Aran Sweaters are an iconic piece of Irish heritage, recognized and admired for their lasting appeal and durability. However, how did these garments which are now famous across the globe rise to prominence and popularity? We all know where Aran Sweaters originated, the clue is in the name. But what is it which has secured their everlasting appeal and popularity.
The Aran Islands from which the famous sweater gets its name is made up of a cluster of three relatively small islands, Inishmore, Inishmaan and Inisheer, which are situated off the coast of Galway in the West of Ireland. Due to their location, harsh and unpredictable weather conditions have always been a part of island life. These conditions are what led islanders to craft sweaters which were capable of withstanding the tough, challenging climate of life on these islands. In order to do sheep's wool was used due to not only its durability, but also the warmth it provides when faced with the harsh elements of the Aran Islands.
Another characteristic which makes Aran Sweaters stand out from other styles of jumpers and cardigans are the intricate patterns which have made this strand of Irish Knitwear so iconic. These unique patterns were painstakingly crafted, with each carrying its own distinct meaning. The skill and expertise required to create these patterns has no doubt contributed to the lasting appeal of Aran Sweaters. Some patterns symbolize the fields on the islands, while others are intended to bring good fortune to the wearer.
Here at The Donegal Shop, many of our sweaters are made from 100% Merino sheep's wool. This is in keeping with the tradition of using sheep's wool or lambs wool when crafting authentic Aran Sweaters. The reason for this is simple. Wool was readily available to Aran Island residents due to the agricultural nature of the islands. In addition, sheep's wool and Merino wool in particular is water resistant and provided native fisherman with perfect insulation from the elements.
Thankfully, the Irish Government's campaign to promote and sell Irish made goods and products abroad throughout the 1950s saw Irish made clothing such as Aran Sweaters leave the island and enter the public consciousness. This was achieved through a variety of famous faces wearing their Aran Sweaters in public, such as Grace Kelly. Increased public awareness of these sweaters led to an increase in public demand and soon Aran sweaters became popular all around the globe. This has led to many international fashion brands putting their own spin on this unique slice of Irish heritage and history.
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