A character who wants to look dangerous has several choices in outerwear — long swishy coats if you want to look dashing and mysterious, leather jackets appeal to the James Dean wannabe in all of us, stylish dark suits look aloof and professional — but not sweaters.
Whether because of their fuzzy texture or sweaters' association with gifts from one's grandmother, sweaters do not look intimidating. In fiction, a character who wears sweaters frequently is often some variety of nerd, otherwise cute, or at least approachable and non-threatening. Sweater vests, in particular, are normally a sign of extreme nerdiness, and the look is often paired with Opaque Nerd Glasses for the same reason.
Keep in mind, however, that while Dorks In Sweaters don't look dangerous, that does not mean they are necessarily harmless. The various Hidden Badass tropes may apply. A character may look like this when he's (or she's) obligated to wear the Homemade Sweater from Hell. This trope can overlap with Sweater Girl if the lady in question is more of a Hot Librarian than a conventional bombshell. Also The Smart Guy of a group usually could dress this.
- Sarada from Naruto is of the "nerdy" variant. She's a studious and booksmart girl. Her casual clothes during her days at the Ninja Academy were a tie and sweater-vest (combined with her glasses). This attire however hasn't been shown outside the Distant Epilogue of the manga (which takes place a few years before Naruto Gaiden). The Boruto anime retconned her clothes to be something more similar to her ninja attire.
- In Ouran High School Host Club, Haruhi wears an ugly sweater and Nerd Glasses upon her first introduction, strongly contrasting the refined and expensive interiors of the Ouran school.
- Garfield: Jon Arbuckle, Garfield's owner, sometimes becomes a fashion victim, and a few of those occasions have involved sweaters.
- My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Forgotten Friendship: Wallflower Blush, whose main traits are being unremarkable and socially invisible. The drab, brown striped sweater certainly doesn't help, especially in comparison to the colorful clothes worn by many CHS students.
- Charles Xavier in X-Men: First Class is definitely a dork of the Hidden Badass variety. The Fandom loves to affectionately mock his "old man cardigans", but this endearingly geeky man can melt people's brain.
- The Santa Clause: Neil wears goofy sweaters, one of which Bernard thinks was made at the North Pole.
- In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, Neville wears a pretty goofy jumper, probably as a way to remind the viewer of the dork that he used to be because in this film, he acts like a badass more often than not.
- The Hitman with a Heart protagonist of Russian cult neo noir Brother wears a cable knit sweater that makes him look less threatening and more relatable. Out in the real world, the film single-handedly made this article of clothing seem manly and badass.
- Harry Potter:
- Ron is afraid that the sweaters his mum knits him for Christmas will make him look like one of these but Harry, Fred and George can pull them off because they have a sense of humour about it.
- Dolores Umbridge, who wears a pink cardigan as part of her sickeningly cutesy persona, manages to be both far less harmless than she initially appears, and actively evil.
- In Bridget Jones the Love Interest is introduced wearing a cheesy Christmas jumper with a reindeer's head on it.
- In the non-fiction book Stitch and Bitch, Debbie Stoller invokes this in her explanation for the superstition that knitting your boyfriend or girlfriend a sweater dooms the relationship: if you put all that work into a sweater but your special someone never wears it because it looks wrong, you could end up resenting each other.
- Both Sticky and Reynie from The Mysterious Benedict Society are depicted wearing sweaters in official artwork. They're both Adorably Precocious Children and Child Prodigies who have Friendless Backgrounds.
- Annie Edison from Community is a cute and nerdy overachiever. She often wears dresses with cardigans.
- From Doctor Who, the Seventh Doctor◊ starts his tenure off as a pratfalling goof who rocks an astonishingly tacky question-mark sweater vest. Later adventures in the Expanded Universe have him as much more of a Chessmaster and upgrade his outfit to a Waistcoat of Style instead.
- Cute and nerdy Artie in Glee. He wears sweater vests even.
- Sherlock: John Watson isn't exactly a nerd, but he has a few dorky qualities and under ordinary circumstances, he's rather less intimidating than his six-foot-tall Eerie Pale-Skinned Brunette best friend. Under extraordinary circumstances, however, he's a BAMF.
- In Men Behaving Badly, the characters discuss how wearing a cardigan makes one seem tame and old.
- The guys in The Big Bang Theory, which are all of them dorks. Raj and Howard occasionally wear sweater vests more than the others.
- An episode of Never Mind the Buzzcocks had everyone mocking Simon Amstell for wearing a cardigan, even though it was an expensive, bright pink one.
