older I get, the less likely I am to explore uncharted territory, and the more I find myself drawn to clothing I already know I like (especially if I’m dropping a solid chunk of change on cashmere). I’m well aware that there’s a whole world of freaky sweaters I’m missing out on, but there’s comfort to be had in tallying the cost-per-wear of my navy standbys—even if, deep down, I know the next one is just around the corner.