Fall’s Fair Isle Sweaters feat. Towni

October 17th, 2012

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.

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

2. Weekend Trip

Though fair isle sweaters are usually considered a dressier addition to an outfit, they don’t always have to be.  They are great to dress down, as they give a bit of color to a fairly simple and casual outfit.

This is a look I wore recently traveling upstate to go hunting. These are all incredibly comfortable pieces, ideal for sitting in a car for a couple of hours.

A “shacket” (as previously featured here) is perfect for those sneaky warm days in Fall.

Invest in a good rugged duffle bag. I’ve had this baby from Orvis for a couple years now and I can’t imagine traveling without it. It’s small enough to qualify as a carry-on but large enough to fit a week’s worth of clothes.

It’s also sturdy as hell, so I don’t have to baby it or think twice about slinging it into the back of a dirty pickup truck.


Pima Corduroy Trouser in Chestnut

  • Green trucker hat (vintage – from traveling) ·
  • Aviator shades by Randolph Engineering ·
  • Blue “shacket” (vintage) ·
  • Grey fair isle crew-neck sweater by JCrew ·
  • Watch by Orvis ·
  • Green needlepoint belt by Smathers & Branson ·
  • Leather boots by Lands End ·
  • Green duffle by Orvis
  • · Brown corduroys by JCrew

3. New England Tailoring

When pairing a fair isle sweater with a tailored jacket, a vest is a great option to keep things comfortable and less bulky.

Even though my boys sometimes give me shit, I love this hat (Dan gets it too). If you feel good in a piece and enjoy wearing it, rock it with confidence.

A suit, felt hat and sweater vest are typically considered formal elements to a man’s wardrobe.

These pieces, however, lean more casual because of their fabrics, design details and styling.

The little things matter – I love how the sweater accents the color of the jacket buttons.

Speaking of super versatile, as you may already know, I’m a huge fan of Barbour jackets.

If you take care of one, and get it re-waxed every other year or so, it will last you decades.  It’s a great “investment” piece, and you can throw it over a suit should you feel some rain on the way.

Store a nice pair of shoes at the office, that way when it rains or snows you can commute in comfortable boots and change at work.

No more worrying about ruining your expensive lace-ups.


Chestnut Corduroy Suit

White USA Oxford Shirt

Thanks for reading.

Stay Classy,



Photography by Alex Crawford