One day off the coast of Ireland, aboard a salt- and sea-battered vessel, a fishing crew looked around, staring deep into each others’ cold, wet eyes and collectively decided, “We need a better sweater.”
Or at least that’s how we romantics at InsideHook like to think the fisherman sweater was born. In reality Aran Jumpers, as they’re also called, originated in the Aran Islands off the coast of Ireland. They were originally crafted in the early 20th century by fishermen and their wives coming over from other parts of the British Isles to teach better fishing techniques. The women had traditionally knit what was known as a Guernsey Jumper. These jumpers had knitted patterns only on the yoke and were made from much finer wool.
Having to adapt to the harsher island conditions on Aran, the wives knitted the sweaters using thicker, unscoured wool — meaning that the sweaters, while not as soft, were actually water-resistant thanks to the lanolin (natural oils) left in the wool due to the lack of scouring. And wouldn’t you know it, water-resistant clothing is actually great for fishermen. Nowadays, that’s not as often the case with regards to the lanonlin, but they still retain the definitive multiple texture patterns running symmetrically down.
We’re big fans of the fisherman sweater mostly for its ability to make the wearer look both classy and rugged all at the same time. But also because they are damn cozy. So to help you prep for winter like a longshoreman, here are 11 of our favorite fisherman sweaters. A few may stray from the traditional definition, but we think that’s a good thing.
Finisterre Westray Crew
The company started outfitting cold-water surfers in the British isles, so this sweater will definitely keep you warm. It uses 100% British wool that has gone through minimal processing, so it does actually have the traditional lanolin component.
Grayers Albert Roll Neck
Made from 100% cotton, this one is quite a bit softer than traditional versions, but it still maintains the multi-pattern structure of a fisherman’s sweater.
Alex Mill Ribbed Wool and Alpaca Blend
Yes, this sweater is 17% alpaca, something we’re sure the folks from the Irish isles didn’t have but probably wished they did. Plus the pleasant burgundy color is unique and goes with just about anything.
Buck Mason Five Gauge Fisherman Rib Sweater
Modeled after a handmade sweater brought in by an employee, this one is made from 100% merino wool, and as Buck Mason claims, it’s their most popular sweater to date.
Inis Meain Boatbuilder Turtleneck
While out in the elements, it’s important to keep the neck warm; short of a scarf, a turtleneck sweater like this 100% merino wool version is your best option. Inis Meain also makes a killer Aran Cable Crew Neck fisherman’s sweater.
Todd Snyder Hand Knit Cable Crewneck
This one is halfway between a fisherman’s and a Coogi, but we’re into it nonetheless. Add a little flair to your sartorial game with this slightly kooky pattern.
American Trench Fisherman Sweater
Available for pre-order right now (but shipping in a week or so!) this sweater is 70% merino wool and 30% cashmere, using yarn from Italy. Flecked in all the right places, it comes in grey, olive and navy.
Taylor Stitch Fisherman Sweater
This is a slight derivation from the more traditional, as it features what is more similar to an all over box knit design. Either way we like it.
L.L. Bean Color Block Fisherman Sweater
Not just purveyors of fine duck boots, L.L. Bean’s Color Block Fisherman Sweater features contrasting collar and cuffs and will fit in nicely this winter among the various holiday sweaters you’re sure to be showing off.
Ralph Lauren Purple Label Wool and Cashmere Mock-Neck
If you really wanna drop some coin, this 52% wool and 48% cashmere piece toes the line between comfort and toughness, and it features an interesting pattern that runs partially vertical and partially horizontal.
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Main image via Huckberry.