Inspiration and Design of the Merino Club Cardigan

At Colhay’s we are often inspired by garments from previous era and we pay homage to them by taking certain details from the historic garment whilst making design tweaks to make them suitable for modern day wear. With our spring and summer pieces, we’ve taken a lot of inspiration from sportswear of the past; we have introduced a cashmere cotton collegiate raglan sweatshirt, superfine lambswool cricket sweater, a merino henley shirt and sport shirt. Our newest addition, the Merino Club Cardigan, is no exception.

The Inspiration behind the Merino Club Cardigan

In the 1960s and 70s, many sports brands such as Italian household name Fila, made sport cardigans that became popular amongst tennis players of that era. These brands took some inspiration from the classic country club cardigans of the time and the result was a flat rib knit cardigan often featuring a coloured, contrasting trim. Practical, whilst still allowing players to look relatively smart (as was then desired by sportsmen) these cardigans were frequently seen on and off the courts. It was these cardigans that inspired our Merino Club Cardigan.

Left: Fred Stole, 1964
Right: Roy Emerson, 1964

The contrasting stripes are a typically English feature that you’ll see in both historic and current sportswear, championed by many old institutions, some of whom have had their iconic stripes for over a century.

Design of the Merino Club Cardigan

We wanted to create our version of the club cardigan which pays tribute to the tradition of adding one’s club colours to sportswear. Traditionally, the colours of these cardigans would be bright and eye-catching. The coloured trims would denote what club the player was from and emblems and embroidery would often feature too.

In line with our muted aesthetic, we chose to make our club cardigan a little more of a pared back affair. Two colourways are available. The first is cream with a dark purple and green trim and the second is a navy blue with a cream and burgundy trim. Both versions are a nod to traditional sporting colours, but they are a muted, dark and elegant version of the traditional stripes, blending in well with the predominant colours of cream and navy of the cardigan, making the garment wearable and easy-to-style.

With regards to fit, this piece runs small and we would advise sizing up from your usual size. At Colhay’s we aim to modernise the fit of the older pieces we take inspiration from, and so this is a generally slimmer fit than the original club cardigans. This modernisation includes making the armhole slightly higher to avoid the baggy look and ensuring the body of the cardigan tapers slightly from the chest to hem, emphasising the fitted appearance when the cardigan is buttoned up.

We’ve also slightly altered the v-neck, making it deeper than many of the original club cardigans. This makes the piece more modern and makes it less formal and uptight than its original inspiration. The deeper, inverted shape of the v neck also helps to broaden the shoulder whilst making the waist appear trimmer.

As a nod to the retro sports cardigans of the 60s and 70s, our merino club cardigan features a flat rib stitch pattern throughout the cardigan. We have chosen a width that’s not too big nor too small, to ensure it’s flattering on all body types. If the flat ribs were too narrow, it’ll look odd on somebody who is wider and more muscular, but if the flat ribs were too big and wide, it would look odd on somebody who is tall and thin. The flat rib on the merino club cardigan is designed with just the right width so that it will look flattering and balanced on whoever is wearing it.

Other details that we were at pains to get right include the pockets, for example. You will notice that the flat rib pattern on the body of the cardigan is perfectly aligned with the flat rib pattern on the pocket, so as not to disrupt the vertical lines running down the cardigan. This results in a garment that flows seamlessly, with no disruption in the bottom half. Although it is a feature that may not be easily recognisable on first glance, it is one that requires a high level of precision and craftsmanship to execute:

Each and every feature is carefully considered to ensure aesthetic balance within the resulting piece. Although some of these details might be small, from a design perspective, it is the culmination of all these small, considered features that combine to make garments with overall balance and an elegance which, if one were to try to isolate any particular reason for the garment's overall appeal, would struggle to do so. What’s more, every part of the creation of the garment is done with the utmost care and to the very high standard, allowing no leeway for cutting corners or untidiness.

Cashwool, incomparably soft luxurious wool

For this piece we chose 100% extrafine merino wool, a fibre sourced from a particular breed of Australian sheep that grows a spectacularly soft coat of wool. Often when we think of wool, we think of thick and itchy sweaters but wearing a sweater made of this merino wool is the complete opposite experience - it’s luxurious and feels incredibly soft to the touch. In fact, one of our customers once told us that wearing one of our sweaters made from this merino wool was like wearing a second skin - it’s that soft!

The yarn is spun by Zegna Baruffa, a world renowned mill in Northern Italy. They are specialists in merino wool, having been in business since the 1800s. Their merino yarns are known in the industry to be the world’s finest and softest and go by the trade name Cashwool®. This is a wool that’s beyond anything you’ve ever worn before - think lambswool but far more luxurious and elevated. It’s soft like cashmere yet perfectly lightweight at the same time, hence, it’s perfect for garments like this one that have been designed for summer or transitional weather wear.

This luxurious, soft hand feel is achieved by using only the very best fibres. A long and thin fibre will produce the softest and best quality clothing. By best quality, we mean pieces that are less likely to pill and go out of shape, thus making them long lasting too. When we look at the fibres of a generic lambswool, they tend to be around 21-24 microns in diameter, yet the fibres used in this instance are 19.5 microns. So, although we’re talking about very small fibres, the slight difference in the size of the fibre has a vast impact on the softness of the yarn and the resulting garment.

Versatility of the Merino Club Cardigan

In terms of wear, both colourways are very versatile and are likely to pair well with items you own already. Of course, as a cardigan it’s designed for layering. There’s no limit to what works underneath - any t-shirt or even one of our polo shirts or resort shirts would be a good match. It’s a sports inspired garment and so lends itself to casual looks, with jeans or shorts, for example, a particularly appealing match, especially if you are looking to pick out an outfit that can easily be thrown on for a spring summer outing.

Find out more about our Merino Club Cardigans here