clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

An Ode to the Navy Blue Sweater

An argument for navy blue sweaters as the most perfect piece of clothing.

Illustration by Lindsay Mound

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

I can’t help but smile at the shopping bag at my side on the subway. I'm laughing to myself about a silly joke I seem to keep playing on myself: continually giving designers and stores money (sometimes far too much) for something I already have plenty of. Peeking out of the bag, attempting to break free of its tissue paper, is a navy blue sweater. It could be wool, cashmere, a lighter cotton, a cable knit, or something really cool I don’t even know about yet.

To an untrained eye, or perhaps one not-so-trained to hunt navy blue sweaters, it’s nearly identical to the stacks of them in the lower right corner drawer of my dresser. A fleeting waste of money, a temporary retail high, some would say. But to me, it’s simply one more paragon of knitwear, a perfect garment. By winter’s end, that drawer will be filled out with more variations on the theme, each with its own merits, some yet to be revealed or made.

Let’s examine the obvious common thread among them all: navy blue. It’s the world’s most flattering color. Furrowing your brow and questioning why it’s better than black? I wouldn’t blame you — black is the world’s great equalizer, and it is, after all, New York City’s patron saint.

But black is not a color. It’s the opposite of color; it’s negative space, or so my fine art degree will tell you. You look great covering your body in negative space, no doubt, but you also wrap yourself in a slimming layer of boredom, of absence. (I’ll also point out that you’ll run the risk of looking like a tech person working a high school musical.) Navy blue affords you the same gifts with the bonus of a universally flattering hue — it’s slimming, it’s sexy, it’s clean, and it’s just as versatile. It is truly the perfect color.

It’s slimming, it’s sexy, it’s clean, and it’s just as versatile. It is truly the perfect color.

Of course, a color is nothing without a canvas, and what's a more perfect canvas than a sweater? I challenge you to find a more comforting piece of clothing, not that it would matter to me, my opinion is unchangeable. When the fall chills first arrive, your sweater collection sits waiting with open arms to see you through that first lazy cool breeze and all the way through the polar vortices of winter. Your favorite ones slung over your headboard or your door become quick layers for you or whoever might be lazing in your apartment in the early hours — a familiarity and comfort that no T-shirt could possibly give you.

The navy sweater for me and my kind is a second skin — an ever-present layer that finds a perfect harmony with everything else it sees. Few things match so well with a pair of perfectly-aged black jeans, but it’s just as at home with light or dark blue jeans, a navy suit, or chinos. And for those who feel real pants are too much of a challenge, it is the simplest way to make a pair of Adidas track pants suitable for public life. Its versatility knows no bounds, no matter the pairing or occasion.

I hope the Everlane sweater ages just slightly. I hope it pills. I hope somebody spills a beer on it after I tell them a joke, and that it smells of smoke and unwise choices and bad Manhattans.

So what to do? Where to invest? Well, rest easy: A dutiful and trusty navy blue sweater will not bankrupt you. (Though, should that be of interest, visit the Elder Statesman.) In truth, the most beloved one in my arsenal is a perfectly simple and unfettered $100 crewneck from Everlane. It sits alongside some heavy hitters, too — pieces I bought in the heat of retail passion, or frenzies of temporary insanity and designer lust — yet holds its own.

It’s held up for several seasons, seen foreign countries, and been perfectly stretched and molded by my shoulders and elbows. The bottom right corner of the back has a lazily embroidered monogram (not done by Everlane), which I consider a wink at anybody who might happen to look back at me. It’s light enough for fall, warm enough for winter, fair enough for early spring, and has yet to let me down once.

I hope the Everlane sweater ages just slightly. I hope it pills. I hope somebody spills a beer on it after I tell them a joke, and that it smells of smoke and unwise choices and bad Manhattans. For someone with a seemingly endless collection of clean and simple sweaters, it’s these small things that make each of them great. I have one with subtly embroidered black roses so dark almost nobody sees them but me; one a good friend designed and made me pay full price for; a cashmere V-neck designed by the first label I worked for; a turtleneck that makes me feel like an heir to a railroad fortune; and one I wore on one of the most fun nights of my life. It’s all these slight imperfections, memories, and imprints that make each of these undeniably hard-working garments even better. As it would with anything you own.

But the chances of me not laughing quietly to myself while a shopping bag with a navy sweater knocks at my knees will always be slim to none. It’s the casual joy of somebody knowing they’ve found their thing.