Shetland Sweaters: The Ultimate Buying Guide for Men in 2020

This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and make a purchase, we may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. Learn more.

by  Karlton Miko Tyack | Last Updated:  Oct 28, 2020
Shetland Sweaters: The Ultimate Buying Guide for Men in 2020

If you’re looking for durability in a sweater, you can’t beat a Shetland. But with so many options available at all ends of the price spectrum, is it better to go cheap or really stump up?

We’ve got the answer. These are the six best Shetland sweaters for every budget on the market today, guaranteed to keep you warm and toasty.

Best on a Budget
  • 100% wool and still affordable
  • Mid-level fashion focusing on the basics
  • Simple designs that go with everything
Best Under $50
  • Clothes that offer solutions for working men
  • Heavy focus on craftsmanship and practicality for warm, effective sweaters
  • Cheeky guy-humor brand
Best Under $100
  • Online-based, adventure lifestyle brand
  • Their shaggy sweater is a fashionable statement piece
  • Fun, contemporary but still functional clothing
Best Under $150 & Our Top Pick
  • Best overall due to moderate price and high-quality
  • All quality checks happen in-house for excellent consistency
  • Legendary brand known for outdoor wear
Best Under $200
  • Premier American trad style
  • Sweaters are tough and warm, with an East Coast preppy flare
  • Superior craftsmanship and loyal following
Best Under $250
  • Luxury Scottish knitwear based in Aberdeen
  • Legit Scottish Shetlands using local resources and Scottish sheep
  • Sweater has looser weaves and no stitching for a distinct noticeable style

There’s no manly way to ask another guy to pass you a blanket.

I learned this the hard way at a school football game during an infamously cold Boston November. I should mention that I’m from LA.

After my buddy mocked me for being too delicate, I asked him how he was managing to stay warm.

He gestured to his sweater and said, “this is Shetland, man.”

I could’ve teased him back (there’s no manly way to casually talk about fiber content either, Chad). Instead I took his important sartorial lesson with me:

The Shetland sweater is essential.

Effortlessly stylish and a staple of casual wear, every man should own at least one. The following buying guide runs the gamut both in style, history, and of course price range.

What Is a Shetland Sweater? A Brief History

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Union of Man (@unionofman) on

Norse settlers have been wearing Shetland wool since the 9th century. Naturally, the wool is made from the coats of sheep from the Shetland Islands in Scotland.

Shetland wool is the thickest type of wool with at least 23 microns, and because of that, it’s usually plucked rather than shorn. For reference, cashmere has 19 microns and merino can have up to 23. It’ll definitely keep you warm.

A Shetland sweater refers to any sweater that’s made from the very sturdy Shetland wool. Here are the brands that have made the style stick.

Best Shetland Sweaters in 2020: 6 Brands for Every Budget

Best on a Budget: Goodthreads

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Royce (@roycemarkley) on

Goodthreads, a private Amazon brand, tiptoed into the market in 2017, the same year Amazon’s private brands grew 90%.

Considering that apparel makes up almost 38% of Amazon’s ecommerce share, labels like Goodthreads are primed to disrupt our approach to wardrobe in the same way they disrupted the concept of shopping.

In the case of the wool sweater, this is a good thing.

Goodthreads offers mid-level prime fashions a la Banana Republic at fast-fashion prices. The brand focuses on no-frills essentials, often touting their jeans. Basically, Goodthreads wants to make looking stylish as easy for you as dunking is for Vince Carter.

The Goodthreads Lambswool Sweater is affordable, keeps you warm, comes in a million sizes, and their unpatterned pieces basically go with everything.

What I Like

  • Goodthreads really does fulfill the brand’s promise of easy style. It certainly wins the affordability award in this roundup, which is even more impressive considering the sweaters are 100% wool.

  • As a brand, I think that Goodthreads’ objective is very much in Amazon’s lane, as opposed to their Unbuttoned line which looks to compete with heritage brands like Brooks Brothers (though Amazon did recently partner with Oscar de la Renta to sell womens wear).