- Chandler Bing is a geeky guy who usually wears a sweater.
- Ross is a dinosaur nerd — he's a paleonthologist who works in a museum and later becomes a professor at university. He often wears turtleneck sweaters.
- James May of Top Gear, considered The Smart Guy of the three presenters, is also the only one of them seen on the show in brightly-colored sweaters and cardigans.
- Jerry Gergitz is the Butt-Monkey of the parks department on Parks and Recreation. He also frequently wears a sweater vest.
- That '70s Show: Eric Forman is usually seen as a dork, especially since he wears sweaters in like the half of the series. Another example is his friend Steven Hyde, who usually mocks Eric for his look, in which had dressed one with his name made by Kitty Forman in his 18th birthday, obligated by Red Forman (as well assisting to his own birthday).
- Poked fun at in a MADtv sketch making fun at Freedom Writers and the Save Our Students trope. The "Nice White Lady" wears a non-threatening sweater and floral blouse, which gets mentioned by a student during a rant.
Look at you in that sweater-vest you're wearing and that adorable patterned blouse! What you think is gonna happen here? You think you gonna inspire me? You think you're gonna break through my "tough girl" act and teach me the beauty that's inside? You think you gonna make me do and feel things that I've never had before? All because you're a non-threatening, kindhearted, beautiful white lady?
- Dr. Spencer Reid of Criminal Minds often wears sweaters or sweater vests; he is nerdy and sometimes awkward (mainly because he just blurts out everything he knows) but definitely a Badass Bookworm.
- Punch-Out!! Wii has a few cutscenes where Warm-Up Boss Glass Joe, a lanky Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey who is definitely not cut out for boxing, is depicted in a black turtleneck.
- In Story of Seasons: Friends of Mineral Town, Jeff wears a purple cardigan to accentuate his awkward Nervous Wreck personality.
- Monster Prom has all dorky characters wearing sweaters:
- While Kankri from Homestuck tries to paint himself as a social activist and intellectual, his adorable red sweater undermines this image, especially when he throws a tantrum whenever anyone offers to clean it for him.
- In Dumbing of Age, most of Joyce's outfits involve sweater vests. This fashion-backward look fits her status as the sheltered fundie.
- Rebusquest: Carson. It's not so much because Carson is a nerd, but rather because the comics are a throwback to The '70s when turtlenecks sweaters were very fashionable.
- Lackadaisy: Viktor is given a sweater (along with other Christmas gifts) that turns him into a walking Christmas tree.
- The Simpsons: Ned Flanders, the Simpson family's overly-cheery neighbor, always wears a bright green sweater with a pink collar.
- The Venture Bros.: Dean Venture, being an expy of a young Peter Parker, typically wears a sweater vest. He can be a formidable character even though he's easily terrified.
- Darkwing Duck: In his civilian identity, the 'terror that flaps in the night' wears a pink and green dorky sweater. Which makes for amusing dissonance when he acts like his superhero identity around his family and friends. Also, he (and all his evil counterparts) all wear a turtleneck sweater underneath their suit jacket costume.
- In The Fairly OddParents, Timmy's genius friend, A.J., wears a sweater vest. In Season 4 "Who's Your Daddy", Timmy and Cosmo call the sweater vest a "girl magnet" and when Jorgen poofs himself a sweater vest it attracts the attention of the Tooth Fairy.
Jorgen: You would think that without the sleeves it would be less of a sweater, but it actually more!
- Scooby-Doo: Velma Dinkley's most iconic outfit consists of a pleated red skirt, orange knee-socks, red Mary Jane-shoes, and a bulky orange sweater (and Nerd Glasses). She's also the most intelligent member of the gang (being the one who typically figures out almost all of their mysteries) and is arguably the most fearless member of the gang.
- The Critic: Jay Sherman, the aforementioned Critic, usually wears an argyle sweater vest.
- Doug: The title character wears a green sweater-vest as part of his main outfit.
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987): Irma, April's best friend and dorky character, usually wears a light blue sweater with a turtleneck.
- Alvin and the Chipmunks:
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: "Amending Fences" introduces Moondancer, who took to wearing a black turtleneck sweater around the same time she got depressed and became a complete recluse.
- Phantom Investigators: Casey, The Smart Guy of the team, always wears a blue turtleneck sweater with a red stripe on it.
- Milo Murphy's Law: Milo himself. He wears a sweater vest and the theme song makes it clear that he thinks it's cool.
- The Loud House: Lisa, the nerdiest Loud sister, wears a green turtleneck.