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Head to Toe: Fair Isle

  • Najib Benouar


Fair Isle. It’s an actual place in Scotland.

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.)

Herewith, your head-to-toe guide to wearing Fair Isle.»

The Five Warmest Socks on Earth

  • Najib Benouar

Let’s not mince words here: it’s cold out. And it’s coldest on the ground—which means you should be paying careful attention to keeping your feet as warm as bipedally possible.

So we went ahead and rounded up the warmest socks on the market—many of which won’t look out of place on your regular rotation of pastels and patterns.

Without further ado: some really incredibly warm socks for your winter strolling pleasure.»

Chanel Iman Has Never Seen a Hobbit

  • Kempt Staff

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]

Superdenim's New Year's Haul


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.

Our favorite finds so far: a classic Shetland jumper, an LVC sweatshirt, Margaret Howell pants, a Nigel Cabourn fair isle sweater and a French sailing shirt.

If you're good with on-the-spot sizing, you might even find a few belated gifts in there.

The Last Authentic Fair Isle Sweaters on Earth

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.

Naturally, we’re a little excited…»

Barbara Bates Has Just Seen a Man in a Double-Breasted Suit

Barbara BatesVia WBE

All’s Fair: A gentleman’s guide to Fair Isle sweaters, including some great gloves, ties, hats and socks in the pattern. [Valet]

Five on Five: The social etiquette of the high five. Don’t risk another one until you’ve watched this riveting film. [MIEN Magazine]

A New Drink: Thom Browne is getting into the scotch business. Nicely done. [Driven]

Give ‘em the Boot: Six plain-toe boot options from Brad of Well Spent. Our money’s still on the Red Wings. [Details]

The Best of Cyber Monday

Levi's Sweater

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.

See the best deals Cyber Monday has to offer»

The Three Sweaters You Need for This Winter

As the show says, winter is coming.

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.

The three essential sweaters...»

RRL Moves Online

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.

But now, the label’s finally made its way to e-commerce.

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.

Fair Play to You

We’ve been wading through Paris Fashion Week pics all day, but the most enticing gear so far has come from Junya Watanabe’s Fair Isle-soaked runway show. In particular, the blazers.

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.

The Fair Isle Tie


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.

The best option is still this J.Crew version, but if you’re willing to shell out a bit more in pursuit of neckwear perfection, this jacquard model from White Mountaineering just arrived at L.A.’s Union with a point-end and a more versatile pattern.

And if you balk at the sticker price…we’re guessing it’ll be on sale by January.

The Real McCoy


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.