The woolly pully is back with a V-neck vengeance

WHAT WILL 220,197 British men have in common on Boxing Day? They will all be wearing a Marks & Spencer chenille jumper.

The long-established gift tradition of "the Christmas jumper" means that this year, if you are wearing the denim coloured V-neck or the navy, chocolate and olive striped roll-neck (both pounds 35) for your Boxing Day walk, you will see a lot of men who look suspiciously similar.

M&S says it expects one in 100 men - 220,197 - to be wearing its chenille jumper this Christmas, although the luxury cashmere at pounds 99 is also expected to be a big seller.

While ties and socks still form a staple of the male Christmas package, women are increasingly using the festive period as an excuse to get their men into something woolly. John Harrison, of the Knitting Industries' Federation, estimates that we spend pounds 2bn per year buying 205 million jumpers, pullovers and cardigans - and the vast majority of this is done at Christmas.

Not that it is all plain sailing for knitwear manufacturers. Clive Vaughan, a retail analyst at Verdict Research, believes jumpers have had a hard time in recent years. "British men are very conservative and I think it's been very tough for knitwear," he said. "Look at the downfall of the Sweater Shop - and it's been fairly bad for Littlewoods as well. I think men are turning from jumpers to rugby shirts, and sweatshirts. Fleeces are also very, very important."

Mr Harrison thought Mr Vaughan's gloom was misplaced. "We have been aided by fashion changes. The fleece products which were very much in vogue a year ago have really run their course, and that will once again point up the appeal and attraction of jumpers and pullovers," he said confidently. "The return of the V-neck was also long overdue. It did disappear from the fashion scene but it is back, which also gives the opportunity for spin-offs, such as ties, shirts - and maybe even the return of the cravat."

A spokeswoman for M&S said chenille was the fabric that women would be buying for men this Christmas. "It is very trendy for men of all ages to wear V-necks, particularly with a T-shirt underneath. And chenille is not too heavy - it drapes beautifully and looks really cosy."

Brady Anderson, 23, a professional athlete, and his friend Simon Mortlock, a traveller, said they found the jumpers "pretty neutral" but Brady said he would probably wear the rollneck. "I'm more of a stripy man. My mum always used to buy me jumpers for Christmas. I think the worst woolly I ever had was a long green cardy."

But Caroline Khan, who chooses her husband Ray's clothes for him, said that jumpers were not really his thing. "I buy him sweatshirts and rugby shirts - that's more his style. I think he'd prefer stripes on the sleeves as well. I don't tend to buy him clothes for Christmas though."

Alan Collier, 42, preferred the roll neck. "This is nice and soft," he said. "I buy all my own clothes but I prefer to go to designer outlets. The worst jumper I ever had was one knitted by my ex-wife. It was an Icelandic style and I just boiled in it."

But the chenille styles got the thumbs down from Frank Hamilton and Mike Twaites, who work in advertising. "No I wouldn't wear this brown. It would have to be black, maybe with a white stripe," said Frank. "I don't mind about the label - if something looks good it does not have to be from Ralph Lauren but these jumpers are too baggy. I like jumpers that are tight fitting. No, I wouldn't want that for Christmas."

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