When I was a college student, a girlfriend of mine, who would later become my fiance, and then not (just think of all the handmade clothing I could be wearing…other than my Oxxford suits of course), knitted me a sweater. Not before or since then has someone made me a sweater. It was a substantial piece of clothing, made from heavy wool yarns with a zipper in the front (which made it a Cardigan.) Designed for genuinely cold weather – a sweater you might wear instead of a winter coat – it got limited use. My mother has the sweater now, which is appropriate since she and my former have remained lifelong friends.
The first “sweaters” were heavy, dark blue pullovers worn before and after athletic contests in the 1890’s in the USA. Knitwear for the upper body had been around long before that, but not by that name. Some form of a sweater- type garment can be traced back at least as far as the 15th Century around the English Channel islands of Guernsey and Jersey. More recently, in the 19th century, the wives of Irish fisherman and sailors began to knit some of the early pullover, cable knit sweaters, aka Fisherman’s sweaters. The heavy wool yarns they were knit from helped keep the fisherman warm, even when wet, thanks to the dual nature of wool fibers: a hydrophobic exterior (water repellant) and a hygroscopic interior (able to absorb about one third of its own weight in water.) Later sweater innovations – the Cardigan and the Raglan – are credited to the functional desires of British admiralty.
My favorite sweater this winter has been a dark gray, button-up cardigan, with a mock neck and patch pockets. The sweater is wool, but it has a soft cotton lining so it’s comfortable over either long or short sleeved shirts. It’s my version of a Mr. Rogers sweater, my near constant companion when at home this winter. The fact that a cardigan doesn’t have to be put on and taken off over-my-head is a plus. Not to mention that Sinatra and Hogan both enjoyed the casual elegance of a cardigan from time to time when an extra layer was required.
I also enjoy the look and functional ease of a simple zip-mock sweater. A medium gray cashmere version has been my most versatile layer for several years running. I take it everywhere I go this time of year. Relatively fine and lightweight, it is easy to pack and provides just enough warmth when the weather is crisp, but not bitterly cold. The ability to wear it zipped down or up adds to its appeal and comfort.
The V-neck sweaters in my closet also get a lot of play. I have a purple high-V-neck that works well with several of my Fall/Winter sport jackets. V-neck sweaters are designed to be worn with a collared shirt, whether that be the turn down collar of a cut-and-sewn dress or sport shirt, or the softer knit collar of a polo shirt. The high-V can be worn with a tie, but they work especially well as a layering piece over a dress or sport shirt and under your favorite sport coats.
Crew neck and Turtleneck (aka Roll neck) are the two other most common pullover styles. Turtleneck wearing is on the upswing, whether in beefier knits like the ones Hemingway favored, or the finer versions that the Beatnicks, Beatles, and James Coburn as Derek Flint popularized.
A final style to mention is the polo collar sweater. You would hard pressed to find a more comfortable piece of clothing for the upper body than either a long or short sleeved sweater, knit from either our 85/15 cashmere/silk blend or our 100% Pima cotton. The polo collar lends itself well as a stand alone piece to be worn as a shirt. Truth be told, a sweater or, more accurately, a knit shirt, made in any of our available styles with either the cashmere/silk blend or the Pima cotton are light and cool enough to wear all Spring and even Summer in most climates. The breatheability and performance of both fabrics are sensational.
The measurements for your custom shirts are the basis for your custom sweater, so the process is very easy. In addition, your preferred front and back body length are measured so that you get precisely the length you need and prefer for your torso.
Not unlike custom clothing and shirts, fit is not the only advantage to having a sweater custom made. You also get to pick from four different fabrics: 100% cashmere, merino wool, cashmere/silk blend, or Pima cotton. The cashmere knit is 12 gauge, and all of the others are 16 gauge – the perfect weight and structure for layering. Ten great colors are offered in each fabric. Even better, you can choose from among seven style options for men and six style options for women. As this part of our business continues to grow, more options will be made available.
For now though, what better way to add a few simple, elegant, and versatile layering pieces than to have them made to your preferences. Sure, they cost more than off-the-shelf, but they are the kind of garments that will become like a best friend. Hard to put a price on that.