The History Of The Sweater

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what is a sweater

The sweater is a piece of garment that covers the torso and arms. There are various options of different styles and cuts of sweaters; some sweater models cover the neck of the wearer, some are designed with buttons like a waistcoat, some are made with zip neck or designed with zip from top to bottom, and some models are made with a polo neck or v-neck. 

In addition to different models, sweaters are made from different materials in order to be worn in different seasons. They can be made from wool, cashmere, vicuna, cotton, silk, or a blend of these materials. Furthermore, sweaters can be woven thick or thin in terms of the weather conditions and regions where they are worn.


The sweater itself has a unique background in its origins like other specific garments. According to records, the history of hand-knitting garments dates back two thousand years. However, the first knitted sweater was made in the 15th century in the islands of Guernsey and Jersey which are parts of the English Channel Islands, located between the northwest of France and Britain. At that time, the first version of the sweater was called Guernsey by the majority of people, but the English called it Jersey. 

First sweaters, Guernseys, were knitted by hand by the wives of fishermen who were living on the islands of Guernsey and Jersey. They used to knit sweaters from knit wool in order to make them structured and they were hard-wearing and thick as these sweaters had to protect fishermen from the external elements of the oceans and tough weather conditions. In addition to these, Guernseys were knitted to cover some part of the neck and traditionally, were woven in dark navy color. 

With the development of trade, Guernseys arrived to British Isles and the coastal regions of the North Sea. People who were living there adopted these sweaters and called them Gansey, instead of Guernsey. Later on, the popularity of Guernseys expanded across European countries and they became high in demand especially in the labor class due to its durability and thickness.

In the following decades, the sweater was worn by cyclists, players of polo and cricket, and golfers. Indeed, it became a piece of garment worn during leisure activities and this led sweaters to be integrated into country side wardrobes. 

Until the 19th century, sweaters had not been worn by English gentlemen yet. However, the structure of the Guernsey led Lord Nelson to recommend it to the army ministry due to its durability. This paved the way for the Royal Navy of Britain to adopt Guernseys, and then, these sweaters became one of the most important piece of garments of mariners.

By the 1890’s, Guernseys arrived to the United States and were worn by athletes before and after the athletic contests, and Guernsey was first called sweater by the Americans.

Last but not least, there are some specific sweater models which have their own history such as the Aran Sweater and the Scottish Shetlands. It is good to cover each of them in a separate article as it is useful to learn specific details about each model. 

If you have any sweater history you want to know, you can leave a message and tell us, I will write an article to introduce them。

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