Knitwear is a huge interest of mine. I’ve been collecting vintage pieces for about 5 years now, starting out with the likes of the British Gabicci of the 70s and 80s. As with most interests of mine, I started to look into where the influences and root style of these pieces came from. I found myself landed in mid-century America. Labels such as Baron Dino, Leonardo Strassi and Gino Paoli, produced knitwear for the U.S. market with the manfucaturing predominantly in Italy. Since then, it has prompted me to spread my collection and interest for these woollen wonders onto a website (www.styleandclassics.com) where I sell and curate these pieces.
Another knitwear faction I’m interested in is the role varsity or college knitwear played in the U.S. These pieces are some what harder to source as these pieces can date as far back as the 1890s. Meaning they are dearer and inevitably harder to find due to the moths being able to get to them for some several decades longer.
As I said, the Varsity/Letterman sweater has been traced back to 1891. From what I could find out it was made by the Hardvard University for the football team; it was white in colour with a rather large crimson ‘H’ centred on the chest.
These sweaters were the predecessors to the iconic letter jackets (which appeared in the 30s), with both still being worn today. Another detail that came about was the introduction of stripes or bands being woven or sewn onto one sleeve. This designated the number of years of accomplishment of the individual in the respective sports team they played for. For example, a player who made varsity for four years would have a letter and four sleeve stripes. Now it would depend which region you were hailing from, but some colleges would use chevrons as an alternative.
These sweaters have inspired me lately to start working with a knitter, who has agreed to knit me my very own varsity sweater. I plan to work off a vintage piece I have of my own, making necessary alterations and incorporating different details for the label I run.
A simplistic shawl neck sweater with a single band denoting my first year in the collection will be produced in the next couple of days, all made by hand, in London and out of 100% wool. These will be available online shortly at : www.scottfrasercollection.com