Sorry for my week of silence (if you noticed). It was just too hard to entertain out-of-towners in my hometown while also being on-line. Somehow they thought hikes and malls and museums and restaurants were more interesting than watching me type. But among those visitors to my little American hometown were ten British English speakers. Predictably, there were lots of linguistic discussions. Unpredictably, the weather took an unwelcome turn and the most discussed words (in August!) were jumper, sweater and terms for related items of clothing.
Most BrE-AmE dictionaries will tell you that BrE jumper = AmE sweater, but this is a little misleading and far from the whole story. When referring to knit(ted) garments, AmE sweater has much broader application than BrE jumper, which refers only to (generally long-sleeved) pullovers--that is, they are donned by pulling them over the head. In BrE, jumper stands in contrast to cardigan, a word that is used in AmE, but sweater is used frequently in AmE to refer to cardigans as well. So, AmE sweater is a superordinate term or hyper(o)nym, which includes cardigans and pullover sweaters. In BrE, jumper is not the hyperonym of cardigan, but kind of its 'opposite'.
Jumper in AmE is a kind of dress, called a pinafore (dress) in BrE. (Both dialects have the 'apron' sense of pinafore.) In other words, it's a sleeveless dress that's made to be worn over a blouse or other top. Thus my mother, who finds cross-dressing unexpected and hilarious, always has something to say when Better Half says he's going to put on his jumper.
Another sweater that is not a jumper is the (AmE) sweater vest (illustration from this catalog(ue) site). Now, there are two reasons why this isn't called sweater vest in BrE: (1) sweater is AmE (as already established!), and (2) in BrE vest is generally used to refer to (more typically AmE) undershirts (with or without sleeves) or sleeveless undershirt-like things worn by sports players. In AmE, on the other hand, a vest is a sleeveless garment for the upper body that's typically worn over a shirt. This includes the kind that one finds in three-piece suits, which have buttons up the front, and which BrE speakers call a waistcoat. Vest was once used in BrE for what are now called waistcoats--originally the term for a more complicated garment:
The earliest waistcoats, intended to show through the slashings and other openings of the doublet, were often extremely elaborate and costly. They were sometimes provided with sleeves, and appear to have reached to or below the hips. (OED)So, Americans kept an old (but certainly not the original) meaning of vest, while the British adjusted the meaning of another term. A related term that I've only heard in the UK is gillet (also gilet), for a type of furry waistcoat/vest that became fashionable a couple of years ago. (Here's a photo.) I was questioning whether I've only heard it in BrE because it's only been fashionable since I moved here, but most of Google results for gillet + fur are from the UK, so I'm suspecting that it's a far more common term in BrE these days. On an American catalog(ue) site, I find similar items described as fur vests.
But I've got(ten) away from the question: what is the BrE for (AmE) sweater vest? It
is, in my confused experience, tank top. Here's a so-label(l)ed photo from a UK retailer. The experience [of hearing of a dean coming to work in a tank top!] was confusing for me because of the AmE meaning of tank top: a sleeveless undershirt (nowadays often worn as an only-shirt). I was wearing one of those today, so had the opportunity to ask Better Half what he'd call such a thing, and his (sorry, honey) rather unsatisfying answer was 't-shirt', later adapted to 'sleeveless t-shirt'. A more precise BrE term is singlet (as one can see here), but it's not a term one hears a lot these days. Such undershirty things are likely to be called vests, as one can see when searching 'vest' on the Next [UK clothing retailer] website.
This brings to mind another (colo[u]rful but unfortunate) Americanism: wife-beater, which is a slang term for the type of tank top/vest that Marlon Brando wore in Streetcar Named Desire. Slangcity.com claims (I've never heard it) that wife-beater is also BrE slang for Stella Artois beer--which brings one back to Brando and Streetcar (Steeelllllaaaaa!).
Getting back to sweater and jumper, there are more ways in which the former is more general than the latter. For example, I have fine-gauge, short-sleeved knit(ted) tops (like this one on Knit Sisters) that I'd only wear on their own--not over another shirt/blouse--and that I'd call sweaters. I'd not feel comfy calling such things jumpers in BrE, though. Searching summer-sweater on Google Images brings up images of both short-sleeved and sleeveless tops and lightweight, long-sleeved sweaters/jumpers, but searching summer-jumper just results in lightweight, long-sleeved jumpers/sweaters and AmE jumpers (the one short-sleeved one is a red herring: it's on the same page as a long-sleeved one that has the 'summer jumper' label). What would one call a 'summer' sweater in BrE? My best guess is that it's just a top. (BrE-speaking 'summer sweater' wearers, what do you think?)
And speaking of top (once I get going, I just can't shut up, can I?), I find that it's used much more often in BrE than in AmE. And in AmE, one is more likely than in BrE to call a woman's blouse or top a shirt. I'm not saying that these terms aren't used in both dialects, but just that their frequency/commonality seems to be different--at least in the forms of BrE and AmE I've been exposed to. But on that intuitional note, I've got to go bed...
The word “jumper” when used to mean a sweater comes from an obsolete term for a large, loose men’s jacket called a jump. “Jumper” is a term mainly used in England, while the term “sweater” is more common in American usage.
In the 1800s, artists and workmen often wore a large thick shirt called a “jump” which would be called a smock in today’s terms. It later became “jumper” when referring to any knitted or crocheted top in England, or “sweater” in the United States when it became regular winter wear for outdoor types, especially those playing sports. Their activity would cause them to sweat, hence the term “sweater.”
The terminology can be confusing because a jumper is also a sleeveless dress worn over a shirt or a one-piece article of clothing for a small child in both British and American English. In the United States, this definition is what usually comes to mind. However, in England “jumper” first evokes images of what many Americans call a sweater.
