The Perfect Cashmere

It’s starting to get very cold in London. VERY cold. The sheepskins, furs (fake and real) and UGGs are out in force and require backup in the form of cashmere.

I find that wool simply won’t do the job when the weather takes a turn for the arctic. You need cashmere. Sometimes I find, even on the coldest of days, that if I wear cashmere with one of my warmer jackets – I can get too hot!

There’s something about its softness and warmth that simply can’t be beaten during the winter months. It feels like snuggling into a warm bath every time you put some on. And from about October to March I live in a selection of cashmere sweaters.

Bompard Classic V-Neck 2 ply cashmere 260€/£210
Classic V-Neck 1 ply cashmere 208€/£170

I have v-necks and crew necks, in beige, baby blue, navy blue, purple, red, chocolate brown. You name it I probably have it. I’m obsessed with them and admit I’ve probably gone a bit overboard.

But where can you buy them without spending a fortune? This is a slight problem with cashmere. As is the fact that dry cleaning them costs quite a lot as it is normally done by hand, or it should be (to get rid of all those nasty bobbles).

The only time I ever washed cashmere myself was when I did my sleeping socks and they came out the size of doll socks. I never attempted that again.

I tend to go (unsurprisingly), for small or medium men’s cashmere jumpers. They’re loose and comfortable and fall elegantly. And are sometimes cheaper than the women’s equivalents.

N Peal 2 ply Cashmere V-Neck £299
1 ply Cashmere V-Neck is £219

Now believe it or not, my favourite cashmere sweaters come from the huge American superstore Costco. Yes I know. But they make their own brand of two ply ‘Kirkland’ cashmere sweaters and they’re heaven. They last forever, are beautifully simple and only cost about £50. I just can’t stop buying them.

If you’re not a member of Costco or don’t even know what it is (you may want to check it out), you can sometimes find Kirkland cashmere sweaters online or on eBay as well.

UNIQLO Mens Cashmere V-Neck £89.90
But often available for £69.90 on sale

There does seem to be some controversy in the cashmere market about the abundance of affordable cashmere that is now on offer on the high street and it’s probably useful to be aware of the differences between the cheaper stuff and the higher end cashmere.

Very expensive cashmere is made from the very long, white, thin hair which is found in the under fleece of a goat.

Lower-quality cashmere is often made from the shorter, coarser hair or with hair from a different part of the goat’s body. Sometimes it is even mixed with other animal hair. It is made in bulk and exported from China.

Whereas, higher end cashmere garments tend to be made in Scotland or Italy.

I personally am not that bothered about where my cashmere comes from. If it’s incredibly soft, reasonably priced and lasts forever without a single hole I’m happy.

My boyfriend’s expensive Ralph Lauren black cashmere sweater has about three holes in it already while my Costco ones remain in mint condition.

Having said that, I don’t know enough about the possible ramifications of mass production of cashmere from China, of which my Costco gems may well be a product. So I’m not really qualified to comment. All I know is that my medium to low priced cashmere has served me very, very well.

GAP Cashmere Jumper £89.95

If you’re feeling fussier about your cashmere and would like it to be the really high end stuff you may have a bit of trouble finding it at a reasonable price. Luxury cashmere jumpers routinely sell for over £100 and sometimes nearer £200 or even £300. A basic men’s cashmere v-neck from N.Peal costs £299! And I just can’t bring myself to spend that on a sweater.

Brands like Brora, Eric Bompard, Pure Collection and N.Peal make beautiful VERY expensive pieces and if you want to spend two or three hundred pounds on one jumper that is your choice. But if you are going to spend a lot I would recommend investing in one of the following: black or navy men’s classic v-necks or a beige men’s crew or v-neck.

You will wear any one of them to death. But the higher end you go the fewer jumpers you’ll have – unless you’re made of money.

Whether you go cheap or expensive make sure you find a shape that suits you as they can vary quite a lot. There’s nothing more elegant than black skinny jeans paired with a navy cashmere v-neck sweater. Unless it makes you look like you have a muffin top – which happens more regularly than it should.

John Lewis Made in Italy Cashmere Jumper £79

Sometimes if you try on a big sweater, and it’s ribbed at the bottom (which you want), it clings to your thighs leaving a strange bubble around your upper body, which is not what you want at all. You want it to look loose and elegant.

So it’s important to make sure your chosen jumper falls correctly and is not making you look like you have a bubble for an upper body.

I had this problem with a Uniqlo sweater, it simply made me look fat and there was no way around it, despite the beautiful price tag.

For those of us who simply can’t spend upwards of £100 on a jumper, finding one that is affordable can become very tricky indeed.

Uniqlo, GAP, Zara, John Lewis and lots of other high street brands and stores do classic cashmere alternatives that look practically identical to their expensive counterparts but come with a medium or low price tag.

M&S Cashmere Jumper £99

Figuring out which shape suits you best is obviously very important, as is working out which ones last and which will get holes in them after a couple of months.

This is likely only to come from experience – generally after you’ve already bought said sweater. Which is why I can only recommend Costco – as there isn’t a single hole in any of my six sweaters.

I am however on the lookout for a black cashmere v-neck to add to my collection which means I too will probably have to purchase elsewhere (as Costco don’t always have them). So I will no doubt be finding out soon.

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