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.
- Nigel Cabourn ($656): Really awesome, chunky cardigan with a nice silhouette, but holy cow is it expensive.
- Inverallan (~$310): Donegal cardigans and shawl collar pullovers for those who want something a little different. Plus, RT from Copenhagen looks so good in his Inverallan knit.
- Inis Meain ($271-800): One of my favorite knitwear brands. The prices are expensive, but the quality is outstanding. You can find their Donegal knits at their site, Frans Boone, Doherty Evans & Stott, and our advertiser The Hanger Project.
- 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.
- Orvis ($179): Orvis’ stuff tends to fit a little full, so you may want to size down. Nice rollneck style for guys who want something unique.
- Paul Smith ($175): A playful mid-blue piece from a British designer known for having fun details.
- Howlin’ by Morrison ($155-200): A nice, slim fitting, youthful line. This season, they have a bunch of Donegals available at Frans Boone, End, Indigo & Cotton, and their own site.
- Club Monaco ($150): Nice cream crewneck. Expensively priced but easier to manage if you’re able to take advantage of the company’s student discount.
- Last Stock ($100-200): For last-stock, clearance stuff, check out the Jack Spade inventory at Gilt and this Italian GRP cardigan at Kafka.
- Norse Projects ($135): I’ve always wanted to try these guys out. Handsome navy piece available at Neighbour, Kapok, and Norse Project’s own store. Note that Kapok has a nice price matching guarantee on everything they sell.
- Universal Works ($123): Speckled knits in a slightly stretchier jersey knit construction.
- Charles Tyrwhitt ($101): I’m unfamiliar with the quality of Charles Tyrwhitt’s sweaters, but the prices are attractive. Just ignore the supposed “sale.” Like Jos. A Bank, Charles Tyrwhitt’s stuff is always on deep discount.
- J. Crew ($88): The brand that’s easy to try out, as they have a store in every city at this point. Just remember to wait for one of their many sales, as there’s basically a new discount code every week.
- Genuine Scottish Knits ($87): No idea about the quality, but this eBay seller has some stuff at attractive prices. You can also try Aran Sweater Market for something similar (both in price and style).
- LL Bean ($55-90): A couple of Donegal offerings in the company’s traditional fitting mainline and slimmer fitting Signature line.
- National Geographic ($77): Wait, what? I don’t know, but they have Donegal knits.