Words by Síomha Connolly
September 19th, 2016
Commonly viewed as a representation of Irish heritage, the Aran jumper takes its name from the set of islands off the West coast of Ireland where it originated as far back as 1892. During this time, and still to this day, many of the men on the Aran Islands were fishermen and traditionally the wives of these fishermen would knit the jumpers for their husbands to wear out at sea. These jumpers were knitted using 100% wool meaning they were largely water resistant and would work to regulate the body’s temperature, keeping you warm when the weather is cold and cool when the weather is hot and so were practical for the long days spent out at sea. Each family would have their own trademark combination of stitches and these patterns were passed down through family’s generation after generation.
Fast forward a few hundred years and many Irish fashion designers have begun taking inspiration from this traditional item of clothing; Simone Rocha, J.W. Anderson and Honor Fitzimons have all featured some variation of the Aran jumper in their collections. While &Daughter, a London based company run by Buffy Reid and her father, Columba, have started a knitwear line solely focused on the creation of high quality knitwear made using traditional techniques but with updated silhouettes for modern buyers looking for a contemporary take on this age-old clothing style. &Daughter’s Aran jumpers are made in Donegal on the West coast of Ireland, and their cashmere jumpers are made in Hawick, a town on the borders of Scotland and the home of Scottish cashmere.
As a result, the Aran jumper has now gained worldwide popularity and many large design houses are taking inspiration from the style, giving this simple local craft worldwide recognition.
While Aran jumpers have been around for a long time in Ireland, they gained larger popularity around the 1950s when an image of a model wearing an Aran jumper was featured in Vogue. Shortly after this, the jumpers were spotted on a number of celebrities including Bridget Bardot, Grace Kelly and Steve McQueen.
It seems that the appeal of the Aran knit is still strong today as many designers have incorporated the style into their collections this season. They came in the form of chunky knit cardigans at Acne Studios, complete with updated striped details at Isabel Marant and in asymmetric shapes at Stella McCartney. Many fashion folk have been spotted on the streets wearing them in a range of colours this year, no longer sticking to the cream colour traditionally associated with Aran jumpers.
If you’re wondering how to wear your Aran jumper for a look that’s current, fear not as there are a whole host of different ways this classic knit can be worn. While an Aran knit will work well worn with almost anything, there are certain updated outfit tricks that will bring your traditional jumper straight into the now. For an effortless weekend outfit team an Aran jumper with a pair of wide-leg trousers and loafers. To tie in this season’s sporty sensibility wear an Aran jumper with a pair of pair of joggers. Keep your ’90s slip dress alive and well for winter by layering under an Aran jumper with a pair of biker boots. And when winter really kicks in wear a check overcoat or a houndstooth, herringbone or tweed blazer with an Aran knit underneath to emulate this season’s heritage trend as seen at Burberry and Miu Miu.
A lasting design of both beautiful craftsmanship and texture, the cosy, cream, cable-knitted jumper deserves a place in every winter wardrobe.
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