Whether you’re hitting the slopes or whiling away cold days in your local, a chunky Fair Isle knit is a great way to keep cosy while looking cool.
This super traditional style of knit, native to the tiny Hebridean island of the same name, has gone global this winter, as the likes of Ralph Lauren and Gucci have given it a fashionable revamp.
Designers have woven in eclectic colours and new motifs to make some designs anything but traditional, but of course more familiar geometric patterns are still going strong too.
The cheerful jumpers are a great way to add interest to your usual winter wardrobe staples and add some vibrant colour into your outfits to brighten up the dullest of days. Here's ten of our favourites.
As you might expect, Gucci’s contribution to the Fair Isle trend is colourful, showy, slightly off kilter and anything but traditional. The bold shark motif is lifted straight from Gucci’s recent runway show that featured surreal animal world imagery and a shed load of animal print.
This jumper is for those who are immersed in the fashion world and whose friends will pick up on the catwalk references. For anyone else, the huge £620 bite out your savings (which might stretch to a respectable patch of land on Fair Isle itself) might seem as out there as the design. Some consolation for that hefty price tag comes from the made in Italy label and the luxurious blend of wool and alpaca, with not a thread of artificial fibre in sight.
The signature red white and blue colourway of Moncler’s sweater puts a very French stamp on the traditional highland jumper. It exudes quality and is incredibly soft, being knitted in Italy from wool blended with a touch of alpaca. Not quite as stylistically edgy as the offerings from the likes of Acne or RRL, this ski-inspired sweater will look more at home at high altitude than on Shoreditch high street.
Thankfully its thick construction is ready to keep you warm on the peaks, and will have to do so for at least a couple of ski seasons to justify its £435 price tag.
Acne’s take on the Fair Isle knit treads a fine line between the ridiculous and the sublime, so you know it must be cool. Lilac cuffs border a mesmerising pattern heavy on browns, sky blues and burgundy reds. It doesn’t sound like an obvious colour combination (unless you’re a fan of seventies wallpaper) because it isn’t, but it works, just.
You won’t buy this knit for its quality, as its acrylic blend is similar to cheaper rivals, but worn in the right way it will steal the Fair Isle show among the most fashionable people you know. If you have the confidence in your styling skills, and £280 in your wallet, then this is the jumper for you.
If you want to try on the Fair Isle trend without splashing too much cash, the Topman Nordic Yolk Jumper might be for you. Contrasting canary yellow and black is certainly not a traditional colour combo and might turn some heads walking down the (only) road on Fair Isle. But it’s perfect for catching the eye in a city and at only £35 the bold colour way is a fun way of injecting some vibrancy into your wardrobe.
Just don’t venture too far north as this lightweight knit, made of an acrylic and polyester blend, won’t offer much protection against a Hebridean winter.
From Welsh womenswear brand, Toast, comes a version of the Fair Isle jumper that is all about craftsmanship. Knitted in the UK from 100% wool, this is a rare exception to the usual acrylic blend. It’s knitted in the round, meaning it has no seams down the side, for a neater and more flowing silhouette, plus something a little bit different. The colour, called vintage green, also stands out as a dreamy hue that will look brilliant with denim, slate greys and blacks are safe.
It would look great with your usual uniform of jeans, or more imaginatively, paired with a pleated midi skirt and knee-high boots for a seriously on-trend outfit. The £150 price tag is on the premium side but seems more than justified by this jumper’s serious quality credentials.
While Fair Isle produces an unlimited variety of colours and designs, there is less variety out there in terms of shape. Sea’s version is for the girl who is looking for a more feminine and interesting silhouette while buying into the traditionally boxy Fair Isle look. The loose silhouette looks great over neatly fitted jeans and is a flattering option.
Navy and white is a classic colourway that will sit easily next to this season’s warm, rusty colours. This is not the bold statement that a Fair Isle jumper can be, but a smart choice that will look good with most outfits and last for years to come. The wool blend includes alpaca and mohair, giving it a luxurious feel and some warmth for winter. At £272 it also has a premium price, but if looked after properly, it will be a faithful staple for a long time.
This sweater doesn’t stray too far from tradition, and it isn’t knitted too far from Fair Isle itself, being made in Scotland. Its colours aren’t too bold and the pullover’s 100% Scottish lambswool just about justifies it’s £220 price. Some might say this is a practical, safe or even dull option, but perhaps its beauty lies in its simple, high quality design.
Of all the sweaters here, this is the one that is most likely be worn again and again. Light grey is an infinitely versatile tone, the classic yolk design is so traditional that it will never completely go out of fashion, and its construction from natural fibres in the UK promises hard wearing warmth, winter after winter.
Rachel Antonoff’s clothes are known for juxtaposing effortless, vintage-inspired silhouettes with witty and innovative prints and graphics. And if you look closely, you’ll see a cute dog motif hidden amongst more traditional geometric shapes. While the design is playful and a bit frivolous, the jumper’s materials are not.
It’s composed of 40% alpaca and 25% wool, with the remaining 35% made up of acrylic. The crew neck knit is imported from Peru – famed for its alpacas – is dry clean only. But if you’re spending £293 on a novelty jumper, you’ll want to look after it well.
Beloved of yummy mummies, Boden has an array of rainbow-hued Fair Isle knits on offer to brighten up the dreary school run. The predominantly navy ‘Agnes’ knit has a pop of yellow to add some vibrancy to its classic colour and shape, while zig zag patterns add interest to the sleeves.
The jumper finishes low on the hip for a flattering silhouette and is practical blend of polyamide, cotton, wool and a touch of Alpaca for added softness. But it’s mainly easy to bung in the wash. Also available in grey with rust and pink patterns, it’s an easy-to-wear option for £80.
If you have been looking for that Fair Isle jumper that just looks like erm, a Fair Isle jumper, then you’ll love John Lewis’ lambswool offering. Made from 80% lambswool and 20% nylon, the high quality blend is better than some designer offerings, but costs just £60 – bargain! What’s more for this relatively small outlay you’ll get a jumper that will earn a place in your winter fashion arsenal for years to come, because this is a timeless, functional garment that promises to last for years and keep you warm.
The catch with such a traditional design is that it’s up to you to make it look stylish. Paired with a well cut overcoat and some of this seasons on-trend hiking boots, this jumper could easily be part of a very cool outfit. But wear it over chinos and comfy shoes and you seriously risk being mistaken for your dad on his way to the hardware store.