  • The popularity of their wool sweaters and jeans shows that Goodthreads makes good in its promise to deliver quality basics.

What I Don’t Like

  • The lambswool isn’t as textured and heavy as the true Shetland wool sweaters on this list. Some may like that the Goodthreads Sweater is less scratchy, but it won’t keep you as warm as the heavier options.

  • Clean with caution, folks! The main complaint among user reviews is that the Goodthreads wool sweater is infamously shrinkable even when following the cleaning directions.

What Other Reviewers Say

There’s a lot of praise over the price and the fact the sweater is 100% wool. Some reviewers even go as far as to namecheck other leading brands, calling them out on mixing fibers to save money on production.

The Verdict

There are two types of guys Goodthreads is for: Those who prioritize budget but don’t want to sacrifice style, and those who want an elevated version of that Zuckerberg/Steve Jobs throw-it-on approach to their wardrobe.

Best on a Budget
Goodthreads Lambswool Stripe Crewneck Sweater

Though it needs to be cleaned with caution to avoid shrinkage, this sweater offers solid value for money for a 100% cotton sweater. The popularity of their wool sweaters shows that Goodthreads makes good in its promise to deliver quality basics.

Check Best Price on Amazon Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Best Under $50: Duluth Trading Company

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Duluth Trading Company (@duluthtradingcompany) on

Of all the essential qualities to a classic Shetland sweater, Duluth’s main focus is the sweater’s role as practical workwear.

The company was founded in Duluth, Minnesota and its lore is rooted in its workingman craftsmanship and Midwestern American reliability. After all, Duluth started out as a tool catalog company.

Their Shetland Sweater’s ribbed composition at the collar, bottom of the sweater, and end of the sleeves is thicker than that of the Goodthreads Lambswool Sweater. Overall, it’s a heavier wear and more traditional, utilitarian look.

What I Like

  • The Duluth Trading Company makes clothes that solve problems for working men.

  • They designed a successful line of shirts in the early aughts that were longer in the back as a service to plumbers.

  • Yes, Duluth’s products are cheeky but they are built around sartorial solutions, and that’s exactly what the Shetland sweater is: A solution to cold weather.

What I Don’t Like

  • I find this under $50 category to be a funny price point. If I wanted an effective enough sweater, I can opt for a much cheaper Goodthreads piece. If I wanted a heavy-duty piece with lore, either a Pendleton or O’Connell’s Shetland sweater would be a worthwhile investment. As you’ll see in the reviews though, Duluth has quite the following from the Paul Bunyans out there!

What Other Reviewers Say

The best part of the positive reviews, of which far outweigh the negative, is that they showcase the exact kind of guy Duluth is made for. They are straight to the point and just want a sweater that will work for them.  They talk a bit about style, but the Duluth man’s focus is practicality—with a bit of humor.

The Verdict

A Shetland sweater under $50, while not as outstandingly affordable as Amazon’s in-house offerings, is still a great deal, especially since Duluth is famed for their craftsmanship.

If you like a heavier wear or the ax-throwing mythology around the brand, then level up to a Duluth sweater. It’s the pick-up truck of Shetland sweaters.

Best Under $50
Duluth Trading Co Shetland Wool Sweater

A Shetland sweater under $50, while not as outstandingly affordable as Amazon’s in-house offerings, is still a great deal, especially since Duluth is famed for their craftsmanship.

Check Best Price Read Our Review
Image source: Duluth Trading Co

Best Under $100: Shetland Woollen Company (Huckberry)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Huckberry (@huckberry) on

I love the Go-Pro cool guy feel of Huckberry.

Two financiers who wanted to build an adventure lifestyle brand founded Huckberry in San Francisco. Impressively, they’re proud to be “bootstrapped and profitable.”

