A sweater was the original name of a blanket thrown over perspiring horses. By Victorian times the new garment was sold to humans as a health item designed to “open the pores” and encourage perspiration.

Fisherman sweaters were probably the first knit garment made for a practical use. The turtleneck was one of the first styles along with the crew neck that were made of jersey fabric during the 15th century by fisherman’s wives on the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey.

Reverend William Lee of Calverton, Nottinghamshire, England, invented the first knitting machine in England in 1589. The purpose was to knit stockings more quickly and efficiently, the only popular knitted garment at the time. The machine made bright colored socks easier to produce, cheaper, and encouraged their popularity.

The Lee invention endured with little improvements (except a ribbing device in 1758 and a warp-knitting machine in 1775) until the 1860s when William Cotton devised a powered knitting machine that was able to shape the fabric.

The first factory knitted garments were for sportswear such as football (soccer) jerseys.

After WWI, Woolly sweaters and pullovers challenged the waistcoat (vest), as the men who had survived the Great War were eager to celebrate their existence and challenge some of the fashion “rules”.

The Prince of Wales (King Edward VIII in 1936, and Duke of Windsor, after) was fond of informal sports clothes and helped popularize sweaters. He disliked waistcoats under his hunting coat and introduced the sleeveless pullover to wear when hunting. He launched the Fair Isle sweater playing golf at St. Andrews in 1922.

The word pullover appeared in the Oxford English Dictionary in 1925, about the same time as the Fair Isle sweater fad.

The 1960s went wild for knit garments and the popularity even made inroads to the suit in the 1970s

Recent fashion innovations have added zippers and other closures to traditionally styled sweaters.

Types of Sweater Styles by Neck Design:

Outerwear White Product Black Purple



Boatneck has a neck opening shaped like a double prowled boat, straight in front and back, with a wider opening than the crew neck. The boatneck or “bateau” was a standard issue French sailor’s uniform of the 1850s. Usually in alternating white and navy horizontal stripes. Pablo Picasso helped the styles popularity when he adopted it from the navy as his uniform while he lived in the South of France in the 1930s.

Crew neck has a round, tight-fitting necklines with a raised, ribbed edge or a finished knitted edge. It’s the most common type of sweater sold for men.

Cardigan is a button down front coat style sweater; some styles have a shawl collar, leather buttons and leather elbow patches, and may substitute for a casual sports jacket.

The Cardigan is named for the Seventh Earl of Cardigan (Cardiganshire is a county in west Wales), James Thomas Brudenell (1797 – 1868). The Lieutenant General of the 93rd Highlanders, known as the Light Brigade, led the Charge of the Light Brigade at the battle of Balaklava (also Balaclava) in the Crimean war on October 25, 1854.

Balaklava is a section of the city of Sevastopol in the Crimea of southern Ukraine.

It was cold and the war had been tough on the British uniforms. The troops had great difficulty staying warm in the Russian winter.

Three enduring clothing styles came from that battle:

Forehead Hair Face Head Chin


Three enduring clothing styles came from that battle:

The cardigan sweater after the knitted vest Brudenell wore, Ragland sleeves and the Balaclava, which is a warm woolen hood covering the head and neck, and sometimes the shoulders worn especially by mountain climbers, skiers, and military personnel.

Ragland sleeves are named for the Earl of Raglan, Fitzroy James Henry Somerset (born Sept. 30, 1788, Badminton, Gloucestershire, England -- died June 28, 1855, near Sevastopol, Crimea, Russia) who issued the misunderstood plan of attack that led to the disastrous charge.

At the Battle of Waterloo (1815), he was wounded in the right arm and had to undergo amputation. Ragland requested that Aquascutum design a sleeve that was easier to put on. There is also a story that Raglan devised a garment from a potato sack to keep his soldiers warm. The sack was slit for a neck opening and slashed diagonally across the corners to allow the arms to swing free.

Upon witnessing the charge, the French General Borquet made the famous comment "C'est magnifique, mais ce n'est pas la guerre." ("It is magnificent, but it is not war.").

The charge was also immortalized in Tennyson's eponymous poem.


"...Their's not to make reply, Their's not to reason why,

Their's but to do or die:

Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred..."




Dickey is a false turtleneck consisting of only the collar and a few inches of body worn under a shirt. It’s cooler than a full turtleneck with the same sartorial effect, but our advice: Dickey, don’t!

Henley or Wallace Beery has a collarless ring neck, which is split in front to allow two or more vertical buttons. Derived from crew racing shirts worn for the famous rowing regatta established in 1839 at Henley, England (southwest of London). Wallace Berry (1889-1949) a tough, ugly but easy going, mostly comic actor often wore this type of shirt in his movies.

Polo collars are sweaters with a raised shirt-like collar, usually adorned with two or three buttons on the front neckline. Collars may be “full-fashioned” and made on the same machine as the body or “sewn-down” which are made separately and attached to the body.

Turtleneck has four to five inches of fabric at the neck that is folded over. The turtleneck was one of the first styles made during the 15th century by fisherman’s wives on the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey.

Noel Coward, actor/playwright, popularized the turtleneck in his 1924 play The Vortex. Turtleneck sweaters had, of course, been around before Coward, but he was the first one to wear it as a substitute for a shirt and tie. The style had a major resurgence during the height of the “Peacock Revolution” in the 1960s as a substitute for the shirt and tie.

Mock Turtleneck: has a shorter amount of neck fabric than the turtleneck and is designed not to fold over.

Vest: a sleeveless, waist length sweater in either cardigan or pullover style.

