It’s named after the 7th Earl of Cardigan, an early 19th-century British commander, who commissioned it as a base layer under his uniform during the Crimean War. In the 1920s, Coco Chanel made it à la mode. It’s said that she didn’t appreciate how regular sweaters messed up her hair. And we know from history and The Crown, that Queen Elizabeth II wore cardigans before she ever wore the crown and scepter.
In the 1990s, it achieved a cozy-cool grandpa-chic vibe thanks to two men: Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and Fred Rogers. Cobain added in his layer of grit and street cred in oversized sweaters and t-shirts with just enough grime and holes to pull off a much-emulated didn’t-try-don’t-care spirit. Meanwhile, a resurgence and appreciation of Mr. Rogers’ morning and afternoon ritual of changing in and out of his cardigans and Sperry Top-Sider’s cemented the button-down’s cool status. The irony of Cobain and Rogers made the look especially delicious for the time.
There have been bands, books and even a recent Taylor Swift love song named “cardigan.” A word that now elicits memories of childhood perhaps, rock legends and a kind of coziness that only comes when you’ve slipped your arms into your favorite slightly oversized cardigan.