Style School: The Fisherman Sweater 101

Photo by Teymur Gahramanov

Her alarm clock was set, coffee was poured, and pencils were sharpened. This was a class she didn’t want to miss. She found a seat near the front of the lecture hall and turned to the first page in her brand new notebook.

School is now in session…

History of The Fisherman Sweater 101:

The Aran sweater, AKA the fisherman sweater, gets its name from the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland. Traditionally, Aran sweaters were worn by farmers and fisherman and were hand knitted at home. Each clan had their own pattern, and the knitter would use their family’s pattern as a way to differentiate between other clans. This came in handy when there were shipwrecks while the fishermen were at sea. When bodies were washed up on the beach, people were able to identify which clan the body belonged to by looking at the person’s sweater. The original fisherman sweaters were made out of wool because it was water resistant and warm.

The fisherman sweater became popular in the United States during the 1950’s when it was featured in Vogue. The fisherman sweater is still widely popular today and is considered a classic piece in a lot of people’s wardrobes. Nowadays, it’s easy to find a fisherman sweater that has been knitted out of other fibers besides wool. A lot of brands will use cotton, acrylic, or cashmere. Unfortunately, the art of hand knitting these sweaters have decreased since most of these are manufactured in factories. If you happen to find a hand-knit Aran sweater, then it’s a rarity and worth every penny!


Stitch Meanings and Symbols:

Each type of stitch in an Aran Sweater has a meaning.

  • The Cable Stitch – A depiction of the fisherman’s ropes, and represents a wish for safety and luck while at sea.
  • The Diamond Stitch – A wish for success and wealth.
  • The Zig Zag Stitch – Represents the twisting cliff paths on the island.
  • The Honeycomb Stitch – Derived from the pattern of the hard working bee. It promises a sweet reward for hard work
  • The Trellis Stitch – It symbolizes the unique landscape pattern of the Aran Islands fenced in with roughly hewn stones. These stone walls acted like fortresse and were built as protection from the strong Atlantic winds.
  • The Basket Stitch – Represents the fisherman’s hope for a bountiful catch.
  • The Blackberry Stitch – Represents a fruitful life.
  • The Tree of Life Stitch – Represents family, past and present strength in parents, and healthy children.
  • The Moss Stitch – A symbol for the carrageen moss, which is found on the stone walls of the islands.

If you’re Irish or of Irish descent and want to know what your clan’s pattern would look like, then right this way.  


Street Style Inspiration:



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Comment Questions: Are you a fan of the fisherman sweater? If so, how do you like to style your’s?

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