In an age long past, amid the fog-veiled landscapes of the British Isles, emerged a modest article of attire. A garment destined to journey through the ages, captivating the hearts of poets, trendsetters, and nonconformists in equal measure. Behold the tale of the cardigan, a narrative spun from the threads of warmth, sophistication, and playful charm.
In the early 19th century, nestled in the lush, rolling hills of Wales, the cardigan first graced our world. This comfy and cozy creation owes its existence to a fateful encounter between James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan, and the biting winds of the Crimean War. Seeking respite from the cold, the Earl commissioned a woollen waistcoat – a precursor to the modern cardigan – with buttons down the front. Little did he know that this simple request would give birth to a fashion legend.
Soon after the Crimean War, the cardigan gained popularity as a practical and versatile garment. Its woollen fibres warmed the hearts and torsos of men and women alike, while its buttoned front made it easy to slip on and off. This timeless classic began to weave its way into the very fabric of society.
Enter Coco Chanel, the legendary French fashion designer, who in the 1920s, revolutionised women's fashion. Among her many contributions was the popularisation of the cardigan as a key component of the effortlessly chic "Chanel look." Chanel transformed the cardigan from a utilitarian garment to a symbol of elegance and sophistication, adorning them with intricate detailing and pairing them with timeless tweed skirts and jackets.
The cardigan's journey did not end with Chanel. Fast forward to the 1930s, and we find René Lacoste, the French tennis legend turned fashion icon, introducing his iconic crocodile-embroidered cardigan. Sporty, yet refined, Lacoste's cardigan embodied the spirit of the era: embracing the new and the bold, while still paying homage to the classics.
With each passing decade, the cardigan flourished and adapted to the ever-changing tides of fashion. Screen legends such as Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe embraced this modest garment, elevating it to a symbol of grace, refinement, and permeating mainstream culture. During the 1950s, fitted cardigans soared in popularity, transcending the confines of high schools and colleges. The era ushered in a diverse array of styles, with the V-neck, hip-length buttoned cardigan rising to prominence for both men and women. In time, this design would come to be affectionately known as the "boyfriend" cardigan.
The swinging '60s saw the cardigan take on a psychedelic persona, as the likes of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones paired their cardigans with wild patterns and bold colours. No longer was the cardigan a mere layer of warmth; it had become an expression of one's innermost desires and dreams.
The 1980s welcomed the "grandpa chic" era, with cardigans taking centre stage in the wardrobes of fashion-forward folk. Oversized and slouchy, these cardigans were a far cry from the buttoned-up styles of yesteryear, but their essence remained true to the original vision.
In the present day, the cardigan stands proud, a testament to its resilience and charm. Designers such as Chanel, Gucci, and Prada continue to reimagine the cardigan, showcasing its versatility and allure. From chunky knits to sleek silhouettes, the cardigan has never lost its ability to enchant us, despite the many sartorial transformations it has undergone.
Oh, cardigan, how you beguile us with your cozy warmth and timeless style. Your journey from the Welsh hills to the glittering runways of Paris is one of passion and perseverance. Let us raise a toast to the cardigan, that most versatile and lovable of garments. May we continue to find comfort in its embrace, and may it forever hold a treasured place in our closets and our hearts.
Shop our favourite cardigans:
Space-Dyed Long Cardigan Sweater
Brushed Crop Cardigan
The Whitney Sweater
Lovell Cardigan Sweater