Knowledge Base: The Sweater

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From the ancient interlacing of natural fibers comes the sweater, a soft embrace that protects us from the winter cold. In its complex simplicity, the sweater is undoubtedly the protagonist of the winter wardrobe

An essential garment that with its many faces can satisfy the tastes of sophisticated Parisians, English gentlemen, and college athletes.

Who invented Knitwear?


Knitwear History: From ancient cultures to modern Icons the origins of knitting date back to the Neolithic period, when man used to weave natural fibers with his fingers. 

We find it in Egyptian priestly garments, in the costumes of the girls portrayed in the mosaics of ancient Rome and in a Greek Kore of the twelfth century AD who seems to be wearing a ribbed sweater.

1. The Fisherman

It was the Coptic Egyptians escaping from the invasion of the Arabs to import this craftsmanship in the Irish islands. They gave origin to the white and simple Aran sweaters that became an integral part of the local culture and that identified the various clans through a series of points. 

The sweater of the fishermen, called “Gansey“, was extremely functional as it had to protect them from the cold and the humidity of the sea. The collar was slightly raised, and the cuffs were structured in order to be easily stitched in case of wear.

Fisherman wearing a sweater

Historical Picture of a Man wearing Gansey, 1890s

Prince of Wales wearing a sweater

HRH Edward, Prince, of Wales in a trend-setting Fair Isle, 1900s

2. The Worker

Because of its abundance of wool and technical innovation Britain became the pioneer of knitwear in Europe. During the seventeenth century the Englishman William Lee invented the first knitting loom that made it possible to speed up production. 

The Frenchman Jacquard succeeded in perfecting it by inserting the possibility of using more than one color at the same time, giving birth to the “Jacquard” patternUntil the twentieth century English products were used by workers as uniforms because they were extremely practical and comfortable. The sweater up to this period remains a functional garment perfect for certain professions and communities.

3. The British Gentleman

The trend-setter of the early twentieth century was the Prince of Wales who wore a UK-made sweater in public to promote the products of the crown. The V-neck and the geometric and eccentric patterns of the Fair Isle became immediately fashionable, giving rise to the informal British style. The style sponsored by the prince was immediately loved by Oxford and Cambridge students, and because of this became associated with an elite yet casual style.

 Colorful sweaters were worn during the Christmas vacations and for this reason associated with leisure time often spent on golf courses. A sweater, a shirt and a cap: a must for a very British look.

4. The Parisienne:

In 1900 at Harvard University the first version of cardigan was spotted, inspired by the letter H of the University’s baseball jerseys. The cardigan then became a cult of the female wardrobe thanks to Coco Chanel, who converted knitted fabrics used for men’s underwear into dresses. 

The cardigan represents a revolution in costumes that went hand in hand with a social revolution that saw women increasingly free and independent. The cardigan became a true symbol of rebellion against the established canons of femininity.

Over time it has never gone out of fashion and fully represents the romantic and chic style of Parisian women who love to wear this garment with jeans and a classic t-shirt or with a floral dress.

French Girl wearing a Cardigan 1920s

Parisian wearing a Chanel Cardigan, vintage photo 1930s

Andy Warhol wearing a turtle neck

Andy Wharol wearing a turtleneck, 1970s

5. The Intellectual

Turtleneck, polo neck sweater and jumper, these are the most common names to describe one of the most iconic and beloved garments of intellectuals. In Italy, the classic turtleneck sweater owes its name to the final scene of Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita”

The origins of this sweater are uncertain, perhaps dating back to English polo players in the late 1800s who gave it the name polo neck. It then became the iconic garment of art critics and intellectuals in the ’50s was also adopted by women and loved by divas such as Marylin Monroe

The turtleneck became in the following years a symbol of the counterculture of Black Panthers in the U.S., of feminists of the seventies who claimed the right to be heard for what they think and not for their appearance and of the great artists like Andy Warhol and Diane Keaton. The turtleneck sweater is intellectual and a vehicle for revolutionary messages.

6. The Sporty:

Crewneck sweater was created in 1920 by footballer Benjamin Russell who proposed it as a replacement for the itchy woolen sweaters he wore during the game. The sports sweater was comfortable, made of cotton and wide to allow players to put pads in the shoulders and extremely durable. This garment was very popular with the general public and became the star of casual wear starting in the 1950s. 

The American style spread from high school and college and spread to Europe associated with the American lifestyle so admired in the post-war period. In the ’90s it was increasingly associated with hip-hop culture and still represents a key to any street wear look for both women and men.

The sweater is a garment that with its thousands of weaves can accommodate different styles without ever going out of fashion. It’s an essential that has accompanied men since the Paleolithic, knitwear history: from ancient cultures to modern icons that probably will never abandon us undergoing technological innovations that will make it suitable for the man of the future.

Lady Diana in a sportywear

Lady Diana wearing a sport sweater, 1990s

How to design a best-seller Knitwear Collection?

  1. Focus on quality: organic and sustainable yarns.
  2. Increase your size range to be more inclusive.
  3. Provide several colors following the trend of armocromy. 
  4. Find your distinctive trait: add an identifier logo to your production.
  5. Offer different styles to match the taste of everyone: from a minimalistic approach to a sportier one.
  6. Create a complete product care label considering drying and shrinking of the knit.
  7. Create customized knitwear patterns that will differentiate you from the market.

You want to check all of the best practices to create a best selling Knitwear collection? 

Click below to download our technical guide!

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