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The Argyle Sweater

Originally Posted: September 28, 2010

Ralph DiGennaro

Argyle sweaters faded in and out of popular fashion continuously over the years. (womensargylesweater.com)

Southampton - Arguably one of the most popular and fashionable forms of knitted outerwear, both on the golf course and off, the Argyle sweater is a staple in any man's wardrobe. Curiously enough, the sweater actually began as a basic knitted undershirt or what the Brits like to call a "jumper." Initially knit with fine gauge wools, some clever manufacturers began using thicker yarns so that the garment could actually be worn as outerwear, which many men did, especially for exercising and outdoor sports like rugby and soccer.

Before long, sports clothing manufacturers, particularly in America, began adding colored yarns to their knitting machines and the colored sweater was born. With the invention of intarsia knitting - a technique whereby patterns could be created by using multiple colors - patterned sweaters became an essential part of the male outerwear wardrobe. And one of the most popular and fashionable forms of knitted outerwear early on, particularly on the golf course, was the Argyle sweater.

The name is an adulterated version of Argyll, which was a branch of the Campbell clan in Scotland and the particular tartan plaid that represented their family. Today, any multi-colored, knitted diamond pattern intermixed with an overplaid is called an Argyle. Long a favored pattern with hosiery manufacturers, the idea of using Argyle as a pattern for sweater design is relatively new.

Dating back to the early 1930s Argyle sweaters were the garments of choice for playing the links courses among British nobles, who favored the pattern for their knee length hosiery under plus-fours as well as for sweaters and vests. Soon, the Argyle sweater became popular with men stateside who never picked up a putter in their lives. It was a look, and a handsome one at that.

Argyle sweaters faded in and out of popular fashion continuously over the years, though they remain a perennial classic in any sportswear collection, especially for men. The most modern looking variations focus on more conservative, deeper tones particularly for fall, and the best versions are fully-fashioned (constructed in a continual knit rather than pieced together) and made of fine merino wool, pure cotton or even cashmere.

And while American men (and women) may have embraced the classic Argyle sweater as their own, there is no denying that it looks great on everyone, no matter their country of origin. Even Scots.

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