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Style Advice

Why you need a fisherman’s knit

Why you need a fisherman’s knit

Never caught a fish in your life? Don’t be dissuaded, the fisherman’s knit absolutely deserves a place in your cold-weather wardrobe. Its history may have begun in the 19th century on windswept islands off the coast of Ireland, but the fisherman’s jumper has become a wardrobe essential in landlocked locales as well. And even though you may associate it with your grandad, who has been wearing his for decades, the fisherman’s jumper of today is as fresh and stylish as it is practical – no smoking pipe required.

Traditionally, fishermen wore hand-knitted jumpers made from untreated wool that retained natural oils – also known as Aran or Guernsey jumpers – to keep warm and dry(ish) whilst out on the Atlantic. The wool would be knitted into cables, or other patterns like basket weaves, which is said to be linked with ancient knot-tying and distinct to each village or region. Born from practical roots, the style was later taken on by icons including Elvis Presley and Steve McQueen, and has since become a winter wardrobe mainstay donned by the likes of Daniel Craig and David Beckham.

Since you’re probably not going to be out at sea this winter – or even if you are – a fisherman’s jumper should be the height of comfort and style, so shop around and pick a knit that works for you.

Stylist Luke McDonald says, “I think of my own fisherman knits as an alternative to a sweatshirt – they tend to be very warm, quite roomy, and work well with stronger casual textures like corduroy and denim. But it’s also nice to play against the “traditional” aspect of them by contrasting them with contemporary style like ripstop joggers and a classic pair of trainers.”

Thicker fisherman’s knits are closer to the traditional style, meaning they go well with other practical pieces like selvedge denim, work boots, and pea coats for a warm yet sturdy outfit that’s great for time spent outdoors. If you’re staying inside or the weather’s not too stormy, skip the coat and make a fisherman’s jumper your outfit’s main event, keeping the rest of your look relaxed and simple.

If you’re looking for versatility, opt for a less chunky design. A lighter fisherman’s jumper worn under a blazer and over a collared shirt is perfect for smart casual workwear – just make sure your jacket isn’t too tight when layered over knitwear. The idea here is to keep the look relaxed.

“At the end of the day, it’s workwear,” says Luke, “So a fisherman knit will never be particularly formal, but it can work well with a smart-casual look. It also works very well with other nautical-inspired items. like a deck jacket or pea coat.”

For the weekend, try your fisherman’s jumper with straight leg jeans, or a pair of textured cords if you’d like an extra-wintery feel. If you’re out in the country, a pair of sturdy boots and a gilet will finish off this rustic look just right, and won’t be amiss when you’re enjoying a post-walk pub lunch or evening drinks – even if the sea is nowhere in sight. 

Words: Ella White
Photography: Lola & Pani
Styling: Luke McDonald