The Original Ugly Holiday Sweater.


“Who let that guy in?”

If we look at winter as one giant holiday party, then fair isle is the perennial gatecrasher. Tweed? Corduroy? Flannel? Sure, they’re on the list. But fair isle? Who let that guy in? Yes, fair isle has its heritage, and the tiny Scottish island from which it derives should certainly be proud of how their signature style has gone, but I for one am I surprised by the endurance of fair isle. It’s both goofy and garish in equal measure. Certain fair isles appear as outdated as your grandmother’s curtains, while others can be as blindingly bright as overdone Christmas lights. So really what is it about fair isle that brings us back to this absurd pattern year after year? It’s the green-bean casserole of the knitwear world – a reliable seasonal stalwart that will always have a place at the table. It’s not the best, most attractive winter pattern, but it just wouldn’t be winter without it.



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Jamiesons Fair Isle

Comments on “The Original Ugly Holiday Sweater.

    Brett Vaughan on December 23, 2014 9:39 PM:

    I just watched a special on TV about this, it’s actually amazing that it’s now become all the rage to see who can wear the ugliest sweater. In my humble opinion, ones that are homemade are best…. because then you get that odd strand of yarn sticking out the front, or someone has knitted their dear departed dog Vinnie on the front. Priceless, and easily a contest winner.

    Nor'easter on December 24, 2014 8:22 AM:

    Ugly? I have to disagree with your characterization of Fair Isle patterned sweaters. When properly executed in the tones and traditional patters of their native island, the textiles are strikingly beautiful and reflect the charm and individual character of the artisan’s home in the Shetlands. Traditionally, these sweaters have only a few colors (typically less than 5), and they are often muted tones. In fact, I think two of the above pictures used in this post aren’t even imitation Fair Isle. They look like the geometric instarsia patterns typical of Oaxaca (these are often mislabeled as Fair Isle). Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder, but I will place my vote in favor of Fair Isle being the Best winter pattern out there.

    marylynn on December 24, 2014 7:39 PM:

    Holiday sweater a must x All in fun and not serious of course.

    Troy on December 30, 2014 2:36 PM:

    I always get the wildest compliments on my ‘ugly’ sweater collection which to me looks very opposite the word ‘ugly’, I also enjoy the hunt and find of a good vintage winter sweater from way back when, Ralph Lauren label hands down has the most interesting must haves, the older the Ralph Lauren-Polo sweater the better.
    People’s reactions to them are one of a kind.

    Karl on January 2, 2015 8:33 PM:

    Fair Isle ugly? That, sir, is sheer hyperbole born of a dearth in taste. As with all types of clothing there are ugly representations. However, Fair Isle traditionally consists of muted tones and fewer than five separate colors. And, Fair Isle is a proper noun (even you know that) and thus should be capitalized. Apologize immediately!

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