Wednesday, 5 October 2016
The Essential Shetland Sweater
For the Brave Sweater Wearer
If I'm not wearing a tie, then I almost always fill the forlorn gap between shirt and jacket with a crew neck sweater; this would be a sea island cotton sweater in bright Klenkian colours in summer and then with thicker gradations of woollen sweater as the days get colder.
We're entering Shetland sweater weather at the moment. You see a vintage Shetland sweater above, which is made in the Shetland islands from the wool of Shetland sheep by Laurence Odie of Shetland — which means it's about as Shetland a sweater as you will find.
Native Shetland wool has had a protected designation of origin since 2011, and provides uniquely strong and warm characteristics. A classic Shetland crew neck made from this wool will use a medium thickness of yarn and have a gauge of knit that is not tight, but not overly loose either, and a slightly uneven and coarse look and feel. Yes, the wool can be a bit scratchy, but with a warmth and beauty that compensates the brave wearer; and if you wear a smooth-as-silk shirt and underclothes underneath there's no harm done. In fact, that smooth/rough contrast heightens the natural beauty of the wool. You can perch a tie on the neck of the sweater, which looks pretty spiffy in an old-school way, if you can't abide the thought of going tie-free.
A sweater in baby cashmere has its obvious attractions, but for my money a good Shetland sweater is hard to beat, and much easier to throw on and forget about. I read somewhere that the Shetland sweater wouldn't interest the 'metrosexual' male. Make of that what you will, though I thought that term was dead and buried.
You will need several Shetland crew neck sweaters in your timeless wardrobe in various colours. (Shetland wool takes dye well.) Don't be concerned about your growing stock, enjoying and collecting clothes is a perfectly respectable hobby, like model making and train spotting. (The sweater would keep you warm if you're train spotting.) You can take these sweaters out to show friends when they visit, pointing out details and labels and giving a little bit of history. This is how we proselytise and get people to turn their backs on the fast fashion warehouses of the high street. As any economist will tell you, the quality of the materials and the potential years of usage (timelessness) these sweaters represent offers maximum utility when considering a purchase decision. You could wear them from ages ten to one hundred and ten and they'd still be looking appropriate.
Paul Weller's Shetland Sweater Selection
Sound, ye trumpets. Paul Weller's boutique Real Stars are Rare (see post on their Fox Brothers collaboration here) currently has a selection of Shetland Sweaters in classic colours for us mere epigones.
The sweaters are knitted from Shetland wool in Scotland. You should go with the Heather and the Burnt Orange you see here to start with, and — risking accusations of metrosexuality — both colours will go with a surprising number of base colours, your navy, your grey, your brown and so on.