10 Common Projects Achilles Sneaker Alternatives (For All Budgets)October 11, 2023
Inherently Wearable Menswear Essentials: Trunk Clothiers Autumn Winter 2023October 18, 2023
The cable knit, often called an ‘Aran’ after the Irish islands in Galway Bay where it is thought to have originated, is one of those pieces of knitwear that seems to have been around as long as we can collectively remember.
Characterised by the cable-like weaves running vertically down the jumper, the myth goes that 17th- and 18th-century clans of Aran knitted specific cable patterns in order to better identify their fallen men. It wasn’t until the late 1950s that it took off as a fashion item, when Zimmermann had a version featured in the pages of Vogue.
Before that, it was a strictly utilitarian garment, designed to keep fishermen warm at sea in the depths of the Irish winters. Those early styles were constructed with sleeves cropped at the wrist so as to not get caught up in nets and fishing gear.
It’s also thought that the different knitting patterns that made up the vertical panels were symbolic: the honeycomb weave represents hard work and diligence, while the cable itself represents the fishermen’s nets, and thus was woven for good luck in the hope of hauling up a sizeable catch.
Today, it’s very much a style garment, with increasingly intricate cable patterns denoting a level of luxury and weaving finesse. It blends heritage and utility with a timeless sense of style. There have been some iconic cinematic moments featuring the cable knit too, not least Steve McQueen’s elaborate Aran knit in The Thomas Crown Affair, and Chris Evan’s contemporary version in Knives Out.
As a winter layer, it’s practically unrivalled when it comes to its ability to add texture to a look, and is available in both slim-fit lightweight styles as well as chunkier versions designed to be worn as outerwear.
The classic cream tone is the most popular, probably because it affords the weave greater definition than a darker wool, but also because the original Arans would have come undyed, hence the natural tone.
First and foremost, your number one consideration when choosing a cable knit is the weave itself, because they are extremely diverse. Some are far more complex than others, combining any number of different weaves to create a piece of knitwear that is very much in the style of some of the heritage jumpers.
Some contemporary brands will blow up the cable patterns so they are oversized, which can be a bold statement. Others might just stick to single cables, which has the effect of looking like stripes from afar.
Typically, complex knits give off a vintage vibe and are therefore a little less versatile if you are thinking of assimilating one into a modern wardrobe.
As with any knit, the weight of the wool will largely determine how you’re going to wear it. The cable knit is traditionally worn like a piece of outerwear so more often than not you will find it constructed from heavy-gauge wool that is warm and protective.
That said, you can also find plenty of lightweight options that would be perfect for layering under a jacket or blouson, without adding too much bulk.
Collar and Colour
By far the most popular colour for Aran jumpers is natural undyed wool, with navy coming in second. The natural tone allows the detail of the knit to stand out better, while navy styles look that little bit smarter and give you the option of injecting some texture into your sartorial fits.
Tan tones, nudes and neutrals are similarly popular, but luxury brands are increasingly adopting a much more vibrant palette in their execution of this classic knit, with the likes of AMI Paris releasing a bold purple tone.
Virtually all of the Aran knits you’ll find will be crafted with a classic crew-neck ringer, but you can also find turtleneck options, as well as cardigans.
The Best Cable Knits Brands For Men
Polo Ralph Lauren
The American icon of preppy menswear has always done the classics well so it should come as no surprise that Ralph Lauren’s cable knits are top drawer.
The Polo collection features a pretty vast array of cable knit styles, from lightweight half-zip jumpers perfect for layering over a shirt to beautiful wool-blend and wool-cashmere crew necks and roll necks to add that touch of class to your casualwear.
Although no longer at the helm of his eponymous brand, the American designer left his namesake in great hands: Ermenegildo Zegna. If there’s anyone you’d want to look after your knitwear it’s Zegna, which is one of the world’s best luxury wool mills.
Ford’s cable knits are typically constructed from a special wool blend – in this season’s case, the brand has produced a roll neck style in baby yak wool for a sumptuous textural handle.
