Product Review: Wool Cashmere Aran Sweater From Aran Sweater Market
Good reviews are fun to write. It’s basically the typed equivalent of someone complimenting what you’re wearing and then you gushing about the item in question. Also, know that I don’t review anything that I haven’t thoroughly put through its paces.
Today, that item is the wool and cashmere Aran sweater from Aran Sweater Market located on the Aran Islands off the coast of county Galway, Ireland.
For those uninitiated few who aren’t familiar with what an Aran sweater is, just think of the nicest cable-knit sweater you’ve ever seen. That’s what I am talking about. It can take many different forms, but the most recognizable is thick, made of wool, knit by hand, usually white or cream colored, and comprised of various types of stitches. Mine has a splash of cashmere for some extra luxury.
There are some varying stories about the origins of the different stitches. They were used for identifying the bodies of fisherman. They carried religious and spiritual significance. They were thought to bring good luck in fishing and farming. I’m not sure which, if any, are actually true. It doesn’t matter. They are all fun to think about and lend a certain twinkle of whimsy to the wearing of the actual garment. From a practical stand point, the sweaters are handsome and hardwearing so it’s no wonder the style has lasted as long as it has.
In early 2021 my wife gifted me a tweed sport coat from Aran Sweater Market (which I will review at a later date). In the same purchase she picked up a couple sweaters for our sons. Holy moly, I thought! They were beautiful. Thick, soft and absolutely luxurious. I went online, poked around their website for a bit and, out of hundreds of options of styles and colors, pulled the trigger on the wool and cashmere crewneck sweater in the “oatmeal” color. It was about $100 on sale.
I placed my order on a Monday night and I think I received my package on Thursday. Shipped from Ireland. You can’t ask for much better than that.
As soon as I picked it up, I could tell this sweater was a completely different animal from the, lack of a better word, imitation Aran sweaters I was used to (looking at you, L.L. Bean). I slipped it on over just a t-shirt and was amazed at how soft it was. Not scratchy at all. The oatmeal colorway is terrific. It’s somewhere between white and tan and has little flecks of brown and yellow. The best word I can think of to describe the color is “natural”.
I went with a medium and it fits like it was made for me. Some of the reviews I read mentioned how the sweaters run a bit large and I definitely agree. I am 6 feet tall and about 190 lbs and usually wear a large in just about everything, but the medium was spot on in the body and arm lengths.
Fast forward almost a year and I wear this sweater at every opportunity. I have also included it previously in my Perfect Fall Capsule Wardrobe article. Because it’s so soft, it isn’t limited to needing to be worn over a long-sleeved or collared shirt, which is a major downfall of other lesser-quality sweaters. I was bummed when the summer hit last year because it meant my Aran sweater had to go away for a few months. But as soon I felt that chill in the air around October, out it came, to my delight.
Styling it is also a no-brainer. It can easily replace any sweatshirt in your rotation and can be paired with jeans, chinos, or cords. Since it’s a bulkier item, I probably wouldn’t pair it with smarter trousers like worsted wool. You could definitely do a heavier tweed trouser but that’s as formal as I would go. This sweater is perfect for looking “nice casual”, as my mother would say. Wear it on a casual Friday at the office (provided you still physically go into an office) or wear it to lunch on the weekends with the family. I frequently layer it under my coat while walking the dog or playing outside with the kids. When you look back on the photos your wife inevitably snaps of those occasions you’ll think “Damn, I look good.” And don’t for a second think it looks stodgy, because it doesn’t. You’ll stand out in a good way from the other dads in their Monster Energy Drink hoodies.
Even though this sweater is amazing and I love wearing it, I would like to dispel a myth regarding sweaters like these. Unfortunately, they do not cut the wind very well. That’s usually a purported benefit, but I find it’s not the case. It’s because by the nature of the sweater’s design, it has holes in it (the space between the stitches) especially at the points that get a little stretched, like the shoulders. If you’re not wearing a long-sleeved shirt underneath you will feel the wind go through the sweater. The sweater does regulate your temperature so that you can wear it all day long, indoors and out, however. It WILL keep you warm but if it’s very windy out it’s best to toss a jacket over the top. If you’re looking for a sweater that will STOP the wind then go for a more densely woven design or something lined. Or just wear a coat.
Like I said, I love that I can wear this sweater all day even if the temperature fluctuates. The sweater is warm but not so hot that I feel uncomfortable indoors. I run hot and I am still perfectly comfortable wearing this inside. I also like that the color is a bit marled so that any stains or spills don’t readily show. The only downside is that my toddler likes to stick his fingers between the stitches when I am holding him. I unlink his little chubby digits and he chuckles at me.
Also, I haven’t washed it yet. Obviously, I would never put it in the washing machine and dryer, but I have also never brought it to the dry cleaners. You don’t have to wash clothes as often as you think you do, and this sweater is no different. I usually wear the sweater over a long-sleeve shirt so it hardly ever touches my skin. If I’m wearing it for a long time, I fold it over a hangar and let it breathe overnight and it’s ready to go again.
As far as the company, Aran Sweater Market has about a million stellar reviews. Their website is sprinkled with colorful descriptions of the Aran Islands, Ireland in general, and how when you purchase an Aran sweater you are helping keep an ancient tradition alive. I know that there is probably some exaggeration or embellishment going on but I am ok with that. It’s fun to think our clothes have deeper connections and meanings. It is very tempting to buy ALL THE SWEATERS from them and I have to consciously stop myself. Suffice to say, I have nothing but good things to say about Aran Sweater Market.
It’s a common refrain of mine, but I believe we should intentionally take pleasure in the things we wear. We all have to get dressed every day, so shouldn’t it be a bright point of what would be an otherwise humdrum routine? I have spent a lot of time in Ireland and wearing this sweater elicits many fond memories. The head of the museum I worked at in Dublin once told me that “Darby O’Gill and the Little People” had the most accurate portrayal of how Irish people spoke out of any movie ever made, a claim to which our colleagues cast dubious glances. Wearing this sweater brings me back to moments like those.
As my surname suggests, my family came from Ireland. My great-grandfather came from Galway and became a police officer on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. “The Angel of Chrystie Street”, they called him. Who knows if that’s actually true? And I know that much marketing (especially in places like Ireland) capitalizes on selling an idealized version of a place to which many claim a connection but don’t actually know much about. I’ve been in marketing a long time and I understand the game. But it works. And there is nothing wrong with that. There are people who want you to think that their clothing choices have nothing to do with emotion. All utility. You know who those people are? Insufferable people, that’s who. It’s ok to get caught up in a little bit of the romance, otherwise the world is a pretty boring place.
I like having something I know will be with me forever. Something well made. Something that will never go out of style. A true staple. Something my kids will fight over when I’m dead.
So if you want a handsome, sturdy piece, go check out Aran Sweater Market. I’ve had nothing but good experiences with them and I am fairly certain you will too.