woman in tennis sweater

With both spring approaching and me in the thick of shamelessly binge watching Downton Abbey on Netflix, I’ve been thinking of my favorite transitional fashion staple. Personally, I love a tennis sweater (or cricket jumper, if you will), but I think it takes a bit of…? I don’t know. They can be tricky to pull off sometimes without looking like a cosplayer, like an extra in a Merchant-Ivory film, or like you hope Lord Grantham is going to call you into the game.

I don’t really think twice about wearing them anymore. The people I encounter regularly expect me to look like an extra in a Merchant-Ivory film. But I think they’re an item that has to be worn carefully.

cricket game
A favorite fashion moment Photograph © Giles Keyte, Carnival Film & Television Limited, 2012. All Rights Reserved.

I remember my father wearing tennis sweaters during the 1980s, and my mom wearing them also, possibly stolen from his very closet. This all seems a rather 1980s thing to do, plus they actually played tennis during this time.

So, these are very much a nostalgic favorite for me. I go a bit crazy every time I see one online, and it’s hard not to buy every last one. Fortunately, I’m in the market for one right now! I knew this day would come. Aware that it was a bad idea, I purchased a cheap one from Amazon two years ago. Spoiler alert, it started to unravel almost immediately. I hate fast fashion.

My husband wears one from Brooks Brothers, which has held up well. Tbh, I’m now conflicted about this brand. There’s some serious private equity weirdness going on over there, and I’ve been avoiding them for the past year or so. I really like the look of this sweater to replace the Amazon Fail, so I might give them another try if I don’t find something else in the meantime. (Update: Bought the linked sweater and love)

Of course, my six-year-old has a tennis sweater, too. I actually got it on AliExpress for $9, and it has held up far better than Amazon Fail. Personally, I’ve had excellent luck with AliExpress – basically the Chinese version of Amazon, which ships to the U.S. if slowly. I find it a good place to get cardigans (that will inevitably get lost at school or come home mysteriously stained) because they’re right around $5 each.

For me, I love the classic navy/white or red/navy/white combinations, but am far from picky. I just barely resisted grabbing a Kelly green and yellow one from LaCoste last spring. Now we’re hosting people for a Masters watch party, and I’m kicking myself anew.

As far as styling tennis sweaters, I love how versatile they are to dress up or down. I wear them with khakis, navy trousers, or jeans. I think unless you’re actually playing tennis, wearing a tennis sweater with white pants or a tennis skirt can be a bit much and definitely veers into cosplayer/extra territory.

I see them on Instagram sometimes with nothing underneath, but personally consider them to be a layering item. Button downs, polos, and even just a plain white T-shirt work well. Unless you’re disgraced minor European royalty, I don’t think a turtleneck is a good choice for layering tennis sweaters.

Do you wear tennis sweaters? How do you style them, if so?