Fall Essential – The Fair Isle Sweater

October 17th, 2012

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Fair Isle is a timeless staple in my fall wardrobe. Originally popularized by The Duke of Windsor (aka Edward VIII, aka that dude Guy Pearce played in the movie where Colin Firth stutters a lot) the style has been a mainstay in autumnal fashion for nearly a century.

The term “Fair Isle” refers to a specific knitting technique where symmetrical patterns are created using two or more colors.  The namesake comes from Fair Isle, a tiny island in the Shetlands (Northern Scotland) with a population of only 70.  Originally worn by the peasants there, the pattern became popular after Edward wore Fair Isle tank tops in public during the summer of 1921. Despite his political and public shortcomings, the man sure knew how to dress and is often considered one of the first international male style icons.

Here’s three fair isle sweaters styled for different occasions. I hope you will feel inspired to go out and add some classic Fall patterns to your wardrobe.

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1. Smart Casual

The beauty of fair isle is its versatility. It can be dressed up or down and is a great way to add some color and pattern to a classic Fall wardrobe.

If you’re wearing a fair isle piece, allow it to be the statement of your outfit by avoiding mixing it with other patterns or bold colors. I find it works best with more country-appropriate fabric such as tweed, chambray and denim.

If you’re wearing it with a tie, try one that brings out a subtle color hidden in the sweater.

I love my iPhone but a handwritten notebook is free of distraction and helps me stay more organized.

  • Tortoise shell prescription glasses (w/ clip on shades) by Garrett Leight
  • Brown linen jacket by JCrew
  • Navy fair isle sweater by JCrew
  • Blue chambray shirt by Rag&Bone
  • Green cashmere knit tie by Ralph Lauren
  • Slim washed denim jeans by Polo Ralph Lauren
  • Brown leather belt by Brooks Brothers
  • Monogrammed silver belt buckle by Tiffany & Co
  • Blue hardcover notepad by Forgetful Gentleman
  • Brown suede wingtips by JCrew
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  • Robert

    The Olive-Greeen Barbour is fantastic. Does anyone know which particular model of jacket is being worn? It looks like a “Sapper” but I’m unsure..

  • Francesco

    I love the hat and i’ve seen Dan use it in an earlier post a while back. I’m still waiting for you guys to give credit for this look because its an obvious copy of a look pioneered by Robert Rabensteiner…http://fashionspam.blogspot.com/2012/09/style-profile-robert-rabensteiner_22.html

  • Paul Kim

    Hi Townsend, great looks. Liked the relaxed look 2. As a fellow prep, I like how you update traditional looks by wearing brands that more conventional preps would not wear ie Hugo Boss. The corduroy suit looks great, keep it up!

    Paul

  • JC

    Townsend you are so incredibly handsome! Love that we are seeing more of you in pictures these days :) Keep it up! Love all these looks, especially love that you are rocking that Orvis duffle!

  • TK

    I always wondered what Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” was up to these days! Jk,Nice feature as always boys!However,Townsends boys are right for busting his balls about that hat,it must go!!Same with DT’s Lebron neck beard…

    • http://thestyleblogger.com Dan Trepanier

      Hahaha. That was actually really funny

      • TK

        All in fun as always,I figured you guys could handle a lil ball busting. Esp Ralphiee. Just hope he doesn’t shoot his eye out!

  • Wieczorek

    It’s my first post and I must admit, I love this site. It’s really inspiring, but what hurts me is that you rarely feature some great clothes on low budget that can be bought everywhere. I’m from Poland and things are different here – our money isn’t as strong as dollar and still prices of clothing are calculated in very disadvantageous way. I don’t know how much you earn on average in US but I guess it would be around 3000 dollars a month and affording 300 dollars shoes or 90 dollar shirt won’t empty your wallet so much. Here, we would earn like 3500 or 4000 PLN and for the same shoes pay around 800 or 900 PLN. I hope this lets you understand how painful it is for me to watch all this great pieces and know you can’t afford them. And our second hand and thrift shop really suck, at least in my hometown. So I’m limited to pieces from shops like H&M and Reserved, which really limits my choices. I would really welcome a post about shopping in stores like those I mentioned, global, not very expensive ones, so we outside US can get ideas from this great site as well. And I hate the hat. It wasn’t good on Dan. Townsend wears it a bit more appealing to the eye, but it’s quite feminine. I’d pass it to my girlfriend or mother :)

    • http://www.thestyleblogger.com Townsend

      Hey Wieczorek,

      We have several articles on the site about dressing on a budget. They include lots of pieces from places like H&M and Zara. But a post featuring “cheaper” international retail stores is a great idea! We’ll keep it in mind… Thanks for reading!

  • Elizabeth

    I agree with Aggie. Love the glasses, LOVE the notebook, and especially love look #2 BUT the hat just looks too campy with everything else going on in #3.