Just like the story of the company, I find the clothes and curated brands they carry to be likewise personable.

The Shetland Woollen Company’s Shaggy Sweater is a fuzzy and fashionable piece that’s far less understated than the Duluth or Goodthreads sweater.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by The Northern Fells Clothing Co (@thenorthernfellsclothingco) on

The Shaggy Sweater is burly but still contemporary. While the Duluth guy probably lives in a cabin in the woods, the Huckberry guy has a day job in the city, then seeks outdoor adventures when he’s not at the office.

What I Like

  • Huckberry’s brands represent style and function.

  • As an online retailer founded near Silicon Valley, they have a similar tech-based disruption philosophy as Goodthreads. However, as a lifestyle brand they concede to the reality that sometimes the old ways are better.

  • This is best seen in their partnership with the Shetland Woollen Company; the Shaggy Wweater is made traditionally in Scotland and thrice brushed for softness.

What I Don’t Like

  • The extra brushing on the shaggy sweater is what gives it its signature look. The downside to this is that it’s definitely easier for fibers to get caught and pulled off.

  • I’d personally even be insecure to try and clean this sweater myself, so make sure you have a dry cleaner you can trust!

What Other Reviewers Say

Reviewers admire the Shaggy Sweater’s contemporary take on a classic style. True to Huckberry’s personable guy’s guy brand, one reviewer even raved about how the guys at work complimented his sweater even though his wife was confused by it.

The Verdict

Despite the brand’s image, Huckberry’s offerings aren’t just for the cool start-up or tech guy.

With less traditional color offerings for their Shaggy Sweater (“leather” for example), I find Huckberry to be the most contemporary, fashion-forward brand in this roundup.

Best Under $100
Shetland Woollen Company Shaggy Sweater | Huckberry

Huckberry’s brands represent style and function. This is best seen in their partnership with the Shetland Woollen Company; the shaggy sweater is made traditionally in Scotland and thrice brushed for softness.

Check Best Price Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Best Under $150 and Our Top Pick: Pendleton

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Sid Garabato (@sidgarabato) on

Pendleton needs no introduction. It was founded in 1863 in Portland, Oregon. Today it’s a foremost American brand and is still family owned.

What makes Pendleton unique in this roundup is that it’s vertically integrated.

Quick business school lesson for us humanities majors: This means that every step in manufacturing is executed by Pendleton, from processing the raw wool to constructing the fabrics to designing the fashions. 

You’re looking at a majorly quality-checked Shetland sweater here. Pendleton is synonymous with the American Northwest, beards, and campfires. Its legendary status is likely why their revenue often exceeds 130 million.

What I Like

  • Pendleton Shetland sweaters are objectively good sweaters because of the thorough quality checks they are subjected to.

  • I especially like the full zip Shetland cardigan because it’s easy to take off and on and can be a top layer or mid layer depending on the season.

  • As with all Pendleton Shetland sweaters, it’s a great weight and keeps you just as warm as a much heavier sweater could.

What I Don’t Like

  • Even Pendleton couldn’t escape the classic Shetland curse: It’s difficult to clean and care for. The tag claims it’s machine washable, and there are definitely less complaints about the machine washing results of a Pendleton compared to that of a Goodthreads sweater.

    I’d still recommend dry-cleaning or lightly hand-washing your sweater with lukewarm water to ensure it lasts longer though.

What Other Reviewers Say

Subjective style aside, it’s difficult to find a bad review for Pendleton sweaters. The majority of reviews praise the fit, comfort, and versatility of a Pendleton Shetland sweater. It seems to have received extra credit points for not being itchy too!

The Verdict

More than being the best brand for Shetland sweaters in its price category, Pendleton’s craftsmanship and reputation make it the best value overall. It’s truly the classic American Shetland sweater.

Best Under $100 & Our Top Pick
Pendleton Shetland Crew Neck Sweater

More than being the best brand for Shetland sweaters in its price category, Pendleton’s craftsmanship and reputation make it the best value overall. It’s truly the classic American Shetland sweater.

