Designing Menswear men will wear
Other than giving you your ear worm for the day (thank you, ZZ Top)… we're going to chat today about creating crochet and knit patterns for men. Specifically, the factors we take into consideration when we are putting together a mens garment.
Being men, we understand the ups and downs of menswear from the perspective of the wearer and the little quirks that make some clothes uncomfortable (and sometimes nearly impossible!) to wear. To that end, we've made subtle adjustments to our designs to accommodate a man's body and ensure that, if you are going to put all that time into making something, you are (or he is if you are making it for someone else) going to wear it.
Now, I don't claim to speak for ALL men. We come in all shapes and sizes, weights and temperaments, and we all have our own sense of self that comes through in the way we dress. That said, these are general considerations and, just like any good crochet or knitting pattern, can and SHOULD be adjusted when necessary.
So… here are the general considerations that often cause a lot of pacing and mumbling and yarn throwing here in the studios of Shibaguyz Designz.
Underarms and Necklines - Nothing says NOPE! faster than a garment that binds up around the neckline or the armpits. A couple of things happen here:
1. Shaving - We do shave our necks, we don't (for the most part) shave our pits.
After a nice session of scraping off the top layers of skin from our necks with a piece of metal in order to keep our skin clean looking and baby smooth, there's nothing better than putting on a garment that sits up right against that sensitive skin and rubs back and forth as we move throughout our day. GAH!
Oh… and if you are like Jason, he can grow a 5-o'clock shadow about an hour after shaving. What does all that stubble do to a beautiful silk/merino blend yarn? Imagine taking a grill brush to your finished garment. NOPE! Trust me… I've only made that mistake once.
In other hirsute considerations, most of us don't shave our pits and garments that bind and pinch under the arms aren't just uncomfortable, they become downright irritating and all that fabric bunched up in there can act as the equivalent to an Epilady. Again… GAH!
2. CHOKE OUT! - Tight necklines that constrict and *gasp* choke the air from *gasp* the room so that we *gasp* can't breath until we *GASP* can't take it anymore and *GASP* have to rip the offending garment *WHEEZE* from our bodies in a last attempt to *GASP* take a breath of air *aaaahhhh*.
Generally, we try to give our necklines a little more breathing room to prevent this choking feeling. As with the neckline on our Men's Cabled Knit Sweater pattern, we left the initial neckline slightly wider to give you, the stitcher, the option of either adding extra stitches around the turtleneck collar or blocking the written pattern stitches into a wider collar. For the purposes of our photography on this piece, you will notice the model has a long, thin neck so the turtleneck is left unblocked but rolled down far enough to not bind and choke. In contrast, Jason has this same sweater and I made the neckline wider by adding extra stitches so his wider neck and aforementioned grill brush of a beard doesn't felt the stitches of the neckline into a fabric more appropriate for an oven mitt.
Ditto for armholes… constriction of the underarm is just not a pretty thing to look at and it certainly ain't a joy to feel! Irritation… rubbing… pinching… AAAAHHH!! Get it off!! Get it off! Burn it with fire!! *ahem* Sorry… overreacted there… but not much…
I would go so far as to say that this choke out factor is the main reason why guys will wear a sweater once or only when we "have to" (e.g. the MIL, girlfriend or boyfriend who made it is coming over for dinner).
Waistlines - Short waistlines and waistlines that pinch and shape in all the wrong places can make even the most gorgeous crochet or hand knit garment a complete FAIL. Again… a couple of considerations:
1. Peek-a-boo - Most guys do not enjoy the game of belly peek-a-boo that ensues whenever they lift their arms higher than their chest. Guys, you know what I'm talkin' about here. You reach for that book from the shelf over your desk or you grab the overhead rail on the bus and WHEE!! your sweater pops up… and stays there. Now, if you are wearing another layer that isn't also dragged up by your sweater or you are built like an olympic gymnast… no worries! For the rest of us and for those modest olympic gymnasts, there might be a little problem.