Established in 1953, Agnona is one of Italy’s best-kept secrets. It started life as a luxury mill in Bielle, the Mecca of Italian wool, supplying the world’s finest brands, before launching its own first collection in 1972. Since then it has flown under the global radar, known only to discerning in-the-know types.
Its knitwear is some of the best you’ll find, incorporating fine fabrics such as cashmere, silk and alpaca (the founder was renowned for wearing a white alpaca coat year-round). This season’s cable knits are sublime, with two tones of crew necks woven in cashmere and silk as well as two cable knit turtlenecks in 100% cashmere mouliné.
Quality and exclusivity don’t come cheap so make sure you’ve got adequate moth protection.
The poster boy for quiet luxury, Brunello Cucinelli has long been a go-to brand for those looking for super-high-quality menswear. Handmade in Solomeo, Italy, Cucinelli’s knitwear is one of the highlights of every autumn/winter collection, with the Italian being renowned for his use of peerless wools.
The aesthetic is modern classicism, so cable knits are almost always a feature, and this season the designer has gone big with a cashmere roll neck featuring oversized cables. Eye-watering prices, but if you shop at Cucinelli, you don’t even look at the tags.
Conceived in Pasadena, California and made in Italy, Ghiaia Cashmere is a relative newcomer on the menswear scene but has already achieved a good deal of recognition for its impeccable knitwear.
The vibe is very classic, with a preppy twist, so you can expect lots of lightweight crew-neck cable knits in wool and cashmere, as well as delightful cable knit polo shirts in both short- and long-sleeve iterations. They slide seamlessly into a sartorially leaning wardrobe, or work as a classic contrast in more modern preppy looks.
Founded in 1860, the British heritage label Sunspel is probably best known for its cotton piqué polo shirts, but you’d be a fool to sleep on its knitwear offering. It applies the same precise attention to detail across its lambswool, cashmere and merino wool knits, and this season has produced a beautifully traditional cable knit crew-neck jumper in soft merino wool.
Available in both navy and ecru options, it would make a stunning addition to smart off-duty weekend wardrobes.
Johnstons of Elgin
Founded in 1797 at Newmill Elgin on the banks of the River Lossie in Scotland, Johnstons of Elgin remains one of the finest producers of men’s knitwear in the world, and is still the UK’s largest producer of fine wool and cashmere fabrics.
As well as being an outstanding mill, its own brand crafts stunning knitwear, including some exemplary cable knit crew necks and quarter-zips in 100% cashmere.
Heritage and provenance are everything when it comes to investing in the classics, so where better to go to get your Aran knit than the Aran Islands themselves? You needn’t make the trek out there because one brand has gone global thanks to its high-quality yarns: Inis Meáin.
Named after one of the three Aran Islands that lie 30 miles off the western shore of Ireland, Inis Meáin Knitting Company was founded in 1976 and only produces very small runs of exemplary knitwear each season.
Its Aran sweaters are obviously top-drawer, crafted in a cashmere and merino blend for an incredibly soft and warm finish.
Pringle of Scotland
Holder of Royal Warrants, Pringle of Scotland is perhaps the only Scottish knitwear specialist that took the leap to become a genuine fashion brand.
It’s still faithful to its heritage, but it creates menswear garments with a contemporary edge. The company’s cable-knit garments are beautifully constructed in superior fabrics – its crew neck styles come in cashmere while it also produces a stunning cable-knit cardigan in a superfine wool.
Colhay’s is one of those industry secrets that is just getting out to a wider audience (weirdly, it’s quite well-known in Japan). The knitwear specialist is based in the town of Hawick in the Scottish Borders, which has been renowned for its knitting ever since the 18th century.
It has been white-labelling garments for some of the best luxury brands in the world but is now producing its own line of knitwear which is truly exceptional. Its cable knits are woven using a 4-ply cashmere and merino wool blend in a mid-heavyweight yarn, making it extremely soft and comfortable.
The cable weave has been inspired by the styles worn by skiers back in the day, with the wide cables looking like ski tracks in the snow. Find us a better apres-ski layer.