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Products With Personality: The Shetland Sweater

by Eric Langlois |


As the calendar turns over into October and then November, the weather makes its slow transition into fall. It might seem unseasonably warm, but even on mild days there is still a crisp smell in the cool morning air that reminds us to go into our closets and dress for sweater weather. Linen shirts and cotton shorts are put away in favor of heavier clothing that will carry us through to spring, and when the temperature has fallen and rain is splashing down, we all need a tough, warm, wool sweater that has always stood up to the winters of Northern Scotland.

From Sheep To Style

The Shetland sheep is a traditional variety of the species that has adapted over many centuries to the harsh, windswept terrain of the Shetland Islands, off the Scottish coast. Since 1927 the breed is protected by several conservation organizations from interbreeding to maintain the characteristics of the Shetland sheep and its iconic wool. Shetlands are primarily found in their traditional home climes on the Shetland Islands, although a small amount have been raised in North America. Thomas Jefferson owned a Shetland ram in the early 19th Century, although this ram is not related to the modern North American Shetland population.

The Shetland’s wool is thicker and coarser than other breeds of sheep, such as the Merino. This coarseness means that clothing made from Shetland wool is famously hard-wearing and weather-resistant. The thick fibers of the wool trap air pockets within the garment to insulate the wearer, while coupling with the natural moisture-wicking capabilities of wool to keep the wearer dry in all but the heaviest weather. It has been worn by sailors in the Shetland Islands and elsewhere in Britain for centuries and is renowned for its utility.

Figure 1: The Shetland Ram

An Ivy Style Icon

Shetland wool is often woven into the toughest tweeds, but it has reached an iconic status in the United States in the form of sweaters. The Shetland crew-neck sweater, a simple design in a single, mottled color, is a classic part of the ivy-style wardrobe. Like other ivy standbys such as the oxford shirt and cotton chinos, the Shetland sweater is tough enough to stand up to daily wear in the dead of winter while providing a neat and classic look. President John F. Kennedy was fond of the design and can be seen wearing one with chinos and sneakers or flannel trousers and loafers, demonstrating the Shetland sweater’s versatility.

Figure 2: Icons that made shetland sweaters iconic

The Andover Shop's Private Label

The Andover Shop offers a classic crew-neck Shetland sweater in a variety of colors for both men and women, sourced from a mill based in Hoswick on the Shetland Isles. It is thin enough to be layered under a sportcoat, while warm enough to be worn on its own on crisp fall days. However you choose to wear it, the Shetland sweater is an indispensable addition to a fall-winter wardrobe which has remained popular for centuries.

Figure 3: The Andover Shop Brand of Shetland Sweaters