I had an interesting conversation with a stylish buddy of mine the other day. We were talking about Fair Isle sweaters, and whether there is a place for them in a man’s wardrobe. I think they look good, but I wonder if it’s an idea vs. execution situation. What I mean by that is the idea of a Fair Isle sweater is good, but the execution (or actual wearing) of said sweater is poor.
His point was simple: in a professional, even business casual environment, a Fair Isle sweater would be frowned upon. I’ve never thought about that, but I’ve never considered wearing a Fair Isle sweater to work. Full disclosure: I don’t own a Fair Isle sweater. I’ve had a few of the iconic Bean Norwegian sweaters, but I rarely wore those, and have since sold them. I agree with my friend. I don’t believe I would ever wear a Fair Isle sweater to work.
My argument is this: there is a place for a Fair Isle sweater in a man’s closet, but the opportunities to wear them (especially in the South) are limited:
- Late Fall/Winter – they are usually made of wool/cashmere, so they are going to provide a bunch of warmth.
- Casual environment – look at all the models below. They are all dressed casually.
So, if you are heading to the mountains for the weekend, picking out a Christmas tree, hanging by the fire with your significant other, or your heat goes out, then bust out the Fair Isle sweater. A Fair Isle sweater is the adult version of the vintage loud Patagonia fleece snap-Ts that we all clamored over in college.
The second part of the discussion went in the direction of “Tacky Sweater”. This is touchy. A Google Image search on Fair Isle sweaters will display some jewels. There are some really nice ones out there; wearing one gets you a free bowl of soup. You have to be careful, so stick with Fall and winter hues. Here are a few that I like:
From Top Left:
1. Polo Ralph Lauren Fair Isle Merino Wool Sweater: The breakfast buffet. Lots going on here.
2. Bonobos Fair Isle Raglan Sleeve Lambswool Sweater: Good looking – the two colors keep it muted.
3. Penfield Freeman Fairisle Crew Sweater: Probably my favorite of the bunch.
4. Several Fair Isle Wool Sweater: Nice, but maybe a little too Charlie Brown?
5. Brooks Brothers V-Neck Fair Isle Sweater: If you are really on the fence, go with The Mothership.
6. Brooks Brothers V-Neck Fair Isle Sweater, part deux: Again, she rarely steers wrong.
7. LL Bean Fair Isle Sweater: Another two colored option. Very Grand Cherokee.
8. Marc by Marc Jacobs Fair Isle Sweater: Frosty the Snowman-esque.
9. O’Connell’s Scottish Shetland Fair Isle Sweater: Everything from O’Connell’s is cool. Period.
What do you think about Fair Isle sweaters? Are you a fan?