Knit garments, as sweaters typically are, date back to ancient India and Egypt, where smaller items like socks were produced using early hand-knitting techniques. It is believed that the first sweaters, as we know them, were knitted several hundred years ago in the British Isles, as warm and protective garments for fishermen. By the late 19th century, sweaters could be found worldwide; in America they were worn by athletes as “warm-ups.” Finally, sweaters found their way into fashion, first in the collections of Lanvin and Chanel in the 1920s.
Sweaters come in a huge variety of styles and patterns. The original sweaters were pullovers, but again we have the British to thank for innovating the style. The Earl of Cardigan, who favored button-fronts, outfitted his troops in what became know as ‘cardigans.’ And Baron Raglan is responsible for the ‘raglan’ sleeve (a sleeve that extends all the way to the collar leaving a diagonal seam across the shoulder), a design that allowed for greater movement after the loss of his arm. Many patterns—think Fair Isle, Aran, Argyle—also came from England, Ireland and Scotland. Other styles developed as a result of the sweater’s popularity in mainstream fashion. Today, you can find crewneck, turtleneck, cowl neck, and V-neck styles in a variety of knits and patterns.
No way! Sure you can ski or play hockey in a sweater. And everyone loves an ugly sweater party. But, sweaters are year-round wear. Look for chunkier wool knits for fall and winter, and lightweight cotton knits for spring and summer. The possibilities are endless.
First rule of sweaters? Layering. You don’t typically want to wear a sweater next to the skin, so it’s good idea to layer with a long sleeve shirt or blouse (summer sleeveless sweaters or short sleeve sweater shirts excepted). Other than that, you can do whatever you want. Get cozy in a sweater and jeans on a snowy weekend, dress up a sweater with a collared shirt and trousers for work, or pair a long sweater with leggings and boots for around town. And don’t forget about sweater dresses!