The good news is, this can be avoided by adding a mere inch-and-a-half or two inches of length in the body of your garment. I'm not saying to add a LOT of length (lest you end up looking like you're wearing an apré ski tunic) but just enough to ensure the bottom of your sweater stays securely in place. Such a subtle difference in length will go unnoticed by everyone else but you won't become the bus-belly flasher and you won't do a belly flop the next time you go out for that jump shot in the corner trash can.
Now, let's say that you have put on a few inches around the middle that have resulted in a bit of a bulge in the belly area… ya know… just for instance. If you happen to be one of those guys, this is definitely a consideration for you. Personally, we are a split household with one of us having a flat tummy and the other not so much. *ahem* When I make a garment for myself I always add those extra inches in the body of my sweaters to keep the peek-a-boo factor from becoming frightening for those around me. No, I'm not wearing a tunic but there is a subtle amount of extra length to keep me from flashing everyone on the downtown express bus.
Oh yeah… another peek-a-boo prevention consideration is ribbing. Yes, it looks good on the bottom of a sweater and can hold it snugly in place, but beware! Made too snug and ribbing will not only ensure the bottom of your sweater will snap up to your man nipples when you go for a big reach but it will constrict into place and you'll have better luck wrestling an alligator into submission before you wrangle your sweater back below your belt line.
Our peek-a-boo prevention: we always add a little extra length and relax the ribbing a bit… we give our fabrics a little room to breath and hang straight down from your body so you'll never be left exposed or be caught in a wrestling match with your clothes again.
2. Bind and Bulge - Oh goodness… we've all either seen or been the victim of this. Ribbing. It always seems like a FAB idea… until it isn't.
If your ribbing is too tight around the bottom of your sweater and is sitting right at your belt line, you are in danger of creating a Bind and Bulge situation: binding around the bottom of the garment so the sweater fabric drapes and hangs down over the ribbing creating a bulge right around the bottom of your belly where you really don't want it. Am I right? Heck, some of us have a hard enough time fighting the battle of the bulge without adding to it!
Speaking of that kind of bulge… if you are one of us who are already carrying around a few extra inches in the belly area, why accentuate it with tight ribbing that just sucks your garment in even more around the bottom of said bulbous belly? I'm not saying to go out and start wearing a muu'muu… but, again, relax the ribbing a bit and let it hang a little more in line with the curve of your body by adding that subtle extra length we talked about before. Face it guys, we aren't going to hide those extra belly inches but there isn't any use in drawing a cinch cord around the bottom of it and throwing a layer of wool over it either.
As mentioned above, ribbing can look really good at the bottom of a sweater and it finishes the line of the body nicely. For this reason, we usually do two things with our ribbing:
1) Gauge - We loosen up the gauge of our ribbing so the ribbing falls more in line with the way the rest of the garment's fabric falls. This prevents the binding but still gives a nice fit to the wearer's body.
2) Blocking - No, we won't start in here about blocking (always block your swatches and finished pieces!!) because we know (blocking!!) y'all already block (always block!!) your work. That said, when we block our ribbing, we usually only block it to length. This means, as in the case of our Men's Cabled Knit Sweater, we put a blocking wire through the first and last rows of the ribbing and pulled the stitches lengthwise to make the rows line up nicely and set the stitches into place. This allows the wearer's body to stretch the ribbing widthwise and ensures a snug (but not tight) fit. If you find the ribbing is still to snug, you can do some blocking widthwise as well as lengthwise to give the bottom of the garment more flow as discussed above… and prevent bind, bulge, flip up, and general mayhem.
While every garment and each design has a unique set of considerations regarding fashion, fit, form, and function, these are the starting points from which we begin the process of pattern writing for our men's designs. Proper fit in the places where it counts, design elements that suit a man's body, and usability/wearability of the finished garment… while looking good. Because, hey, I'd wear cargo pants and a hoodie all day every day if it weren't for my obligation to occasionally go out in public. And, when I do venture out into the world at large, I like to look good and feel good about what I'm wearing. So, yeah, fashionability comes into play sometimes too.
For more of our menswear designs, check out our Men's Hooded Vest (our top selling pattern EVER), the Men's Cable Vest, and our Men's Cabled Knit Sweater patterns in our online store. We'd love to see more men wearing our garments so be sure to share your finished project photos with us on our Facebook page or on our Ravelry Fanz page.