Nothing can soothe the sharp chills of cold weather quite like a soft, snuggly cashmere sweater. Once a prohibitively priced luxury, cashmere now seems to be sold almost everywhere, often at suspiciously low prices. But the differences between a $50 sweater and a $500 one are still mostly (and purposely) shrouded in mystery. So we set out to discover exactly how to buy a good cashmere sweater, and to learn whether pricier brands are really worth the money. Then we tested 22 men’s and women’s cashmere sweaters to find our six favorite sweater-weather must-haves.

Our recommendations include an affordable cashmere sweater that still feels like a luxury, cashmere with a playful personality, a stylish splurge, a rugged cashmere piece you can wear anywhere, and a lightweight cardigan that’s ideal for layering. Our picks include designs from direct-order labels, smaller luxury brands specializing in cashmere, and even a brand primarily known for outdoor wear. What they all share is high-quality construction that—with proper care—should last for seasons, as well as a flattering and comfortable fit and that silky-soft sensation you get only from cashmere.

Cashmere is a luxury fabric that’s soft, warm and lightweight. It’s not just for fancy sweaters: you can find cashmere in everything from socks to pajamas. And while cashmere can be expensive, it’s worthwhile to invest in one really good piece that will last for years (or even decades). Here are the basics of how cashmere is made and why it’s worth the price tag.

Is more expensive always better?

If you’re shopping for cashmere, the price tag may seem to increase in correlation with the quality. But is it always the case? Not necessarily.

While it’s true that the craftsmanship and materials used to make a garment determine its overall quality, there are many factors that affect how much you’ll pay for your open cardigan. For example:

  • The brand name of a designer doesn’t always guarantee that their products will be superior in terms of quality compared to others on the market. Some brands are known for producing high-quality merchandise while others aren’t as reputable or dependable in terms of what they do (and don’t do).
  • Higher price doesn’t mean better quality—you can find good quality at lower prices too! It all depends on where you buy from and how honest they are about their product information; these days there are lots of websites where customers can share reviews about different retailers’ products so make sure you check them before making any purchases online; this way if there’s anything wrong with what arrives at your door then hopefully someone else has already experienced something similar so hopefully someone else has already experienced something similar so hopefully we won’t

What makes cashmere so great?

Cashmere is the softest wool, and it’s lightweight, warm, and breathable. It’s also durable—cashmere can last for years. Cashmere is often blended with other fibers to make it more affordable.

Cashmere is hypoallergenic and doesn’t itch like other wools do.

How is cashmere made?

Cashmere is made from the undercoat of goats. The goats are raised in Mongolia and China, where they stay warm because of the climate. They’re sheared every spring before the heat of summer can make them produce more wool, and their coats are cleaned, sorted and graded before it’s spun into yarn.

Tips for shopping for cashmere

  • Cashmere is the softest and most luxurious fabric in the world. It’s so fine that you can’t wear it in direct sunlight, because sunlight will make it fade.
  • Cashmere is a luxury material that can be expensive, but it’s worth the investment if you want something soft and cozy to wear all winter long.
  • You should try to find cashmere sweaters that are machine-washable and dryable on gentle cycle (or hand-washed gently, then air dried).

What’s the difference between brands and styles?

Brands are like luxury car companies. They have a reputation for quality, and their products can be very expensive. If you’re buying a brand-name sweater, like a cashmere open cardigan, you’re probably getting the best of the best.

Styles are more like different types of cars—they have similar looks and feels but aren’t necessarily the same quality as their brand counterparts. Styles can also be much more affordable than brands if you’re careful about where to buy them from (more on that later).

We tested 23 sweaters to find the best ones in six categories

We tested 23 cashmere sweaters in six categories to find the best ones. We considered all of their features, including fit, quality of construction, and value. We tested both men’s and women’s sweaters.

Sweater buying season is coming up! It’s time to do some research and find a sweater that will keep you warm (and stylish) this winter.

Sweater buying season is coming up! And it’s time to do some research and find a sweater that will keep you warm (and stylish) this winter.

Though many of us dread the thought of spending money on clothing, sweaters are an exception because they’re such versatile pieces. You can wear them with jeans, skirts and dresses; they’re a key element in layering; and most importantly, they tend to look good on everyone (even if you’re not so sure about that).

Conclusion

If you want to know why cashmere is so popular and how to shop for it, we’ve got you covered! We’ve put together the ultimate guide to finding the best sweater for your needs. We looked at all the top brands, including Banana Republic, J Crew (which owns a few different brands), and Ralph Lauren. Then we tested 23 sweaters—including some of our favorites below—in six categories: price per ounce (PPO), strength/stretchiness (STR) , softness/crinkle factor (CRINKLE), durability/quality control (DURABILITY), shrinkage after washing (SHRINKAGE), and warmth factor on a scale of 1-5 stars with 5 being warmest.

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