In honor of one of our latest arrivals, we’re diving into the storied history of the Aran sweater. Often considered Ireland’s most famous fashion export, the Aran sweater is the epitome of cozy, classic winter fashion and has endured for decades. Timeless, stylish, and perfect for the coldest winter days, here’s a brief history of this iconic fashion staple:
The Aran sweater first originated from The Aran Islands off of the Western coast of Ireland, a group of stunningly beautiful islands that also happens to be home to some of the world’s harshest weather conditions. The sweater was first created to protect both farmers and fishermen from the islands’ natural elements, with the different patterns representative of the regions they were created from. The fisherman and farmers who first wore the sweater were marked by their area of region, parish, or village based on their sweaters’ patterns.
A Rise in Popularity
While the first sweaters were knit by women to protect their families from the aforementioned weather conditions over a hundred years ago, the Aran exploded in popularity in the 1950s and 1960s when The Clancy Brothers wore the sweaters on a The Ed Sullivan Show. This created an entirely new and lucrative industry for the Irish, whose government sent manufacturers to the Aran Islands to educate the knitters on international clothing sizes. With the export of the famed knit, the Aran reached global levels of popularity and was a favored pattern of such stars as Grace Kelly (who famously appeared in an Aran sweater on the cover of Vogue in 1950), Elvis Presley, Steve McQueen (the original King of Cool), and Marilyn Monroe.
What’s In A Stitch
In addition to each pattern representing a region of the Aran Islands, legend has it that the different stitches reflect the beliefs and spirituality of the Aran islanders. The Honeycomb Stitch, for example, reflects the value of hard work, while the Cable Stitch is said to be a tribute of safety and luck for the fisherman. The Diamond is a blessing for success and wealth, while the Basket Stitch was made as a symbol of hope for a fisherman’s plentiful catch in his fishing basket.
Aran sweaters have always been prized for their superior quality and protection against the cold and the wind and though various wools have historically been used to craft Aran sweaters, merino wool has become the most popular choice for its natural benefits. One of the most insulating natural fabrics on the planet, it keeps you ultra-warm on the coldest days, but is also moisture-wicking and breathable when the temperatures rise. Additionally, it’s the softest and most luxurious wool available, meaning your Aran sweater feels as cozy as it looks.