Everyone loves personality tests. They’re like selfies for the soul, harnessing our desire to understand ourselves and how we experience the world - a delicate way of saying ‘self-obsession’. Given their subjectivity, there is no Definitive Personality Test, but the model that dominates tends to focus on the Big Five personality traits: openness to experience; conscientiousness; extroversion; agreeableness; neuroticism; and, in our opinion, how you wear a cardigan. Yes, worn by everyone from septuagenarians to celebrities, the humble cardigan now has a social scope so broad that we all sit somewhere on its spectrum.
At one end, we have those who wear cardigans to experience comfort in both its physical and emotional forms. This is perhaps the cardigan in its traditional format, something worn for relaxation at home and as an afterthought in public. Stocked everywhere from Harrods to Matches, the ultimate brand of this ilk doesn’t just have warmth as a tenet of its pieces but of its actual name: ’I Love Mr Mittens’ sounds like a short film about spooning and even the product imagery on its site - all open arms and palpable warmth - literally looks like a hug. Celebrity icons for this iteration of cardigan are scarce because it speaks more to the everywoman than anyone else; it’s, unsurprisingly, different on the other side.
The ‘other side’ can be defined by the ‘sexigan’. Its Queen is Bella Hadid, a byword for trend-led sex appeal who would probably look beguiling even as a Neckbeard. This cardigan camp is all décolletage and midriffs. Being part of it is to make a polite request for the world to take note of your belly and breasts while only ever appearing distinctly unattainable. It’s a vintage Chanel twinset rendered an only child with a visible lace bra (if any bra at all) and Shushu/Tong’s distressed red cardigan worn with jeans that are even more distressed by a woman who wouldn’t know distress if it slapped her.
For the ‘sexigan’ side, a cardigan worn for comfort represents shame and dishevelment. It’s what they’d be wearing if they bumped into their ex who left them for someone else, clotrimazole in hand and skin in desperate need of AHAs. For the others, ‘sexigans’ spell sweat patches and are the territory of those who self-objectify in a boundless pursuit of external validation.
As with the Big Five personality traits, most of us are somewhere in the middle depending on our mood and the situation. None more so than Katie Holmes in Khaite. For a cosy cardigan in a colour that can accurately be described as ‘neutral’ worn with a matching bra is comfort and sex appeal in one.
asai belted ribbed ombre wool Cardigan, £830