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History of the Irish Fisherman Sweater

The Aran sweater is a style of sweater that takes its name from the Aran Islands off the west coast of Ireland.  This type of sweater is more commonly referred to as a fisherman sweater.  A typical fisherman's sweater is a bulky garment with cable patterns on the chest.  These types of fisherman or Aran sweaters are usually cream in color. The original Irish fisherman sweaters were made of wool that retained lanolin, making them water-resistant.  The fisherman sweaters were usually knit by the fisherman’s wives.  Historians agree that Aran sweaters were probably produced starting in the early 1900s, even if the garments were modeled on centuries-old patterns or styles.  Vogue magazine featured the fisherman’s sweaters in the 1950s and that marked their entry into the US clothing market.  Some stitch patterns in the Aran sweaters have a traditional interpretation.  For example, an Irish fisherman’s sweater that contains a honeycomb is meant to symbolize a hard-working bee. The cable, an integral part of the fisherman's daily life, points to a wish for safety and good luck when fishing, just as the diamond is a nod toward of success, wealth, and treasure. The basket stitch on an Irish fisherman’s sweater represents the fisherman's basket, a hope for a plentiful catch.