Everyone Should Have an Office Sweater to Survive the Freezing-Cold Air Conditioning

Some suggestions, plus a fuzzy blanket.

Collage of a blanket, hoodie, and cardigan.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Amazon, J.Crew, and Uniqlo.

Like many offices around America in summer, Slate’s are rather cold. Outside is, of course, hot. It is necessary to leave your home in summer-appropriate clothing, and yet also be prepared to bundle up as if you’re working at a business-casual Arctic research station. And in the office, the exact temperature can vary day to day, further complicating the problem; it is all too easy to be lured into a sense of well-being and safety by a sudden warm streak. Before long, you’re shivering again.

One of the easiest solutions is to keep a sweater on the back of your chair. This can technically be any old sweater; I am currently sustaining myself with help from a black crewneck a co-worker lent me, a kind gesture I have repaid by discreetly praying she never asks for it back. But surely there are best practices here. I posited that my life could be improved by carefully selecting a specific sweater to be on duty for weeks on end. With help from my fellow Slatesters and their own office sweaters, I have assembled a few criteria to guide us sweater-seekers in our quests, along with recommendations below for specific sweaters and other gear to survive through the end of this indoor winter.

A good office sweater should go with everything that you wear. Neutral colors are the best bet for most people. (If you typically stick to neutrals in the rest of your wardrobe, an office sweater is an easy way to make a statement with your outfit—get something bright and be an office sweater fashion leader!)

The material should be cozy and comfortable. “Merino is lightweight, breathes, and doesn’t get as dirty as cotton,” says deputy editor Lowen Liu, advocating for the material of his own office sweater. But some among us favor a heavier office sweater, including editorial assistant and maxi dress aficionado Rachelle Hampton, who has knighted the official Slate hoodie as her office sweater (“The inside has this really nice fleece, so it’s like wearing a blanket!”).

No matter the color or material, an office sweater should be easy to take on and off. Get something with buttons or a zipper. If you aren’t a hoodie-wearer, this is your opportunity to try it out—like June Thomas, senior managing producer of podcasts, who also keeps a Slate hoodie on hand at work despite never donning hoodies in her outside life. (Zippered company-issued logo hoodies are truly perfect office sweaters, if they’re of the comfy variety; you can still argue that you’re appropriately dressed for the job.)

If possible, do not spend a fortune on one sweater. In a perfect world, you’d have two office sweaters so you can cycle them in and out of use to clean them. Plus, it’s nice to be able to lend your office sweater to a desk mate without worrying that your investment piece will be ruined by a blob of their lunch.

Finally, wearing the same sweater every day can get old, gross, or—if the office temps really drop—might just not cut it alone, so have other options on hand, like tea or blankets.

Here are a few suggestions from staffers and research on where to start:

Uniqlo cardigan.

Here’s a basic merino wool cardigan that comes in a variety of colors and is not a million dollars. (Side question: Why are cardigans gendered? Good grief.)

Model wearing circle cardigan.
Barefoot Dreams

Sorry, this one is a million dollars, but it looks like a wearable blanket and has a truly stunning number of positive reviews on Nordstrom’s website, where it seems they are having trouble keeping it in stock. So, worth it?

J.Crew hoodie.

This hoodie is super soft, according to office manager Cesar Maldonado, who keeps the gray version on hand at his desk. It’s also stayed soft over four years of use and hasn’t pilled.

Model wearing cardigan.

A genuinely inexpensive option, and even less expensive if you are up for going the statement route: Bright red is on sale!

Box of Tetley tea.

“My go-to means of staying warm in this wildly chilly office is drinking an ungodly amount of tea,” said copy editor Nitish Pahwa. Even just placing your hands around a warm mug can help if it’s a particularly inclement day, he explained. Pahwa recommended Tetley because at about 5 cents per bag, you can go through cup after cup. The flavor is “pretty strong but not overwhelmingly rich.”

Fleece blanket.

Go big, stay warm, and send a signal to your co-workers that the present conditions are untenable. “It is SOOOO soft,” reports one satisfied Amazon customer. “SO SOFT.” Get the dark gray. Professional!