Donegal Sweaters

We’re on the cusp of sweater weather, and this fall, I’m most looking forward to wearing this grey "Donegal" knit from Inis Meain. I put Donegal in quotes because the sweater wasn’t actually made in Donegal, but rather, it’s reminiscent of the hallmark tweeds that come of that region. Those tweeds have flecks of color, which are allowed to glob onto the yarns in irregular ways. You learn about it in this wonderful video Jesse put together on Molloy & Sons, one of the region’s best mills.  

The nice thing about speckled sweaters is that you can wear them on their own with an oxford cloth shirt or a brushed flannel. I like hardier shirtings in this case because they have a visual weight that feels a bit more at home with such rugged looking knits. By itself, the flecks make the sweater a little more interesting than the smooth, plain-colored merinos you see everywhere else. At the same time, the pattern is also easy to pair with any kind of outerwear. 

This season, it seems everyone is selling a Donegal knit. Here are some you may want to consider, from most to least expensive. 

Over $300

Over $200

  • East Harbour Surplus ($265): A Japanese brand with Italian-made, American-inspired designs. These vintage-y looking cardigans fit really slim, so be sure to size up. 
  • O’Connell’s ($225): My favorite source for Shetlands. Well made stuff that stands up to abuse. Plus, O’Connell’s has a great pedigree that’s hard to beat. 
  • Oliver Spencer ($225): A slightly more interesting look piece. Pair this with more modern looking coats and jackets, and perhaps a slim pair of charcoal trousers.  
  • Epaulet (~$220): A popular brand among menswear enthusiasts. They just released some cabled Donegal sweaters with shawl collars and mocknecks. 
  • Alex Mill ($207): A new label headed by the son of J. Crew’s CEO, Mickey Drexler. Designs tend to be basic, but easy to incorporate into any wardrobe. This black Donegal sweater has a sort of chic look to it. 

Over $100

Under $100

Staying Warm at Home
I recently moved into a new apartment, and like most homes in the Bay Area, the insulation is terrible. Heat leaks through the windows and drafts come in from under the doors. It doesn’t get too cold here in the Bay, but it can get pretty dang chilly.
Rather than run my heating bill up, I often just rely on some simple at-home layering. Wool long johns can be put underneath a pair of pajamas to give some extra warmth, and a wool sweater can be thrown over whatever else I might wear at home. My favorite long johns are by Smartwool, who produces them in both light- and mid-weights (I prefer the latter). You can usually find them on sale at Camp Mor, Sierra Trading Post, or REI. Icebreakers is also pretty nice, though from my experience less warm than Smartwool, and I’ve heard good things about Uniqlo’s Heattech.
For sweaters, cashmere is obviously the warmest, but unless you’re going second-hand, the good stuff can be exorbitantly expensive. Cotton is pretty useless since it doesn’t retain heat all that well. Best, I think, are really thick sweaters made from lambswool or merino, which will have the kind of loft necessary to keep you comfortable. I personally wear a chunky, 6-ply lambswool cardigan from Ovadia and Sons (they’re having a sale right now, but sadly this season’s cardigan is not included). There similar pieces by Scott & Charters, Ben Silver, O’Connell’s, and Inverallan (the last of which Pete recently wrote about). Of course, you don’t have to wear a cardigan. Any style will do, so long as the sweater is thick.
In the mornings, I usually wear a pair of long johns and some pajamas, but once I come home at night, I’m usually in a pair of jeans, some at-home slippers, a button up shirt, and my chunky cardigan. It’s cheaper in the long-run than running the heater, more environmentally friendly, and frankly a good excuse to buy nice clothing.
And for those of us with significant others, sometimes excuses are necessary. 

Staying Warm at Home

I recently moved into a new apartment, and like most homes in the Bay Area, the insulation is terrible. Heat leaks through the windows and drafts come in from under the doors. It doesn’t get too cold here in the Bay, but it can get pretty dang chilly.

Rather than run my heating bill up, I often just rely on some simple at-home layering. Wool long johns can be put underneath a pair of pajamas to give some extra warmth, and a wool sweater can be thrown over whatever else I might wear at home. My favorite long johns are by Smartwool, who produces them in both light- and mid-weights (I prefer the latter). You can usually find them on sale at Camp MorSierra Trading Post, or REI. Icebreakers is also pretty nice, though from my experience less warm than Smartwool, and I’ve heard good things about Uniqlo’s Heattech.

For sweaters, cashmere is obviously the warmest, but unless you’re going second-hand, the good stuff can be exorbitantly expensive. Cotton is pretty useless since it doesn’t retain heat all that well. Best, I think, are really thick sweaters made from lambswool or merino, which will have the kind of loft necessary to keep you comfortable. I personally wear a chunky, 6-ply lambswool cardigan from Ovadia and Sons (they’re having a sale right now, but sadly this season’s cardigan is not included). There similar pieces by Scott & Charters, Ben Silver, O’Connell’s, and Inverallan (the last of which Pete recently wrote about). Of course, you don’t have to wear a cardigan. Any style will do, so long as the sweater is thick.

In the mornings, I usually wear a pair of long johns and some pajamas, but once I come home at night, I’m usually in a pair of jeans, some at-home slippers, a button up shirt, and my chunky cardigan. It’s cheaper in the long-run than running the heater, more environmentally friendly, and frankly a good excuse to buy nice clothing.

And for those of us with significant others, sometimes excuses are necessary.