“I think one of the reasons I’m popular again is because I’m wearing a tie. You have to be different.”
- Tony Bennett
Many moons ago when I was an idiotic conformist teenager impressionable young woman, I decided I needed the Latest Thing, which, a few weeks after the Frye Boots craze came and went and a few weeks before we all required pukka-shell chokers*, was an Icelandic sweater**. Suddenly the athletic blonde trend-setting girls were wearing these cozy-but-cool pullovers, with the body knitted in pale blue or pink, and the yoke pattern usually involving white and pink or blue, depending on the body colour. I’m not sure who knitted these sweaters, but I was desperate for a blue one with a white and pink yoke.
My birthday was not far off. I pined and hankered and pestered my mother, thinking she might just pull an Icelandic sweater out of her knitting basket at my request. Finally my birthday arrived, and there, on the breakfast table, was a sweater-sized present. I took my time opening it, savouring the moment when the blue sweater with the pink and white yoke – a guarantee of personal happiness and total acceptance by my peers – would be mine. I pulled away the last piece of tissue, and there it was: My very own hand-knit Icelandic sweater.
It was brown.
And the neck was too tight.
And the yoke was a darker brown.
And it was brown.
I thanked Mum for it and wore it around the house a few times, and then I put it away in the back of my closet.
In the thirty years since, I’ve felt ashamed enough about the brown sweater that I’ve kept it, packing and moving it as many times as necessary, but always it’s stayed at the back of the closet, forgotten and sitting in a pile of guilt.
Sick to death of the sweaters I’ve been wearing non-stop during this long winter, I recently emptied my closet. When I reached to the very back, there was the brown Icelandic sweater. I pulled it out for a better look. It wasn’t simply brown; the lopi yarn had a chestnut sheen to it, and the yoke was a carefully chosen blend of a deeper shade of chestnut and off-white stitching. I pulled it on and it fit perfectly.
And the neck is just right.
And it’s the warmest sweater I own.
And unlike any other Icelandic sweater I’ve ever seen, it’s brown.
I’ve been wearing it ever since – it’s my new favourite sweater.
Thanks, Mum. This time I mean it.
*The irony of Frye Boots and pukka shells was lost on us Eastern Canadian city kids, few of whom had been anywhere near a ranch, where such a boot as a Frye might have its uses; or Hawaii, where pukka necklaces originated to ensure safe voyage by sea.
**Given our cold winters, Icelandic sweaters actually did make good sartorial sense. But mostly they were cool.