    • Elizabeth

      PS. the hat is obviously a conversation starter though. so kudos there.

      • http://thestyleblogger.com Dan Trepanier

        ;)

  • Lothar

    Townsend, I like the J. Crew Fair Isle patterns, but I find J. Crew always cuts them way too generously in the stomach area, and I end up never liking the way they fit. Has anybody at TSB ever used a knit tailor to slim down a sweater, and if so, can you recommend a good one here in New York City?

    • http://www.thestyleblogger.com Townsend

      Hey Lothar,

      They can bit a bit wide in the stomach… Try Frank at the Tailoring Room on Clinton St. The TSB team goes to him for everything, he’s a pro. He can definitely help you out!

      • Lothar

        I’ll ask him. I didn’t realize he did knits.

  • AggieK

    All three of these looks are terrific, with the tiny exception of the silly hat in #3.

  • MrJBeee

    Great post Townsend. That hat though is ballsy! Keep it up!

  • Adyna

    When I saw the new post..what really cached my eyes, was the hat! It`s perfect for both men and women. It`s always a pleasure to see it featured in the post, it fits the style…as for the notebooks…I collect them :)

  • http://jonathansquare.com Jonathan

    Fair isle sweaters are so versatile. I buy a new one every winter. I love fair isle sweaters so much that I consider them part of personal uniform. I wrote blog post about it: http://jonathansquare.com/2012/05/the-personal-uniform/.

  • Noah

    What model of Barbour coat is that? Any tips on where to find a good used one?

    • http://www.thestyleblogger.com Townsend

      It’s the Longstone jacket. And as for used… try your local thrift store, you may be surprised by what you find! If all else fails, go Ebay, but be careful and make sure the seller is legitimate and you’re getting the real thing. Thanks for reading!

    • cam
  • Sean

    The hat makes you guys look like Annie Hall

    • http://www.thestyleblogger.com Townsend

      Haha, you’re not the first person to tell me that… Thanks for reading man!

  • Jake

    Alright, i won’t say that the hat in itself is inherently bad, but in that first picture, it just looks really weird…

    • http://thestyleblogger.com Dan Trepanier

      That’s one of my favorite photos we’ve ever shot for TSB!

      Thanks for reading and sharing Jake.

      Best,
      Dan

  • Roof

    You have featured that floppy hat several times and it has yet to look good on anyone. :(

    • http://www.thestyleblogger.com Townsend

      Hey Roof,

      The floppy hat is DEFINITELY not for everyone… all my buddies give me a hard time about it, haha. But I really love wearing it, I think it compliments the outfit really nicely, and it’s just a really comfortable hat in general… But to each his own! Thanks for reading!

      • Roof

        Still love your blog though, you guys! :)

      • mathieu Lavoie

        I never liked that hat on Dan (sorry man) but on you with that brown corduroy it looks superb! Great post and thanks for expanding my menswear vocabulary, new word of the day:”Fair Isle”

    • http://thestyleblogger.com Dan Trepanier

      People either love it or hate it. From my experience more love it.

      It’s also functional…this look was shot on a day with on/off rain showers.

      Cheers,
      Dan

      • Lothar

        “From my experience more love it.”

        Are you sure? Because I’ve only read comments criticizing it, and even you guys always admit that you catch a lot of shit over it.

        • http://thestyleblogger.com Dan Trepanier

          The Internet can be a cruel place, especially in the menswear space. Guys are usually more likely to comment should they feel strongly opposed to something.

          In person however, reactions are much different.

          I haven’t taken a poll or anything…but I’m an optimist :)

          Everyone has their own opinion, it puts the fun of fashion.

          Thanks for reading.

          • MrJBeee

            Style is objective. Personally if you even attempt something away from the norm you get much props. Keep killin’ em and inspiring Dan!

            • http://thestyleblogger.com Dan Trepanier

              Thx Brotha!

            • Peabody

              It’ssubjective, fool.

  • Anonymous

    as an architect I agree pen and notebook over my ipad for serious work.

  • Sydney

    Townsend you are simply the most adorable guy on the earth. Great looks, especially look 2. Love the laidback vibe!

  • Jonathan Vetiaque

    Everything is brilliant. Its traditional yet sophisticated. The Brown Suede Wingtips by JCrew, and Rabbit Felt Fedora by Stetson hat are the must have accessories of the season.

  • http://soundslikenow.com Brian

    Nice. And I like the “Buy Now” options on the sidebar.

  • Ludwig Pierre

    The Thanksgiving Party Look is uniquely striking & dapper. The corduroy suit is a fall gentleman essential and the tailoring is brilliant. The isle sweater adds a festive touch with the hat adding character and uniqueness. Great Post.