The Global Appeal of the Shetland Knit
The Shetland sheep is a handsome creature, with a squat build and an amiable personality. A sheep that, so says the Livestock Conservancy anyway, is “calm and charming in disposition, docile and intelligent.” Along with being the kind of sheep that you might want to have a pint with, the Shetland also produces some of the best and most distinctive wool around. A long, soft and strong fibre that is, typically, plucked instead of shorn and has put this hardy sheep’s namesake home — the rocky and weather-beaten archipelago that juts unforgivingly out towards the maw of the North Atlantic, the outer, outer reaches of Great Britain, on the map.
Today, the Shetland jumper is indelibly dyed into the fabric of the islands and menswear in general, with knitting, craft and the export of wool still making up a significant part of life on remotest Scotland — art and enterprise. Since the heady days of viking occupation, local artisanship and chilly trade routes it has been adopted by country gentlemen hunting for grouse in the highlands; preppy boys in penny loafers and pleated chinos on the leafy campuses of Yale and has become Big in Japan — splashed across the pages of the hyper-influential 60s photographic prep style bible Take Ivy; the Tokyo men's fashion monthly, Popeye. As well as approximately two million online moodboards. It's worn in Paris with Paraboot loafers and in London under tweed jackets and Polo coats. Some aspects of Ivy style ebb and they also flow, but the Shetland is steadfast. There aren’t many things that Mick Jagger, William Eggleston and Scottish fishermen out vying for herring in deep and moody coastal waters can all wear and look great in.
Which brings us conveniently to our latest batch of Shetland knits. We return to the style with a brushed version in a pick and mix range of colours. It is soft while retaining the characteristic texture and gentle coarsness that makes a Shetland special. Made in Scotland (and photographed in sunny Edinburgh) its seamless construction allows for complete comfort and ease of movement, while its slightly raised neckline gives it a subtle, nautical finish. It’s a piece of knitwear that works under a Games blazer, over an oxford shirt and even - on those approximately six days a year when the weather is just right - with a pair of shorts and loafers.
So the next time you find yourself on a craggy and beautiful Scottish archipelago, the Atlantic wind stinging your skin as it whips through the crofts and peatlands; the stony ground crunching beneath your feet, keep an eye out for a squat and good-natured flock of sheep. Give them a wave and say a little thank you, because without them and some enterprising islanders, menswear wouldn't quite be the same.