Shetland Woollen Co. – Made in Scotland
Established in 1923, Shetland Woollen Co. specialise in crafting sweaters and knitwear from authentic local Scottish sources. The factory to this day is located on the small Scottish Shetland Islands, a beautiful tourist hot spot with a small population of around 22,000 located halfway between mainland Scotland & Norway.
Many regard Shetland Woollen Co as the originators of the iconic ‘Shaggy dog’ sweatshirt, long before big American retailers such as Brooks Brothers coined the phrase and popularised the silhouette. With the abundance of sheep located on the islands and biting winds making temperatures feel sub-zero, it is no surprise the islands resorted to producing woollen jumpers with the resources so readily available.
Due to the isolated location of the islands, other resources such as fuel and materials weren’t as easy to get hold of. However, the islands were located along busy trade routes amongst the North Sea. Residents used to this their advantage and began producing woollen jumpers for the passing sailors and seaman in order to barter with them and trade for resources for the islands.
Due to the stocky nature of the Shetland sheep, the woollen jumpers were able to remain fairly thin and lightweight thanks to the unusually fine wool that was yarned. Thanks to the passing trade these islands soon became renowned for woollen Shetland sweaters and became a major export for the area. By the late 19th century the ‘Shaggy dog’ sweatshirt was the layering piece of choice for the many taking the trip up to Scotland, usually to partake in grouse and bird shooting.
Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, a rival family company by the name of Brooks Brothers was on the hunt for new ways to catch the monocled eye of the American elite. The casual wealth of British high society was still the number one cultural influence across the pond, and Brooks Brothers were amongst the main proponents of this style. The brothers were targeting affluent areas where people didn’t care to ‘dress-to-impress’ and simply wanted high quality everyday wear that remained minimal and smart.
By the 1930s, the students at America’s Ivy League colleges (eight elite colleges in north-eastern USA) were looking for just this kind of stuff. Dressing down was the order of the day for those who could afford to — and thanks to that brushed wool (a detail added in the early 20th century to lessen the itch-factor), the Shetland was the ideal thing to help attain that comfortability.
The US audience for the Shetland wool grew with the likes of JFK, Mick Jagger and George Bush all seen sporting the Scottish Island’s creation. Since then, the infamous Shetland Jumper has remained pretty much untouched with the same production methods in place to this day.
The factory has its own sheep farm on the islands where the Shetland wool is sheared. The wool then goes on to be spun into yarn at the Shetland Islands only spinning mill – known as Jamieson’s of Shetland. Finally the woollen sweater is manufactured and triple brushed to give it its super soft unique handle.
That final step is the only slight difference in the development of the garment. This detail was introduced to the production phase in the early 20th century in order to reduce the itchiness that is so common amongst woollen clothing.
Shetland Woollen Co. at Stuarts London
This Autumn/Winter season Stuarts London brings you a range of Shetland Wool Shaggy Crew Knits, perfect for layering in the chilly temperatures looming.