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When it comes to men’s clothing, the terminology can get confusing after a while. For instance, what’s the difference between a top coat and an overcoat? What is a slicker, and most importantly today, what is a UK jumper?
While we can’t answer all these questions in this article, we can at least tell you everything you need to know about jumpers, starting from what they are to how you can wear them.
So, if you’re ready to satisfy your curiosity, let’s dive in, shall we?
Quite simply, a jumper is the British way of saying a sweater.
Like sweaters, jumpers are long-sleeved pieces of clothing that can be worn in many different ways. While most jumpers are knitted or crocheted, you can now find jumpers made from cotton, polyester, or even jersey fabric. Still, knitted and crocheted garments are what usually comes to mind when one pictures a jumper.
So, in a nutshell, “sweater” is the American term; “jumper” is the British one. But wait, that’s not the only British term.
You may also hear jumpers being called “pullovers” in certain areas of the UK.
Why “pullover” of all things? Well, that’s because sweaters don’t have buttons (cardigans are different) so you need to “pull” them “over” your head to put them on. That’s all there’s to it.
So, now that you know what a UK jumper is, let’s see how you can style it in a variety of ways.
See Also: How Long Should a Man's Tie Be? [Answered Once And For All!]
Jumpers are incredibly versatile garments that can be dressed up or down for all sorts of occasions. Need to head into the office? Wear a jumper. Need to go on a date? Your favorite sweater will come in handy. Even if you’re going to a semi-formal event, a smart sweater will never look out of place.
So, here are a few outfit ideas with jumpers to keep in the back of your mind.
If you’re going for a chic, yet casual look, wear a white dress shirt, leaving it untucked, then put a light gray or beige crew neck jumper over it. As for the pants, wear some slim-fit light blue jeans with light-colored Chelsea boots, and finish off the outfit with a nice watch and some cool sunglasses.
This outfit is the perfect combination of dapper and laid-back, allowing you to transition from day to night flawlessly.
For a slightly more edgy look, get a black crew neck or turtleneck jumper, wear it over your black jeans, preferably ripped, and put on some black combat boots. Then, wear the star of the show; a well-fitted black leather jacket.
You’ll look like a total badass in this outfit, which is all one can ask for, am I right? Still, if the black-on-black is too much for you, switch out the black sweater for a white or gray one. You can also swap out the black leather jacket for a brown one for a less-severe aesthetic.
Jumpers can also be more casually styled, especially ones with patterns.
Accordingly, if you’re going for a casual look, get a striped jumper, preferably white and navy, and wear dark blue jeans and some white sneakers. Then, throw on a navy bomber jacket, a brown pair of sunglass, and voila!! One awesome look ready to be shown to the world.
See Also: What Colors Go With Black Clothes? (Men’s Style)
Note: A tan jacket with a shearling collar will also look great with this outfit, and so will brown boots or loafers. The same can be said for a denim jacket. So, try all these options and see which combination you like the best.
To look like a true gentleman, get yourself a dark gray sweater and wear it over a white dress shirt. Then, wear a relaxed pair of black chinos and black chukka boots. Finish the outfit by throwing on a well-fitted beige coat and a burgundy scarf.
If the pop of color isn’t to your liking, a white or light gray scarf will also look great. Still, if the weather doesn’t allow for scarves, then, by all means, chuck it. The outfit will still look great without it.
For a smart casual look, wear a V-neck jumper under a suit. It’s as easy as that.
Not only will you look extremely smart and professional, but the sweater will add more depth and complexity to your look. So, put on your suit and tie, some nice oxford or derby shoes, maybe even a pocket square, and get ready to look like a million bucks.
Note: The suit doesn’t have to be plain for this look to work. Wear a striped or plaid suit for a bigger impact and a less formal vibe. Also, you don’t have to wear a dress shirt and tie. You can wear the sweater as is or put on a white T-shirt underneath it.
If you want to look like a celebrity out for an errand, get a burgundy shawl-collar sweater and wear it over a patterned shirt. You can button up the shirt’s collar or leave it open; all up to you. Finally, put on beige chinos, beige or brown boots, and some A-lister sunglasses.
If you like, you can add a leather messenger bag, but try to get one that’s tan or brown. Also, if you’re not a fan of reds, then a light blue or deep green sweater will go perfectly with the ensemble.
See Also: How to Match Clothes For Guys (4 Steps To Doing This Right!)
The word jumper comes from “jump,” the word used to refer to a large, loose men’s jacket back in the day. Though “jump” is now obsolete, artists and workmen often wore them in the 1800s, and over time, the knitted and crocheted versions of the jackets became known as jumpers.
Jumpers can be made from different materials, including wool, cashmere, cotton, linen, alpaca, and polyester. Try to avoid polyester and synthetic fiber jumpers, as they don’t breathe well or last very long.
Jumpers come in a variety of styles, such as crew-neck, V-neck, turtleneck, and a shawl collar. Half-zips, tennis sweaters, and commandos, aka wooly pulleys, are other less-known varieties of jumpers.
Strictly speaking, cardigans are a type of of jumper, but a Brit would typically refer to them simply as a cardigan or even a “cardie”, not a jumper. And a cardigan would never be called a “pullover” since you put them on like a jacket, not pulled over your head.
So there we have it. A UK Jumper is a US sweater.
These are some of the most versatile pieces of clothing you can find. They can be worn in almost every possible setting you can think of, and man, do they do a good job at making you look stylish.
We’re not even mentioning how warm they are.
So, make sure your closet has a few good-quality sweaters, and play around with the colors and styles. While you can never go wrong with knitted crew-and V-necks sweaters, they can get dull after a while. Try out a tennis sweater or a shawl collar every now and then. You’ll end up with plenty of outfit options that aren’t the same old boring thing.
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