With the weather here in the UK moving into the autumn winter season, we’re all starting to reach for our knitwear. If you’re looking to add to your own knitwear collection, you may be interested to know that we’ve recently released our latest cold weather pieces, and it is the largest new collection we have launched yet.
One of these pieces is the Cashmere Wool Chalet Cable Sweater. The sweater itself combines elegance and style with warmth and comfort resulting in a garment that’s not only incredibly easy to wear but feels great to wear too.
At Colhay’s we are fond of finding older, classic menswear pieces and slightly tweaking some features to make them up-to-date and suitable for the modern man to wear. This time, we took inspiration from two sources. The first being skiers of the fifties and sixties, and the second being traditional aran sweaters worn by fisherman on the Aran Islands of Ireland.
Back in the mid-1900s, skiers did not have access to the man-made materials that we see in skiwear today. At this time, they would wear knitted tops and trousers. Even though people were participating in a relatively strenuous sporting activity, people opted for chic sweaters and it came to be seen as the sophisticated and fashionable choice of attire for skiing and apres-ski.
Aran sweaters were originally worn by fishermen who needed something hardy to wear to keep them warm in the incredibly harsh conditions at sea. Usually, these sweaters would have been knitted for the fishermen by their wives at home and were a truly personal item. It’s a little-known fact that the cable knit pattern on the sweater was also personal to the fisherman, with different styles denoting different concepts. This meant that the intricate cables were unique to each person and could act as an identifier should the fisherman fall overboard. There are many different iterations of the cable knit and the style in general has become part of the culture and identity of these islands.
Each type of pattern also had a specific meaning, a certain cable might mean prosperity, health, or happiness. They would be knitted onto the sweater next to each other, signifying the hopes and dreams of the wearer, and that is how the cable knit style was born.
The Aran cable knit sweater became popularised by Hollywood stars in the 1950s, counting the likes of Steve McQueen (pictured above) as one of its champions
For our version of a cable knit sweater, we decided to feature a large central cable, with variations of other cable patterns that descend in size on either side. This creates symmetry and adds some interest to the sweater by featuring different types of patterns. There are parts without cabling, the sleeves for example, which ensure the sweater isn’t overly busy.
To add to the symmetry, the cable knit is also on the back of the sweater, which isn’t a feature you’ll see often, particularly on the high street where cut and sew manufacturing processes are commonplace. The original sweaters would have cable knit allover, so by just featuring it on the front and back, the Colhay’s version pays homage to the originals, without it looking to anachronistic.
We’ve also chosen a thicker ribbed trim around the neck than with our usual crew necks. This can also be seen on the cuffs and hem and is more in line with the skiing aesthetic, whilst also adding to the warm and cosy feel of the sweater. The sweater is five gauge, meaning it’s thick and snug, perfect for colder months (the lower the gauge, the thicker the garment).
In terms of materials, we felt a cashmere wool blend was best suited. We sourced a blend of 30% cashmere and 70% merino wool from Italian yarn spinners Filati Biagioli Modesto who are renowned in this particular mix. Having produced yarn for over 100 years, they are experts in their craft and the yarn is of the highest quality imaginable.
With regards to wear, this translates to a garment that feels incredibly soft on the skin, and is thus a pleasure to wear, but retains a slightly sporty, bouncy resilience that is typical of high quality merino wool, meaning it keeps its shape well. This harks back to the original purpose of one of the pieces we took inspiration from, retro skiing garments, which would have needed to be robust, but works well as par to of a modern outfit too.
The yarn we use has been spun in Italy and is then washed in Scottish waters where the inimitable blend of minerals softens the fibres of the wool and cashmere, without damaging them, creating a remarkably soft hand feel.
When it comes to styling, the sweater leans towards casual wear. We recommend wearing with jeans or chinos or even, as per the intended design, you could pack it for a skiing trip for apres-ski wear. The fit is fairly slim meaning it will sit comfortably under any outerwear. Because of the cable patterns, we advise choosing plain outerwear or something with a very small micropattern to avoid an outfit that’s too busy or confusing to the eye.
In keeping with the Colhay’s ethos of elegance and sophistication, we have chosen classic, muted colourways that are easy to style. They are cream, camel, navy and dark brown. The cream leans toward a vintage white with a slightly creamier hue (rather than stark white) to add to the retro feel.
This particular colourway is most closely aligned with the original, however, we are aware that not everyone enjoys wearing cream and so added the camel, navy and dark brown versions.
Each colour is easy to wear and likely to go well with items you own already, making the sweater perfect for throwing on for autumnal walks or for a casual Sunday brunch.
Have a look at our Cashmere Wool Chalet Cable sweater here.