Hi Everyone. I hope I find you all well. I’m writing from a decidedly wintry Ireland even though it’s April! An Aran sweater is definitely in order! The iconic status of the Aran sweater is undeniable so it’s not surprising that Aran sweaters continue to remain our top sellers by far here at The Irish Store. Here’s some interesting facts about one of Ireland’s most famous exports.
1. The Aran Islands
So this is where it all began! The iconic Aran sweater takes its name from the trio of islands at Ireland’s most westerly point just off the coast of County Galway. Inishmore is the biggest of the islands followed by Inishmann and the smallest island, Inisheer. The islander women knitted the first Aran sweaters as a protective layer for the islander fishermen and farmers. The combinations of stitches that we admire on sweaters today were no accident. Family patterns were closely guarded and passed down through generations. It is even claimed that the bodies of Aran Islander fishermen who had died at sea could be identified by the pattern on their Aran sweater.
2. The Original Fisherman’s Sweater
So as I mentioned above, the first Aran sweaters were made for fishermen but did you know that they were actually waterproof! The original yarn was unscoured. Unscoured wool retains its natural lanolin making it water resistant. Perfect for braving the harsh conditions of the unforgiving Atlantic Ocean and a far cry from the soft merino and pure wool yarns that are used today.
3. There’s an Aran sweater in the Book of Kells!
Ok so this is definitely a myth but it wouldn’t be Irish without the odd tall tale! It is claimed that Aran stitch patterns can be seen in one of Ireland’s most precious treasures, The Book of Kells. Highly unlikely as the first Aran sweaters came into being in the early 1900s and The Book of Kells dates back to the 800 AD! A more believable explanation is that Aran knitters were inspired by the artwork on the megalithic monuments that surrounded them.
4. The Amazing Craftswomanship
The amazing skill involved in creating an Aran sweater cannot be underestimated. The intricacy of the designs and the mastery that these Aran knitters commanded of their craft still amazes experts to this day. An sweater is a true work of art containing approximately 100,000 painstakingly constructed stitches.
5. Every Stitch Tells a Tale
There is more meaning hidden in the Aran sweater than you might think! Each stitch pattern has its own symbolism and significance. Below are the meanings associated with some of the most popular Aran stitches.
Honeycomb: The symbol of the hard-working bee. Industry and efficiency were important values for the Islanders.
Cable: A tribute to the fisherman’s ropes. A prayer for safety and good luck while fishing.
Diamond: Wishes the wearer health and success
Basket: A symbol of the fisherman’s basket representing the hope of a plentiful catch.
6. A Fashion Icon
Throughout the 1930s and 40s, the Aran sweater gained popularity around the world and when Grace Kelly appeared in an Aran sweater on the cover of vogue in the 1950s, this humble Irish sweater was catapulted to iconic status, cementing its reputation as an Irish design classic.
7. Famous Fans
The fame of the Aran sweater spread further with New York Village’s folk scene during the 1950s and 1960s. The Irish folk music group The Clancy Brothers, friends of Bob Dylan, wore their Aran sweaters for their appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in the early 1960s, introducing it to millions of American homes. Famous fans included Marilyn Monroe, Elvis and the ultra-cool Steve Mc Queen.
8. A Place in Fashion History
In 2017 the Aran sweater earned itself its rightful place in the “Is Fashion Modern” exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Chosen as one of 111 items of clothing and accessories that have influenced fashion over the last 100 years, the Aran sweater sat side by side with such fashion icons as the little black dress, the biker jacket, the Wonderbra and Levi jeans to name but a few.
9. So Where Can you find the Perfect Aran Sweater?
Well that’s easy-The Irish Store of course! Shop our full collection below and don’t forget to use BLOG10 at the checkout to get a 10% discount!
Thanks for reading!
Slán go fóill!