Check Best Price on Amazon Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Best Under $200: O’Connell’s

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by O’Connell’s Clothing (@oconnellsclothing) on

O’Connell’s was established in 1959 in Buffalo, New York and is a premier American trad style clothier.

It was literally founded by football players; you don’t get any more American than that.

The brand prides itself in avoiding fads and focusing on workmanship and the classics. What they sold in the 50’s is very similar to what they sell today.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by O’Connell’s Clothing (@oconnellsclothing) on

Besides their masterful craftsmanship, O’Connell’s relatively higher prices are also because of their loyal following that spans generations.

What I Like

  • I truly admire O’Connell’s legacy. While Pendleton took their legend status and parlayed it into a profitable vertically integrated business, O’Connell’s took their following and built an Ivy League-like club culture.

  • I love brands that let you buy into a seemingly exclusive world. Based on that image, I think the cable-knit Shetland sweater is their most stylistically quintessential.

  • O’Connell’s may be preppy, but it’s not just for preppies. Cable-knit is a utilitarian weave meant to keep you warm, not just a popular style on boarding school campuses!

What I Don’t Like

  • While I do believe O’Connell’s is worth the price of admission, it’s definitely on the higher end of the spectrum.

What Other Reviewers Say

Similar to Duluth attracting woodsmen, traditionalists loved the classic style of O’Connell’s Shetland sweaters and its preppy pedigree. I also saw a few complaints about how high the collars are, which is easily solved by wearing a collared button-down underneath.

The Verdict

Whether or not you attended an East Coast preparatory school, O’Connell’s offers high-quality, time-tested investment Shetland sweaters.

Best Under $200
O'Connell's Scottish Shetland Wool Sweater

Whether or not you attended an East Coast preparatory school, O’Connell’s offers high-quality, time-tested investment Shetland sweaters, albeit at a high-end price.

Check Best Price Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Best Under $250: Harley of Scotland (Cable Car Clothiers)

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by ALL BLUES CO. (@allbluesco) on

When it comes to Shetland sweaters, you won’t find a better provenance than Harley of Scotland.

The factory is still located on the same site it was founded on in 1929 by Peter Harley Buchan, a fisherman and great grandfather of the current owners.

This means they’re still using the same local resources, which includes the softest mill water in Scotland and legit Scottish sheep. This is as back-to-basics as it gets.

Their Shetland sweaters are unique because of their seamless stitching technique and because they are incredibly light, woven in a looser fashion than Shetland sweaters usually are.

What I Like

  • I like the looser weave because it makes the sweater more versatile and you don’t have to wait until the mercury drops to start rocking this super stylish sweater.

  • The lack of stitching distinguishes Harley from the rest of the brands in this roundup. The simplicity and color block gives you room to style it with different patterns and louder colors as well.

What I Don’t Like

  • Similar to O’Connell’s, this is an investment brand. It can cost anywhere from $165 to $230. This is not for the budget buyer.

What Other Reviewers Say

The unique stitching technique is often brought up, though there is debate regarding whether the thinner ply is a pro or con. Reviewers also tend to be charmed by Harley’s origin story. Its Scottish heritage makes it the most quintessential Shetland sweater brand on this list.

The Verdict

Harley of Scotland is the most unique brand on our list, as well as the most genuine. It’s also pretty under-the-radar, so if you want a high-quality Shetland sweater that likely no one else in the room will have, go for a Harley.

Best Under $250
Harley of Scotland Shetland Crewneck Sweater | Cable Car Clothiers

With its unique looser weave stitching, and grade A materials and construction, the Harley of Scotland Shetland is one of the best you'll find in its category, although it doesn't come cheap.

Check Best Price Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

How to Style the Shetland Sweater: Outfit Inspiration

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by J. PRESS (@jpressclothiers) on

This outfit is a successful balancing act.

