Also called fisherman’s sweater or Irish sweater, the Aran Irish sweater is a classy and stylish sweater worn all over the world. It’s popular with all, females and males, the young and the old, the celebrities and ordinary folks alike. It combines the traditional Irish stitch and up-to-the-minute design giving it a unique finish, a stunning look like no other.
The fame of the Aran sweaters has grown far much beyond the island they are named after. The sweaters take their name from the region of their origin. The Aran Islands are located on the west coast of Ireland.
The exact time the earliest sweater was designed is not precisely known but it was meant for the fishermen. The Irish women would knit the sweater out of thick sheep wool to keep their husbands warm during their fishing trips.
The sweaters were popular with the fishermen as they had some water resisting capacity. Lanolin, a sticky waxy substance secreted by sheep and contained in the wool, ensured the fishermen were not only warm but dry.
The unmistakable complex stitch patterns is the hallmark of Aran sweaters. To a normal eye, the patterns are nothing but beautifiers. With an informed eye, you can unravel the meaning behind the symbolic patterns. Generally, the stitches talk of luck, strength, health, family, success, hope and wealth.
Specifically, the honeycomb symbolizes the virtue of hard work. The cable a symbol of good luck, the basket success/ plenty catch and the diamond points to wealth. If you take it at face value, you will miss all these significant hidden meanings treasured in the patterns of the Aran sweaters.
Little was known about these sweaters until mid-last century. In 1940’s, knit patterns were for the first time published. By 1950’s some of the articles found their way to the Vogue, an American fashion and lifestyle magazine. This granted the sweaters a world-wide publicity.
The result was obvious, an explosion of demand for the markets outside Ireland. The Aran sweaters were readily embraced by celebrities further fanning its popularity. By 1960’s the definition of cool was one adorned in an Aran sweater. The timeless sweaters continue to rock to date.
The original sweaters were made from pure untreated, unwashed and undyed 100% sheep wool, and were predominantly cream in color. The sweaters were thick and very warm though they had some scratchy uncomfortable feel. It’s very hard to find such original sweaters today.
Today’s fabric used to make the Aran sweaters has been altered a bit. The wool is blended with silk, cotton or linen. Though this achieves some degree of softness, it make the fabric weaker and less durable. The fabric is also dyed to give a large variety of colors. Lanolin is removed hence the modern sweaters lacks the water resisting feature.
Basically, Aran sweaters are made in three ways. The best quality, most unique designs and equally the most expensive Aran sweaters are hand-made. The hand loomed sweaters combine both human input and machine input to give great designs but do not match the quality of hand-made sweaters. The machine made sweaters cheap and are of a lower quality than the sweaters made using the first two methods.
The Aran sweaters come in many designs. Some are gender neutral while other designs are gender specific. The sweaters come in various styles and designs hence they can be worn all year round not during winter only.