The fair isle sweater is back

02:06, May 25 2011
Fashion 1
Runaway hit: Fair isle style on the runway at Dolce & Gabbana.
Fashion 2
Runaway hit: Fair isle style on the runway at Charlotte Ronson.
Fashion 3
Animalia: Raccoon beanie, $14.99, from The Warehouse.
Fashion 4
Frocked: Garage fair-isle dress, $44.99, from The Warehouse
Fashion 5
Mono isle: Country Road fair isle women's knit, $99
Fashion 6
Snug: Julian Danger Alpine Spirit Jacket $350
Fashion 7
Oh deer: Stag ring, $9.99, from The Warehouse
Fashion 8
Wraparound: Icebreaker Crystal merino scarf, $99.95.

There's something cosy and familiar about fair isle knits and sweaters. They conjure visions of 80s apres ski, Scandinavia and snowflakes, eating cheese fondue and lounging in front of a lodge fire after a day's skiing with a glass of mulled wine in hand.

Well, the 80s is as far as my memory stretches but back in the 1950s and 60s fair isle knitwear was identified with skiing, Scandinavia and snowflakes, and the emblem of the sporting good life.

The multi-coloured geometric design actually hails from one of the Scottish Shetland Isles where it originated - Fair Isle. And, golf, not skiing is what originally popularised the Scottish knit, though only because of who was wearing it.

During the 1920s the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII who later abdicated to marry Wallis Simpson) popularised the fair isle sweater when he wore it playing golf. At the time the average young American man was "more interested in the clothes of the Princes of Wales than in the clothes of any other individual on earth" according to Men's Wear magazine (1924).

Italian designer label Dolce & Gabbana is partly responsible for the current craze for fair isle after including it in its winter 2010-11 collection. The trend has been picked up by high-street stores. Even home stores have jumped on it. Wallace Cotton's Aspen throw may not technically be a garment but it will add cachet to your look on the couch, as well as keep you snuggly and warm.

Accessorise the look with faux-fur accessories or shearling boots, and you won't fail to impress. It is, however, best left for the weekend or after a day on the slopes.

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