A well-balanced blend of vintage craft and contemporary appeal.
The world of men’s knitwear has evolved to a point where the majority of offerings are homogeneous in a bad way; made from paper thin merino or cotton, extremely long in the body, with very low armholes and thin, flimsy ribbing. When it comes to V neck knitwear, most offerings also have a very shallow cut at the neck which is aesthetically displeasing. Menswear enthusiasts, especially in recent times, are generally inclined to the opposite; a shorter body length to go with mid to high rise trousers, sturdy material and construction, and high armholes for better movement and fit. For a time, there was a dearth of new knitwear with these ideal characteristics, though options beyond shopping vintage or custom have sprung up in the last few years.
The first contemporary label I saw offering such styles was Rubato, a brand by Swedish duo Oliver Dannefalk and Carl Pers, which debuted in 2019 with a vintage-inspired knitwear collection; it made waves with a V neck sweater that ticked all of the boxes for craft, styling and proportion. I didn’t get to try one at the time, though with my part of Australia’s climate changing over the last couple of years to feature longer, colder winters, this year I decided to pull the trigger on one.
I was instantly taken with the Verdant colour on offer, a beautiful mottled pale green lambswool, and based on the sizing chart went for an S. The medium would have been the ideal choice, however it was out of stock, and the large would have been frumpy on my frame. While plenty of my fellow menswear fans look great in drapey, somewhat oversized knitwear, my body shape counts me aside from my peers, and fitted knitwear has always done my frame more favours.
The hand of the knit used to make these sweaters lives up to the hype; it’s remarkably similar in texture, weight and sturdiness to my old 1940s fair isle knit, and I got a pleasant surprise when I felt that the Rubato knit has no itch whatsoever. It’s quite dense and warm; in my climate, it’s enough to serve as an outer layer on its own during most winter days which makes it an excellent option for more casual dressing or wearing in a low to medium formality office.
Construction is excellent, with strong seams and a saddle shoulder which goes nicely with the high armhole. The wider hem and sleeve cuff ribbing serves both to strengthen the hems and better hold the garment in place. An interesting detail on the sleeves is the design choice to have the cuff seams facing outwards, always requiring the cuffs to be folded back. I quite like this touch, as it allows the wearer to customise sleeve length while also serving as a nice aesthetic detail; a clever solution indeed for the sleeve length conundrum which usually faces makers and customers alike. As for the defining characteristic, the deeper V neck cut, I originally wanted that in order to have better proportions when wearing a tie, however I’ve found that the deep cut looks much better than a shallower cut when the knit is worn over an open collar too. It serves to give the torso a better proportional balance.
Fit wise, I’ll definitely be going with the medium size next time, but the small serves well as a layering piece. I do note that when comparing the current cut of Rubato sweaters to the first few runs, the pattern on offer now has a longer body length than the originals did. While this might turn off some buyers who idealise the vintage proportions, I’m sure the decision expanded the customer base; the current length toes a line between wearable for those who like their pants at a mid rise, and foldable (without creating bulky fold) for those who wear a high rise like myself. As such, I might idealise my old fair isle to be the perfectly proportioned knit for me with its short body, however the extra length on the Rubato knit isn’t a deal breaker – it still ticks all of the other boxes, and I can fold the small excess of length at the base with ease.
Overall, this piece from Rubato hits the spot for me. It’s made well, styled well, the fabric is beautiful both to look at and to wear, and this makes it excellent value for money in my view. The colour range on offer boasts several versatile and unique colours, making it easy to buy a couple of different options and have the knitwear section of the wardrobe sorted. I’m particularly interested to try their turtlenecks next winter, with the lambswool cloth used by Rubato being one of the very few I’ve tried that doesn’t itch… and the pure camel options look tantalising too.
You can view the current Rubato knitwear collection here.