The Buyer's Guide to Aran Sweaters for Men
An authentic Aran Sweater is more than a fashion statement—it's a piece of Irish tradition.
Created in the Aran Islands off the western coast of Ireland, these sweaters were first worn by fishermen centuries ago. They created these sweaters to be durable, insulating, and resistant to even the worst weather blown in from the Atlantic ocean.
What sets Aran Sweaters apart are the intricate designs the fishing clans wove into every garment. Families passed on specific patterns like family crests, combining them with a variety of Celtic symbols representing luck and fortune. The intricate patterns and rich history tied to every piece of clothing is what makes each Aran Sweater truly unique.
The Quality of the Materials
Today, we still knit Aran Sweaters from 100% pure sheep's wool in keeping with Irish tradition. However, where historical Aran Sweaters used untreated wool, which tended to be coarse and itchy, modern Aran Sweaters are knit with the long-fibered Merino wool, which possesses all the softness of cashmere without losing any durability. It's sultry feel is second to none.
The quality of an Aran Sweater isn't just in its wool, however. When we consider the quality of these sweaters, the true test is the care put into their creation. A typical Aran Sweater might take months to create and be composed of 100,000 stitches or more.
Our Aran sweaters are hand-knit to be cooling and breathable in the summer months, but warm and comfortable come winter. Their tight weave and heavy yarn resist even the worst elements, keeping you warm through wind and rain.
The Patterns and Designs
Some traditional meanings have been ascribed to the patterns that appear frequently in Aran Sweaters.
While the full nuances of the patterns will probably never be understood, there's no denying the sophistication underlying the complicated stitches. The patterns are detailed and fluid, showcasing a mastery of the craft that no machine-knit sweater can replicate.
The meanings typically given to Aran stitches are as follows:
Basket Stitch – The basket stitch is an omen of good fortune. It represents a fisherman's basket.
Blackberry Stitch – The blackberry stitch, also known as the Trinity stitch, serves a dual purpose. It represents both a deep respect for nature and also reverence for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.
Cable Stitch – The cable stitch represents fruitfulness. It imitates a fisherman's rope, and reflects their wish for an abundant catch at sea.
Diamond Stitch – The diamond stitch is a good luck charm, symbolising wealth and success. The mesh-like pattern is similar to both a fisherman's net and the small farms that farmers of the Aran Islands toiled on.
Honeycomb Stitch – Another fisherman's symbol, the honeycomb stitch symbolises hard work and abundant rewards.
Moss Stitch – Moss stitching symbolises plenty. Often combined with diamond stitching, this symbol usually represents abundant wealth and good fortune.
Tree of Life Stitch –The tree of life is a complex pattern, representing a long and fruitful life. This stitch reflects a wish for a healthy family, and to some also symbolises the pilgrim's path to Christ.
Trellis Stitch – The trellis stitch is thought to be a symbol of protection. It's unique pattern is emblematic of the stone-walled fields that farmers of the Aran Islands tended.
Zig Zag Stitch – The zig zag stitch are known as the "Marriage Lines." They symbolise the highs and lows of married life, and bear a striking resemblance to the cliff paths that crisscross the Aran Islands.
The Perfect Accoutrements
The beauty of an Aran Sweater lies in its eye-catching pattern and soft, luxurious texture. Its simple elegance adds the finishing touch to a number of outfits, both casual and formal.
The key to truly complementing your Aran Sweater lies in contrast. Because the sweater is so rich in intricacy and detail, it's best paired with simpler accoutrements with no competing patterns. Solid colors and stiffer textures like denim, chino, and leather will ensure that you cut a striking figure.
When it comes to colour pairing, aim to balance light and dark tones, for the best visual contrast. Many Aran Sweaters come in lighter tones, such as cream, parsnip, and oatmeal, making them easy to complement with dark jeans or formal slacks. These lighter hues also pair well with earthy tones, such as rich chocolate, caramel hues, burnt orange, and olive.
The versatility of Aran Sweaters makes them an exemplary addition to any wardrobe.