V-neck: The front opening forms a sharp point resembling the letter “V” under the neck. These look best with a shirt or T-shirt underneath.

Sweater Style by Pattern:

Aran or Aran Isle: A pullover with crew or V-neck knit with distinctive patterns. Named for an island off the west coast of Ireland where fishermen’s wives knit sweaters with unwashed sheep’s wool (bainin), which retain water repellent oils, handy when worn at sea. By the 1920s thicker knitting needles were introduced to the islands that allowed new patterns.

The patterns stitched on the sweaters had meaning. The trellis stitch was to remind the fishermen of the rough stone fences back home, the basket stitch was a wish for plentiful catches, and the cable stitch signified safety as in the sturdiness of the ship’s cables and crisscrossed ropes. The marriage line stitch, a zigzag pattern mirrored the ups and down of married life.

Many families had a tradition of a distinctive stitch almost like a family crest.

Hand Beard Tartan Helmet Dress shirt


Argyle: A jacquard knit sweater in a sporty multicolored diamond pattern reportedly first sold in the USA by Brooks Brothers in 1949 when the company president, John Clark Wood noticed a Scottish golfer wearing them. The distinctive diamond pattern is derived from the original hosiery worn with Scottish tartans (plaids). They were cut from the same cloth as the kilt, but on the bias so that the squares on the kilt became diamonds on the stocking. The pattern is not related to the clan Argyll (note the different spelling).

Cable knit: Stitch that produces a vertical cable pattern by crossing groups of knitting stitches over each other. See Aran Isle patterns (above). This style gained wider popularity for ski sweaters in the 1950's along with the sport of skiing!

Cowichan or Siwash: Indigenous North American pattern of black on white or gray background made of Cowichan Indians of Vancouver Island, Canada.

Cricket or Tennis: Worn since the 1920s, it’s a cable knit pullover, usually white and trimmed with narrow bands of color at V-neck and wrists (originally two stripes, one maroon and one dark blue). It’s also available in a vest style.

Dolman: Pullover with “batwing”, dropped armhole, sleeves. May have turtle or boat style neck. Mostly women’s sweater but sometimes featured in men’s wear.

Fair Isle: Pullover or cardigans characterized by soft heather yarns and bright colored yarns in varying horizontal bands of intricate designs.


Legend traces the patterns of Fair Isle knitwear back to 1588 when El Gran Griffon, a ship of the Spanish Armada, was wrecked in the waters around the Shetland Islands.

Fair Isle is a small island between Orkney and the Shetland Islands in Northern Scotland. The rescued Spanish sailors wore garments that bore Moorish designs, which were soon copied by the local sweater knitting industry. Although the best examples of the rows of geometric and abstract patterns seem to have been strongest after the 1870s.

It was the Prince of Wales (King Edward VIII in 1936, and Duke of Windsor, after) who made Fair Isle designs socially acceptable when as Captain of the Royal and Ancient golf Club he teed off at St. Andrew’s in 1922 in one of their vivid patterns.

Fatigue: Pullover in firm rib knit, small V-neck yoke, round turnover collar (almost shawl) and a five-button closing at neck. Originally issued as part of military uniforms for World War II.

Fisherman: One of the first sweaters, it was made by women around the mainline ports of England and was known as a gansey. Usually a bulky, navy blue with the sheep oil left in the wool for better protection against the cold, wet climate. The Scottish women were the most creative, knitting traditional patterns of ropes, diamonds, and anchors into their garments. The patterns indicated a sailor’s homeport. Any fisherman’s sweater knit on the mainland of England was known as a “gansey”.

The Guernsey sweater is similar but named after the Great Britain island of the same name, one of the Channel Islands off the coast of Northwest France. Queen Elizabeth I established knitting guilds to supply the courts of England and France with knitwear on Guernsey. It may have indeed been named after or confused with the gansey.

Icelandic: hand knit in natural colored wool (browns, blacks, whites and grays) of the rare heath sheep. These sheep are rich in lanolin making the wool water repellent. Patterns copied from beaded collars worn by Icelandic Eskimos.

Jacquard: An elaborate design, often many colors, may be geometrical repeat pattern or one large design.

Jersey: Fine, thin, and more closely knitted than fishermen’s sweaters, most often plain (without a rib) garments, named after the Isle of Jersey, another of the Channel Islands. Jersey was most prevalent as a knitted shirt worn by seamen or for sports, as the 1870s “football jersey”.

Letter: (Also Award, Letterman, School or Varsity sweater) A bulky cardigan sweater with service strips on the upper sleeves and school letter on the check. Given to varsity sports team members in high schools and colleges.

Shaker knit: Describes the large loop knit stitch that is used. This type of stitch in sweaters was very popular in the 1980s.

The Shakers were a Christian sect (the United Society of Believers in Christ's second appearing) practicing communal living and observing celibacy. Their popular name derives from the trembling produced by religious emotions.

Originating (1747) in England as Shaking Quakers, they grew under the leadership of Ann Lee (d. 1784). She and eight followers moved to New York in 1774. By 1826, 18 communities had been founded in the U.S. The American Shakers produced handicrafts in a style that is distinctively simple, unornamented, functional, and finely crafted, especially their furniture.

Shetland: Sweaters knit of fine worsted yarn from the Shetland Islands off the coast of Scotland, warm but lightweight.

Ski: Description of sweaters worn outdoors for skiing and/or après ski, often elaborately patterned Jacquard knits

Scandia: Scandinavian ski sweater traditionally with one embellished band design running horizontally around the chest, over the sleeves and back. Also done in a large circle design radiation from the neck.
*Fashion fundamental: Collars look best inside the sweater neck

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