Knitting for Men: Ultimate Guide to Knitting Patterns and Knitted Sweaters for Men

Knitting for men can be a challenge. Have you knit a sweater for a man only to have him wear it once, place it in his closet, and never wear it again? Many of us have had that experience, and it’s frustrating! We want to share our knitted goodies with the men (and boys) in our lives, but they seem almost impossible to please.

Involving them in the process is helpful sometimes, such as asking the guy you’re knitting for to choose the yarn, color, style, or even the actual pattern. This gives us a lot of confidence that the finished product will be beloved, but, alas, that doesn’t always happen.

I guess there’s no guarantee to getting a guy to love the sweater you knit him, but knowing his personal style might help you decide between a men’s cable knit sweater or a plain stockinette sweater pattern.

Before you spend hours knitting your guy a fisherman knit sweater, try to figure out what type of style your guy is and knit something that’ll fit into it. Men’s sweater-knitting expert and the author of Men in Knits, Tara Jon Manning, surveyed men, asking what they liked—and didn’t like—about handknitted sweaters. Here is what she discovered.

Men’s Style Categories:

Personal style is broken down into three general categories based on current fashion trends, traditional styles of men’s dress, and information collected from survey participants. The categories are: Young Men’s/Active Casual, Young Professional/Modern Casual, and Corporate/Traditional. By finding the right category for the gents in your life, you’ll be able to narrow down all the men’s knitting patterns available to the right ones for your needs.

Young Men’s/Active Casual

This category is perhaps the most media- and image-based of the three. It is also the category that most guys move through and probably return to at varying stages. Its fundamental spirit is the youthful, athletic, preppy look presented by menswear retailers such as Abercrombie & Fitch, J. Crew, and American Apparel.

The typical guy in this category falls into a teenage to thirty-something age range. He wishes he had–or maybe still has—those totally cut abs shown in clothing ads. He tried very hard to capture that contradictory “I don’t care” bedhead look that is also perfectly groomed and precisely put together. This guy rarely tucks in a shirt.

Outdoor enthusiasts also fall into this category, even if they are only weekend warriors. Fleece lovers, performance-gear guys, and recreationists of every sort embrace the rugged and outdoor essence of the Active Casual component of this category. They exude and easy-going, casual vibe, which they carry with them as they evolve or straddle two categories. The Young Men’s/Active Casual category embraces a wide range of colors, but it favors the brightest and most playful. While guys in the category use lots of black and blue, they combine those darks with bright colors and pastels. Such vibrancy is unique to this category.

Men’s knitting patterns we recommend for young men’s/active casual:
A men's cardigan is made reversible by a doubled foldover collar, deliberately exposed seams, buttons on both sides of buttonband, and an intriguing stitch pattern that looks good on both sides.Begin with the earflaps of the Whitman Cap and work your way through Fair Isle snowflakes to reach the crown shaping.Strong details elevate a simple men's sweater. An offset shoulder seam, garter trim, I-cord edging, gentle shawl collar, and top-down sleeves make for knitting interest and subtle style.This easy knitted men's pullover features a V-neck, drop shoulders, and striping pattern.
Crossed stitches don't require a cable needle in this textured hat.
This men's plaid cardigan is worked in pieces in stranded colorwork. Set-in sleeves, turned hems, saddle shoulders, and a foldover collar make for a structured outerware with style.

Young Professional/Modern Casual

This guy is cool. He displays an urban edge and has a penchant for all things “smooth.” He takes his job very seriously, but he plays seriously, too. He may work in a tech job, or be an aspiring rock star. He’s probably in his mid-twenties to forties. He spends a good amount of time at the workplace and he may still succumb to all-night gaming sessions as easily as an evening at a slick restaurant with martinis and tapas. This style category is typified by designers such as Armani, Versace, Dolce & Gabanna, Kenneth Cole, and Michael Kors, and retailers such as Banana Republic. The palette is based on muted tones, grays, tans, and black.

