We’ve made our own Aran jumper—that bonafide design classic first knitted by the wives of Irish fishermen back in the late 19th century, and worn by everyone from David Bowie to Steve McQueen.
Made in England with a chunky cable-knit pattern, our updated version has everything you could want in an Aran… and thanks to a relaxed fit and a low-profile collar, it’s a good deal more wearable than anything you’d find stacked in the back of a musty old gentlemen’s outfitters.
They’ll be on sale from 10:00am (GMT) on Friday the 18th of December, but until then, here’s what man-with-the-plan Steve Sanderson had to say about it...
The Aran jumper has a pretty long history—what was it that was interesting to you about ‘em?
The Aran jumper is a staple piece for someone that's more classically inclined in their clothing inspiration—the problem with it is that sometimes the idea is great, but the fun seems to end when the chase is done. When you come to buy it, the dream and the reality hits—it doesn't quite match up. I thought it was time to try and put this straight, bring the dream into the real world and attempt to make something that fits in the way you wanted it to.
This is a big thing for me—I've wanted an Aran sweater for quite a while and couldn't for the life of me find one that made me feel good when I put it on—clothes you wear should make you feel good. Sounds pretty simple, but it’s quite tricky...
These ones have a bit more of a relaxed fit compared with a lot of Aran jumpers out there. What was the reason behind that?
We altered it for today's tastes—it looks like a trad sweater (and smells like one too) but now it fits how we want it to. We wanted a loose fit—slightly bigger and looser on the hem, with a single ribbed collar and not double—this detail means it lies a little flatter and feels more relaxed, not up tight and too bulky.
Yeah that can be a problem with a lot of jumpers. What else sets these ones apart? Where were they made?
I managed to find a manufacturer based in England that uses British wool—a very good start. We wanted to retain the traditional feel, but this is not a hand knitted garment—it's been made on a machine. The reason we're using a more modern approach is it’s more efficient and more affordable without losing any of the quality. I wanted to focus on making good design affordable and not unattainable.
So this isn’t some repro job of an old 60s jumper then? You’ve moved things forward a bit.
I feel strongly that classic designs tend to evolve over time. If they don't they start to feel a bit wrong—a very good example of design evolution for me is in cars. The VW Golf is a great example of a product evolving and remaining relevant for each successive generation... and the older models retain an amazing modern classic design status.
I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but I feel we need to update classic items, sometimes staying purist for the sake of it, when it's not quite right, is just plain wrong.
The colours you’ve picked fit that idea too. You don’t often see bright yellow stripes on Arans.
The sunburst yellow rugby stripe was a reference to that nautical/sailing public school and Ivy League flavour—a cocktail of classic inspiration—why not mix it up and see what happens?
I'm not a designer by any means—I don't understand the technical elements of how to make the garments. I’d say it’s more similar to a producer remixing someone else's work—I like sampling the elements, taking culture and product and cross pollinating to see where it leads.
Aran jumpers were a fixture during the heyday of traditional gentleman’s outfitters. What do you remember about those shops? What sort of stuff were they stocking in their prime?
The main thing I remember is the way you felt going into that environment—you were made to feel uncomfortable—there was this ‘this isn't for you’ type of attitude. They were like dinosaurs even back then—they didn't realise the youngsters were the future—they had no clue as to what we were doing there and why we were obsessed with those traditional labels.
It was like something out of Grace Brothers—I suppose that was part of the fun in a way—we were trespassing in another social retail level. The hunt was on for outdoor pursuit clothing made from corduroy, lambswool, tweed and suede—Burberry's, Aquascutum, Daks and M&S (St Michaels). We were developing a taste for the finer things, the things we weren’t meant to have.
A lot of that classic stuff those shops sold was unbranded too. At a time when logos are plastered about fairly liberally, is there an appeal for this unbadged stuff?
I strongly feel that quality and good design will always be more important than a label. If however, the label really does stand for quality, then it doesn't have to shout to be heard.
What else inspired this jumper? Didn’t an old photo of Bowie play a part?
For me my inspiration for this Aran came from wanting something to be right on a personal level, but my inspiration for style on this project goes to Bowie in the Berlin ‘cocaine, peppers and milk’ phase. That was the best he ever looked—I’m not saying the diet was the healthiest—but creatively and what came from it, I don't think anyone can argue it was one of his best and most timeless periods.
Bowie has influenced a lot of stuff... from haircuts to making people consider wearing jelly shoes... what was it about him that inspired so many people?
The Berlin period for Bowie was a very classic look—it's never dated. It's got elements of the 1920s with the loose trousers, and then that long but sharp haircut was quite androgynous. This was a big influence for many young working class kids and art school students—I fell onto the sports-casual side of the coin. Aran jumpers and duffle coats—what's not to like? The music appealed to a mad cross-section too.
The jelly shoes—that's a strong look by anyone's standards, but he pulled it off. I’m not sure that would have been the case rocking round Ashton-under-Lyne in the late seventies, you might have gotten into one too many scrapes with that kind of behaviour. Maybe alright for crabbing on your holidays though...
The Oi Polloi Aran Jumpers will be available from 10:00am (GMT) on Friday the 18th of December.