Some things just naturally go together and “sweaters and fall” is definitely one of those things. Or two of those things. Regardless, when cool weather starts rolling in, menswear get a chance to show off some of the things that make classic style so classic.
Layering is one of the treats for those who love cold weather and a chunky Irish sweater always fits the bill. Thick wool, handcrafted, traditional or modern in style, they are for many of us, the hallmarks of the season. And, one of the best places to find an Irish sweater that’s right for you is actually a website.
Aran Sweater Market is a real place – founded in 1892 as a cooperative of traditional knitters on the cluster of Islands off the west coast of Ireland at the mouth of Galway Bay. Known as the islands of saints and scholars, the Aran Islands are breathtaking in landscape and rich in Irish history and culture. They are also the birthplace to iconic, traditional cabled “fisherman’s sweater.” These sweaters were often designed with distinct patterns unique to an individual clan. The patterns were jealously guarded as familial markers and sometimes used to identify the bodies of fishermen lost at sea. In fact, if you have the opportunity to visit the Aran Sweater Market on the Aran Islands, you can see an official register of these historic patterns.
The sweaters themselves possess many attributes which made them suitable for cold and inclement weather – typical for lives of fishermen and island farmers in the North Atlantic. An Aran sweater is both naturally breathable and water repellent, and can even absorb 30 percent of its weight in water before feeling wet. You can learn more about these remarkable garments by visiting the Aran Sweater Shop’s website.
We have been testing out the Hand Knit Honeycomb Stitch sweater (pictured at the top) and the Fisherman’s Ribbed Wool Turtleneck (below). Where the honeycomb stitch sweater embodies the classic fisherman’s jumper, the turtleneck projects a slightly more urbane and modern look. Both are expertly crafted and come with certificates of authenticity that proclaim their Aran Islands provenance. In addition to these two models, you can choose from a range of style, weights, and colors, from highly traditional to surprisingly contemporary.
So substantial are some of these sweaters that they can often be worn as an outer layer themselves. Or, to complete that landed gentry look, just throw on a waxed canvas field jacket when it starts to get a little too chilly. These types of sweaters look good with almost any East Coast inspired outfit; from khakis to jeans, boat shoes to penny loafers. If there happens to be a large, happy dog nest to you, all the better.
As you might expect, hand knits are more expensive that machine made sweater, but both versions are well beyond the quality you would find in a typical store. Aran Sweater Market also sells women’s sweaters, woolen socks, woven and knitted scarves, and myriad woolens for the home.
Want to know what actual everyday New England preppy families had stashed in the off-season dresser? It was all this stuff – and every year we waited for months to pull it all back out.