Fashion-forward men choose sweaters
By NEDRA RHONE
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 03/19/2008
When Fred Rogers wanted to be our neighbor, he slipped on a zip-up cardigan and a pair of sneakers. It was, he once said, a way of getting comfortable and settling in for a while.
Rogers, who died in 2003, would have been 80 years old Thursday, and while his long-running series "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood," had an impact on children's television for more than 30 years, it's the memory of those handmade zip-up cardigan sweaters that have stuck with many adults.
Rogers' red sweater is on display at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, but the resurgence of geek chic, all-American and preppy styles in menswear, have put cardigans back on the streets in a big way.
Sherman Cooper, 24, of Midtown, was recently called Mister Rogers by his manager when he wore a light blue Club Monaco cardigan to work.
Cooper took the comment in a neighborly way.
"I wasn't necessarily inspired by Mister Rogers," he said. "There is something to be said for a classic style that can be done in a modern business context. I'm trendy, but I take older elements like a cardigan and bring it into 2008."
So maybe no one wants to look exactly like Mister Rogers, but as far as pop culture references go, Rogers and Bill Cosby are the sweater icons, said Anoma Whittaker, fashion director for Complex, a men's magazine that frequently features zip-up and button-down sweater styles.
"I understand the influence he had on the cardigan as an image for a younger person," she said. "There is an emotional attachment to the sweaters."
Men who once rocked blazers over a shirt and tie now often reach for a cardigan.
Elementary school principal Anthony Dorsey, 37, has never met a cardigan he didn't like. He wears one with a shirt and tie to work every day except Wednesday when school dress-up day calls for a blazer. Dorsey's cardigan collection runs the gamut from Easter pastels to diamond prints to preppy pink and green. He even has a khaki-colored cardigan to pair with khaki pants.
"I picked up cardigans somewhere around 2001," said the South Fulton resident. "I grew into the look. It wasn't a fad when I picked it up."
Dorsey has watched the trend take off, even among children in middle school who teased each other for wearing preppy gear.
"It really does come down to diversity and having a unique look in what is not always a unique world," Dorsey said.
It helps that a range of designers have created styles to make the cardigan accessible to a variety of men.
Want to keep it classic? See Ralph Lauren.
Moving from hip-hop head to head of household? Look to Russell Simmons for inspiration.
"There is a hip-hop community of all races and ethnicities ... and they've gotten older," said Simmons, who recently launched Argyle Culture, a sweater- and vest-heavy line specifically for "urban graduates" like him.
Cardi-curious guys can start with lower-priced styles from retailers like the Gap or J. Crew before investing in higher-priced brands. Zippered or button-down sweaters with v-necks or shawl collars can be dressed up with a shirt, tie and trousers or dressed down with jeans and a T-shirt, Whittaker added.
That's how Frank Brockway, 34, has been wearing his old stand-by for years. The brown and tan sweater with blue trim has probably seen better days, said Brockway, a Realtor for Keller Williams, but he isn't letting it go. "Everyone has their article of clothing that is like a security blanket and that's mine," he said.
Mister Rogers would be so proud.