The Aran Jumper or Sweater takes its name from its original home the Aran Islands, which are a group of three islands off the west coast of Ireland. The 1,200 inhabitants of the Islands primarily speak Irish (Gaelic) as well as fluent English.

The Aran Sweater found its name in popular culture in the United States when it was featured in Vogue in the 1950s.  The original sweater was water resistant due to the lanolin (a wax like substance) secreted by the sheep from which the wool used to knit the jumper was taken from.  It was primarily the Islanders wives who knit these jumpers before mass production took place in modern times.

The Aran Jumper or Sweater is distinguished by the unique pattern, which is evident throughout the garment particularly on the chest. Inhabitants of the Islands have been producing local versions of the sweater for several centuries but it is believed that the current knitting pattern was invented in the early 1900s.  This was due to the Islands women thinking beyond their own homes with a view to producing a jumper that would sell.

The commercially available Aran knitted patterns were produced in the 1940s. The jumper’s popularity was added to in the 1960s when the Irish folk group The Clancy Brothers and Tommy Makem made it their trademark. They wore the Aran Jumper on a televised performance for John F Kennedy and they also appeared on the Ed Sullivan show with it.  You can see from the infograph the history and background to the Aran Sweater and its patterns.