From Steve McQueen to Chris Evans, an endless number of people have worn the beloved fisherman sweater. However, the iconic, comfortable garment’s history dates much further back than your favorite celebrities — after all, where’d you think its name came from? While many clothiers do a great job of showcasing their artisanal knitting prowess with pieces like this, its primary purpose is to keep seafarers warm through strenuous days of reeling in a big catch.
Sure, some brands like to play up the stylish aspect, but we’re aiming to deliver a blend of traditional looks and optimized function. The sweater goes by many names, but we’ll delve into that later. Accounting for the garment’s oft-misconstrued origin story, we’ve narrowed down its roots with a brief history lesson, as well as a guide to the eight best fisherman sweaters that the fashion space has to offer.
Aye, Aye, Captain
An International Staple
As we mentioned, the sweater has many different names, but the most traditional label is the Aran sweater. Roughly half a century ago, fishermen in the Aran Islands region of western Ireland needed something to keep warm through frigid boating trips, which is when these iconic pieces came to shape. The breathable sweaters are typically sewn using natural wool, which can absorb up to 30% of their weight in water while still staying warm, ultimately making it a favorite amongst seafarers. All that said, it is still a great piece to consider outside of its functionality, as the typical cable-knit pattern has become one of the most stylish designs in all knitwear.
L.L.Bean Signature Cotton Fisherman Sweater
This option from L.L.Bean is undoubtedly the quintessential pick of all fisherman sweaters, as the brand has been crafting an incredible one dating back for decades. By taking inspiration from the iconic Irish garment’s eye-catching, textured design and implementing its signature touch of outdoor-preparedness, the heritage brand delivers on a long-lasting piece that is cozy as it is timeless. The fully cotton-crafted sweater is available in four colors fit for a stylish fall.
Wellen Seawool Fisherman Sweater
Depending on the size of the boat and outdoor conditions, the average workday on a fishing boat lasts as long as 20 hours. That said, it’s safe to assume most fishermen appreciate the big blue sea, which is why Wellen’s offering is a great, sustainable choice with having on hand. The brand crafts its proprietary Seawool fabric using recycled plastic bottles and oyster shells. Moreover, it boasts temperature-regulating, quick-drying, and antimicrobial properties, deeming it an eco-friendly choice that reduces ocean waste.
Buck Mason Rib Seafarer Sweater
Like anything you buy from Buck Mason, the Rib Seafarer Sweater is a prime example of good menswear. It is sewn from the clothier’s signature blend of cotton and cashmere, resulting in a piece that’s soft to the touch and bound to bode well for three-quarters of the year. Luckily, summer is officially over, so you practically have 9 whole months to style it as you see fit.
Todd Snyder Lambswool Cable Crew
While Todd Snyder is adept at crafting American staples, it takes inspiration from overseas for this traditional (but bright) take on the cable knit sweater. The New York clothier crafts the Lambswool Cable Crew from nothing but buttery soft lambswool, deeming it one of the most luxurious options.
Pendleton Shetland Fisherman’s Sweater
When it comes to this space, it’s hard to overlook Pendleton’s track record, which is why the brand’s enviously soft Shetland Fisherman’s Sweater is a surefire hit amongst all other similar pieces. It is available in a single shade of gray that’s as subtle as it is chic and ready to withstand the unpredictability of fall weather.
Howlin’ Super Cult Slim-Fit Cable Knit Virgin Wool Sweater
In the world of knitwear, Howlin’ is adept at crafting all sorts of premium garments. The Antwerp-bred brand sews its slim-fitting sweater in the heart of Scotland, just like its other stylish pieces. It boasts a virgin wool composition with insulating properties that are embellished with a bevy of patterns, like stylish zig-zags, cables, and intricate ribbing.
Filson Wool Fisherman’s Sweater
This warm, wool-crafted choice from the trusty heritage brand is built to last, but that’s no surprise considering it’s adept at crafting virtually anything. The premium material used to sew this piece hails from Scotland. More importantly, the same cozy textile has kept North Atlantic fishermen comfortable for decades. Thanks to the Scottish wool’s unique insulation capabilities, the colorful sweater stays warm whether it’s dry or wet, so you’ll have nothing to worry about when out at sea.
N Peal 007 Cable Crew Neck Sweater
This collaborative piece is inspired by the sweater Pierce Brosnan’s Bond wore in Goldeneye, proving that cable-knit sweaters can even be appropriate for formal occasions. N Peal’s offering is crafted from nothing but luxurious cashmere and can be dressed up or down. While you might not have the DB5 to match, it still serves as a premium choice for fans of the series.
The 20 Best Men’s Wool Sweaters
Cozy up to a number of other wool-crafted sweaters with our guide to the handsome staple.