And its inhabitants know a thing or two about knitting a festive sweater.
Nowadays the term “Fair Isle” denotes anything in the familiar multicolor intarsia knit—not just sweaters from the tiny island of 100 or so. And since ’tis the season, we’ve rounded up the finest examples of the look from the knit cap all the way down to your socks—in the event that you’d like to wear Fair Isle from head to toe. (Not that we’re saying you should. Or shouldn’t.)
That’s My Bag: Ghurka is photographing the contents of the bags of dapper gentlemen—and finds some surprises from a buttoned-up black-tie type: boxing gloves, poker chips and shotgun shells. [Driven] Get Socked: The case for relegating your holiday-patterned goodness to your feet, in the form of Fair Isle socks. [Valet] Barneys Rubble: An in-depth profile of shopping institution Barneys New York and the man who decided to buy it. [NY Times] Croc to the Future: As the 80th anniversary of their iconic crocodile approaches, Lacoste celebrates with this whimsical video. [Esquire]
In case you came away from the holidays with a few nagging desires, Superdenim is having a late December blowout with more than a few objects of desire. And as always, anyone ordering from outside the UK will be paying the tax-free price.
Fair Isle knits are thick on the ground these days. (Off the bat, we count items from Pantherella, Raf Simons and Epaulet, and a whole season’s worth of goods from Howlin’ by Morrison.) But there’s surprisingly little love for the tiny Scottish island where the pattern comes from.
It makes sense. With six square miles and under 100 permanent residents, they were never going to churn out enough volume to fill a Rugby store. But with the help of a few hand-carved spinning wheels and a genuinely frightening quantity of sheep, some residents have managed to bring back the traditional ways of knitting the sweaters. That means sheep’s wool that’s never left the island, dyed and knit on site in the pattern that made the isle famous.
As countless spam emails have no doubt informed you, it’s Cyber Monday—the day e-commerce shops offer their deepest discounts of the year. (It’s also Randy Newman’s birthday, so you may want to get him something.) And since you don’t have time to scour every last one, we’ve pulled together the best of the lot, from Fair Isle scarves to Donegal tweed pants. Have a look after the jump.
So naturally, we’ve been pulling late hours getting our sweater game together. And after weeks of careful scientific study, we’ve narrowed the whole knit spectrum down to three key items. Between the three of them, they should cover you for just about any situation you encounter for the next five months—including any fishing voyages you may have planned.
And to save you the late hours, we’ve tipped you off to our favorite pieces in each category. Gentlemen, take it to heart.
For a globe-spanning, multi-billion-dollar luxury brand, Ralph Lauren’s pretty good at keeping a secret.
We’re thinking of their heritage-themed RRL brand, which has been their most coveted and rarely seen collection for almost 15 years now. Unless you were lucky enough to stop through Nolita, Georgetown or Malibu on a regular basis, it was rare to see a whole collection in one place.
At the moment they’re in a Scottish phase, so you’ll find Donegal tweeds and Fair Isle cardigans—but there’ll be plenty more as the seasons roll on. And if nothing else, you’ll find a whole lot of handsome ferrotypes.
Oh, those blazers. This is the best of the lot—or the one least likely to cause temporary blindness—but there’s plenty more where that came from. They tend to follow the Freeman’s style shirt-jacket model, but replacing the tweedy wools with some of the loudest patterns known to menswear.
Of course, those patterns are a lot easier to pull off when you’re dealing with something you can leave on a coatrack once you get inside. If you were looking for this year’s Navajo, this is looking like the leading candidate.
It’s hard to look good in the middle of a snowstorm, but these gents—pulled from the set of Gant Rugger’s Winter lookbook—pull it off pretty well. The lesson? Layer for all you’re worth and don’t fear the mitten. And everything's warmer in a Fair Isle pattern.
One of the highlights of that Free & Easy editorial that popped up yesterday was the handsome fair isle tie popping up on the third gentleman. It’s a clever way to channel the classic holiday sweater without being completely swallowed up by patterned knitting.
It’s also a surprisingly scarce item, compared with the omnipresent sweater, so we’re always happy to see a new one cross our RSS.
One advantage of the newly global market: It’s remarkably easy to trace heritage looks back to the source. That means Tokyo hipsters can order their Red Wings direct from the source but also—more relevantly—there’s no point relying on stateside Fair Isle recreations. Scotland’s just a few clicks away.
For instance, the norsemen at Oi Polloi dug up this appropriately patterned scarf from Jamieson's to remind us of just that. Technically it’s from Scotland’s Shetland Islands, just north of Fair Isle itself, and all the wool is grown, harvested, processed and knit onsite, making it very much the real deal. Even accounting for exchange rates and shipping, it won’t set you back much more than the stateside mass market version.
Unless your wardrobe’s already pretty twee, your best bet might be using it as a gift for a female acquaintance, but it’s a lot more versatile than it looks. And if it’s warm enough to withstand the Scottish winter, we doubt the Northeast will be much of a challenge.