An essential component of Modern Casual is the concept of the “New office,” a semiformal mode of dress in which sweater figure prominently. This concept has evolved in reaction to the “casual office” dress of the dot com era. The casual office trend was intended to loosen up modes of corporate dress and culture, but instead was so ill-defined that it left men with absolutely no idea of what to wear to work. The essential qualities of New office and Modern Casual dress are clean lines, a perfect fit, and quality construction. The clothes in this category possess the versatility to transition from situation to situation throughout the day and evening, from lunch with friends to a big presentation to a dinner date. The importance of sweaters in this category is based on their flexibility—a vest under a jacket, a sweater with a tie or in lieu of a jacket. The Modern Casual guy wants to project an exacting image—be it at play or at work—of himself.

Knitting patterns for men we recommend for young professional/modern casual:
Rustic, casual, or refined, the cables and textured rib stitch will make this classic vest a favorite.A reversible cable tucked into two-colored brioche rib makes the Raised Wale Scarf beautiful to behold on both sides.
Classic on classic on classic: A retro cropped, boxy shape keeps the lines of the Houndstooth and a Half Jacket...clean and simple.Every man needs a basic blue sweater, but that sweater doesn't have to be boring. In this example, Norah Gaughan brings together the classic elements popular among men - set-in sleeves, crewneck shaping, and double-ribbed edges - and she adds visual interest with a heavily textured, braided-cable yoke.The designer slips stitches all the way up the sleeves of this pullover. Worked sideways in one piece from cuff to cuff, linen stitch adds a simple, straightforward embellishment to collar, cuffs, and yoke.The Emerson Hat is worked flat, then whipstitched with a contrasting color for a visible seam.


This guy knows how to wear a suit. He can match a tie to a shirt, he knows when three pieces are just the thing, and he probably doesn’t wear jeans. The Traditionalist is typically a business man. His age bracket is hard to pin down, but he’s often older. This guy is precise in every detail of his dress and his conduct. His goal is to command your respect and attention simply by walking into a room. He wants to purchase the perfect garment and be able to rely on it. The opposite of trendy, the Traditionalist wants his clothes to last a lifetime, if possible.

The colors of the Corporate/Traditional category include the classic shades of black, gray, navy, burgundy, and hunter green. There’s a little Cary Grant in this guy: He’s dashing and composed, but he’s witty and fun to be around. For this fellow, sweaters are part of his formal dress wardrobe—a V-neck with trousers for dinner with a client or a semi-casual meal with his family. On weekends, the traditional man may incorporate sweaters into his wardrobe for outdoor and other active activities. The Corporate/Traditionalist style tends to come from family background and/or a deep-rooted respect for tradition and career.

Men’s knitting patterns we recommend for corporate/traditional:
Cashmere and a simple reversible stitch pattern combine in the unisex LYLE MUFFLER.Knitted from the top down in a unique hand-dyed yarn composed of a strand of bulky, loosely twisted wool plied with another strand of wool and a strand of cotton.
Knitted in the round from the top down, Jennifer Hagan's Shredder Pullover has no seams to sew: The underarm stitches are picked up and knitted as the sleeves are begun.
Translate a drawing into a sweater - it's easier than you think!Inspired by the never-ending rows of tall lodgepole pines surrounding the shores of Echo Lake, California, this casual, yet sophisticated, man's cardigan is designed featuring a fold-over collar and zipper front. Deborah Newton has used a smorgasbord of neat cables, seed stitch, and texture patterns in this handsome crewneck pullover.

But What Is My Guy’s Style?

To figure out your guy’s personal style, take note of his favorite items or try going shopping with him. Ask him specific questions as you browse, such as “What do you think of this collar?” and “Do you like the stripes in this sweater?” Consider what you want to learn before you get to the store and keep your questions direct and pertinent. If your guy really hates shopping, you can also browse through a catalog together, asking the same sort of questions.

—Tara Jon Manning, excerpt taken from Men in Knits

I hope this will help you created knitted sweaters for men that they will like! And remember, if you just can’t seem to please him, try some men’s knit gloves or a knit scarf pattern. There are also some wonderful men’s knit hat patterns out there—remember, men need accessories, too!