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

Real People: Wearing Short Jackets
If there’s one thing that peeves traditionalists, it’s the trend for short jackets, which has been going strong for over a decade now. The rule of thumb is that a jacket should cover your butt, although this somewhat varies by region. Traditionally cut jackets in Southern Italy will be a little shorter; ones from England will be a bit longer. Personally, I think a better rule to follow is to have your jacket’s hem hit about halfway between your jacket’s collar and the floor, but truthfully speaking, the “cover your butt” guideline - give or take - isn’t a bad one to follow.
If you want a traditional look anyway. If you don’t, then there are short jackets, or what traditionalists like to mock as “bum freezers.” Although I’m not crazy about trends in the “suit and tie” look, I also don’t mind more fashionable cuts in casualwear or streetwear. Take Ben from Richmond, for example. He’s seen above wearing a sport coat from Barena, an Italian brand known for their soft, relaxed style. Their jackets are often made from knitted fabrics instead of wovens. The difference? Knitted textiles are what you find on sweaters (hence “knitwear”) and wovens are what you typically see on shirts and pants. Knitted textiles tend to be stretchier. When used for a sport coat, you get something that wears like a cardigan, especially when it doesn’t have a canvas or chest piece inside (which Barena often goes without). 
With a jacket like this, I think a fashion-forward cut can look great. Even here, where Ben is mixing it with more “traditional” items: the button-down collar shirt is from Kamakura, the quick release belt from Equus, the pants from Oliver Spencer, and the workboots from Viberg. 
Short jackets are also easier to wear with jeans or - as Pete suggested - fatigues. Jeans with sport coats are much harder to pull off than most people give credit for, and it’s very easy to look discombobulated with a dressy half up top and an oddly casual look down bottom. However, with a more fashionably cut jacket - like the ones made by Barena, Engineered Garments, and Oliver Spencer - it’s easier to look a bit more cohesive. Plus, if you’re ever going to turn your collar up on a sport coat, it should be something from one of these brands, where it looks more natural, rather than something you’d pick up from J. Press or Brooks Brothers. 
Is it a classic look? No. Is it something you can wear to traditional offices or weddings? Probably not. But it’s casualwear, and given the right context, this stuff can look pretty great. As evidenced by Ben above, or even our very own Pete, who can be seen here in a pair of jeans and an Engineered Garments jacket. 

Real People: Wearing Short Jackets

If there’s one thing that peeves traditionalists, it’s the trend for short jackets, which has been going strong for over a decade now. The rule of thumb is that a jacket should cover your butt, although this somewhat varies by region. Traditionally cut jackets in Southern Italy will be a little shorter; ones from England will be a bit longer. Personally, I think a better rule to follow is to have your jacket’s hem hit about halfway between your jacket’s collar and the floor, but truthfully speaking, the “cover your butt” guideline - give or take - isn’t a bad one to follow.

If you want a traditional look anyway. If you don’t, then there are short jackets, or what traditionalists like to mock as “bum freezers.” Although I’m not crazy about trends in the “suit and tie” look, I also don’t mind more fashionable cuts in casualwear or streetwear. Take Ben from Richmond, for example. He’s seen above wearing a sport coat from Barena, an Italian brand known for their soft, relaxed style. Their jackets are often made from knitted fabrics instead of wovens. The difference? Knitted textiles are what you find on sweaters (hence “knitwear”) and wovens are what you typically see on shirts and pants. Knitted textiles tend to be stretchier. When used for a sport coat, you get something that wears like a cardigan, especially when it doesn’t have a canvas or chest piece inside (which Barena often goes without). 

With a jacket like this, I think a fashion-forward cut can look great. Even here, where Ben is mixing it with more “traditional” items: the button-down collar shirt is from Kamakura, the quick release belt from Equus, the pants from Oliver Spencer, and the workboots from Viberg

Short jackets are also easier to wear with jeans or - as Pete suggested - fatigues. Jeans with sport coats are much harder to pull off than most people give credit for, and it’s very easy to look discombobulated with a dressy half up top and an oddly casual look down bottom. However, with a more fashionably cut jacket - like the ones made by Barena, Engineered Garments, and Oliver Spencer - it’s easier to look a bit more cohesive. Plus, if you’re ever going to turn your collar up on a sport coat, it should be something from one of these brands, where it looks more natural, rather than something you’d pick up from J. Press or Brooks Brothers

Is it a classic look? No. Is it something you can wear to traditional offices or weddings? Probably not. But it’s casualwear, and given the right context, this stuff can look pretty great. As evidenced by Ben above, or even our very own Pete, who can be seen here in a pair of jeans and an Engineered Garments jacket.