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Which cotton cardigans are best?

Fashion trends come and go, but the cotton cardigan remains a wardrobe staple because of its versatility. The material is light and makes for a slim fit that can be worn on its own, or layered with other options when the temperature drops. 

Length and design can vary significantly among brands, and you can choose from a variety of styles to create a casual or more formal look, but the Goodthreads Men’s Soft Cotton Shawl Cardigan Sweater is an excellent choice. 

What to know before you buy a cotton cardigan

Benefits of cotton

People naturally think of cashmere and wool when talking about cardigan sweaters because those are the warmest materials, but cotton is a good lightweight option that can work well during the warmer months. There are also heavier cotton cardigans with a raised texture that are well suited for the colder months. 

Cardigan styles

Cardigan sweaters are versatile. Some are more casual and good for everyday use, while others are more business casual, or designed to wear with more formal attire. 

You can choose from four styles: 

  • Long: This is a casual type of cardigan that can extend past the waist to the mid-thigh, even down to the ankles. 
  • Shawl collar: This cardigan has a collar that is often made from a thicker material and can mimic the appearance of a built-in scarf. 
  • Button-up: This cardigan tends to be more sleek, formal and sophisticated. 
  • Chunky knit: This cardigan is thick, warm and bulky, so it can almost double as a light jacket. 

Open front or closures

You typically have two choices when selecting a cotton cardigan: an open front or one with a closure. Most cardigans come with button or zipper closures, but there are open-front cardigans designed to be worn open. These tend to be slimmer, tighter-fitting models. 

What to look for in a cotton cardigan


Cotton cardigans can be found in a wide variety of colors, designs and patterns that can go with almost any outfit. Solid colors, such as black, brown, gray and navy tend to be better suited for formal attire. Black is one of the most versatile color options and can go well with many different outfits. 


Most cotton cardigans have sleeves that go to the wrist, but there are some lighter, more casual ones with short sleeves. They tend to be more stylish and fashionable. 

How much you can expect to spend on a cotton cardigan

Plan to spend from $20-$100 depending on type of cotton, weave, design details and brand. A basic sweater with minimal details from a ready-to-wear brand will run between $20-$50, while one from a designer brand, or with embellishments and additional details, can cost up to $100.

Cotton cardigan FAQ

How do you launder a cotton cardigan?

A. Most can be both hand washed and machine washed, but review the care label to confirm. When washing using a washing machine, make sure to choose cold water. Lay it flat to air dry and keep it away from the dryer when doing so.

Will my cotton cardigan shrink?

A. Yes. If it is pre-shrunk, it can still shrink up to 3% if it is laundered with hot water. A cotton cardigan not made with pre-shrunk material can shrink up to 20%. The type of weave can also affect how much it will shrink, while also affecting how well it fits. 

What’s the best way to prevent my cotton cardigan from getting wrinkled?

A. Fold your cotton sweaters and put them in a drawer instead of hanging them on a hanger, so they can better retain their shape. Depending on the style, some cotton cardigans can be ironed, but check the care instructions before doing so. 

What are the best cotton cardigans to buy?

Top cotton cardigan 

Goodthreads Men's Soft Cotton Shawl Cardigan Sweater

Goodthreads Men’s Soft Cotton Shawl Cardigan Sweater

What you need to know: This stylish shawl-neck sweater comes in over 13 colors and is tapered through the chest and waist for a great fit.

What you’ll love: The ultra-soft natural fiber, made from a mid-weight yarn, offers warmth and comfort. This cardigan is machine washable for easy laundering.

What you should consider: Some customers who selected tall sizes felt that it is still not long enough.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top cotton cardigan for the money

Karen Scott Cotton Cozy Cardigan

Karen Scott Cotton Cozy Cardigan

What you need to know: This budget-friendly sweater is comfortable enough to wear on its own in casual situations, and it’s a great layering piece for work or play.

What you’ll love: It drapes past the hips, so you can wear it with your favorite leggings. It has two patch pockets in front, with a three-quarter tab sleeve and open-front collarless neckline.

What you should consider: Customers have noted that it runs large. For a more tailored fit, consider sizing down.

Where to buy: Sold by Macy’s

Worth checking out

Cotton On Women's Cotton Boyfriend Cardigan

Cotton On Women’s Cotton Boyfriend Cardigan

What you need to know: It’s a lightweight, drapey knit sweater available in three delicious colors: sage, rich chocolate and winter berry cinnamon twist. 

What you’ll love: It can be dressed up as a layering piece or tossed over workout gear for post-workout activities. The asymmetrical hemline and rib cuffed sleeves offer modern details for a polished look.

What you should consider: This cardigan is hand wash only.

Where to buy: Sold by Macy’s


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Ryan Dempsey writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money. 

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