A Fair Isle Fancy

As with the inevitable changing of the seasons, we – the fashion conscious public – face the inevitable, albeit exciting, changing of our wardrobes. Autumn is upon us, and it is with a sad heart that we must wave goodbye to those great bastions of spring/summer wear, with which we have bravely defied our predictably unreliable weather, and fold them carefully away into dark corners, always with a promise to see them again next year. But have no fear kind reader, for all that we have lost, we have also gained (quite literally).

The A/W season is, as you all know, a time for layers. From thermal underwear to woolly hats, layers are the key to staying warm and staying fashionable. A key trend for A/W is chunky knitwear. Whether it is a jumper or cardigan, some thick knitwear is a great addition to any winter wardrobe, and one style in particular has become very popular with high street stores and premium designers alike. The Fair Isle knit.

The Fair Isle knitting technique is named after the tiny island of Fair Isle, north of Scotland, between the Shetland and Orkney islands. Traditional Fair Isle refers to any colour work knitting using 2 alternating colours and utilises the traditional patterns of the Shetlands. The generic technique however, has expanded, creating more patterns and allowing greater flexibility whilst still retaining the Fair Isle image.

This flexibility has allowed the likes of River Island, Zara and Topman to mix traditional items and techniques with current trends and themes, engaging particularly with the vintage and country inspired styles already being pushed forward for the new season (some Fairisle knitwear would work well within The Urban Bohemia Trend). They have also focused more on using traditional patterns and colours as inspiration, creating much more vibrant pieces, using brighter colours, experimenting with designs and using different fabrics. This has produced something much more modern but still clearly taking cues from the Fair Isle tradition.

Outfit Inspiration

Fair Isle Outfits - Men

On The Gucci A/W 10 Catwalks

Fair Isle Knitwear on the Gucci A/W 10 Runways

Get On Trend

River Island experimented with the Fair Isle knit last season so they have been very quick to embrace this more modern take, by producing items in bright colours and using quirky designs:

  • red fairisle heavy knit jumper
  • yellow fairisle design shawl neck jumper
  • grey skull print cardigan

The offerings from Topman and Zara use rather muted colour tones, but they still make use of newer designs and different materials. Zara in particular have experimented with bolder designs; Fair Isle inspired if you will, whilst Topman have used stayed much closer to traditional patterns and colours, but experimenting with different materials.

  • knit skulls jacket
  • jacquard jersey
  • Black Fairisle Jumper
  • Grey Fairisle Cardigan
  • Navy Fairisle Jumper
  • Charcoal Fairisle Cardigan
  • Grey Fairisle Mitten Gloves
  • Burgundy Fairisle Beanie Hat
  • Multi Fairisle Scarf
  • Norsea Industries Garraby Fair Isle Knit
  • Boxfresh Guano Fairisle Zip Through Hooded Cardigan
  • ASOS Fairisle Collar Jumper

The Fair Isle design has also been picked up by the mid to higher end designers, who – as with the high street stores – have experimented with colours, designs and base items to create a cleaner cut, more wearable item that shakes off the image of that horrible old knitted sweater your Nan gave you at Christmas. The Lou Dalton take on a Fair Isle Tank Top is a great example of traditional clothing given a modern twist, and begs the question; could this be the moment in which the much maligned and stereotyped tank top breaks through into the fashion mainstream? Or will it remain languishing in Stella soaked obscurity?

  • Harzen Grey Cardigan
  • Borden Milk Cardigan
  • Chunky Ecru Cardigan
  • Nonnative Hunter Cardigan
  • Lou Dalton Fairisle Knitted Crewneck Jumper
  • Lou Dalton Fairisle Knit Crewneck Tank Top

Fair Isle knits are a simple and easy way to inject some colour and warmth into any winter wardrobe. Pair it with your rolled up chinos and boat shoes if your feeling really brave, its still a bit too warm for a coat, or the sun has one last crack at a nice day. Or when it’s not so nice, throw it on under your fancy new trench coat (which you should all have if you’re a regular reader) with military boots, a chunky scarf and dark wash jeans to really tap into the Urban Bohemia trend.