The bright orange stripes on the Shetland’s left arm match the hues and secondary colors of his thick, patterned socks and his shoes. Because the outfit is dominated by casual material, the smaller, statement design elements don’t take away from the effortlessness of the look.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Old Soul Modern World. (@oldsoulmodernworld) on

I want to draw attention to this detail shot because it’s the perfect example of how to handle the high collars of O’Connell’s Shetland sweaters.

The button-down underneath protects your neck from itchiness. Also, since most of the button-down collar is covered, louder patterns peeking from the sweater can serve as design accents.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Benton | Vintage Menswear (@benton.down) on

I bet you didn’t think a patterned Shetland could go with a military jacket. This outfit succeeds because the calculated risks and color matching are executed in a subtle manner. 

He achieves something similar to color blocking, but with tones: The sweater and shirt serve as a cool tone block, and the rest of the outfit is a warm tone block.

Because of this, he’s able to wear a Shetland with bright green stripes and maintain the casual subtlety of the look, with the added cool factor of the mouton collar military jacket. I love how this outfit takes the Shetland out of the woodsy or preppy category, proving its versatility.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Liam Jefferies (@sartorialchap) on

Normcore can be fashionable too! This is the kind of easy stylishness that the Goodthreads of the world want to make available to you. 

This look goes to show that if you choose tapered, simple pieces, even thrown together looks come out looking sleek.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by RuthlessP (@runseoul) on

Just because Shetland sweaters are classics doesn’t mean you can’t wear them in a trendy or arty way.

One of the most effective ways to wear a Shetland sweater, in any style, is as a color block. By keeping his top and bottom jacket buttons open, he achieves that in this look, and effectively uses his Shetland as an accent.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Sartorial Casualwear (@stevecalder) on

This outfit shows that you don’t need a collared shirt underneath your Shetland in order for it to look clean or complete.

Styled with a high-collared jacket, the sweater again serves as a great color block that lays the foundation to this very architectural look.

A Sweater Weather Essential 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Union of Man (@unionofman) on

As I learned that fateful November day in college, the Shetland sweater is an indispensable part of a man’s wardrobe.

The Shetland sweater offerings definitely run a gamut.

On a budget? Goodthreads is your guy:

Goodthreads Lambswool Stripe Crewneck Sweater

Though it needs to be cleaned with caution to avoid shrinkage, this sweater offers solid value for money for a 100% cotton sweater. The popularity of their wool sweaters shows that Goodthreads makes good in its promise to deliver quality basics.

Check Best Price on Amazon Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

But if you’re happy to invest for the long haul, you’ll get a lot more mileage out of a Pendleton—it’s an American icon for a reason:

Pendleton Shetland Crew Neck Sweater

More than being the best brand for Shetland sweaters in its price category, Pendleton’s craftsmanship and reputation make it the best value overall. It’s truly the classic American Shetland sweater.

Check Best Price on Amazon Read Our Review
If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

For more style tips and buying guides, subscribe to our Youtube Channel!

FAQs

Is Shetland wool good?

Yes. Wool from Shetland sheep is an incredibly thick fiber and effective in keeping you warm on cold days. Shetland wool also has protected status in Europe, which means that any item claiming to be Shetland wool is guaranteed to be pure and authentic.

Is Shetland wool scratchy?

Yes, Shetland wool is naturally scratchy. Brushed versions are smoother than plain versions.

How to shrink a Shetland sweater

For extreme shrinking, wash the sweater in a hot rinse cycle then throw it into the dryer at the hottest setting. For slight shrinking, wet the sweater with lukewarm water, then it throw into the dryer, checking occasionally to see if it’s reached the desired size.

How to wash a Shetland sweater

While many Shetland sweaters claim to be machine washable, it’s safest to hand-wash your Shetland sweater with lukewarm water. Afterwards, ring the sweater out then hang it up to dry. Shetland wool must be cared for very gently.