‘Jingle My Bells’, I read. It was sprawled across one smug man’s chest as he strolled through Kings Cross this December.
No, I thought. Which was quickly followed by: is there anything worse than a novelty Christmas jumper? Sexual innuendos aside, no one wants to sit opposite an adult rocking a cartoon Rudolf or read the lyrics of your favourite merry hit as they tackle their brussels. Not to mention most slogan sweaters are acrylic and destined to spend years in landfill after a singular offensive outing.
But there is a solution to do the big day in style – a Fair Isle knit. They are suitably festive and come best in a thick wool or cashmere blend, with a sprinkling of geometric colour circling the shoulders. Their name comes from one of the Shetland Islands, and refers to the knitting technique used to produce those recognisable strips of alternating colour.
Edward VIII is their poster boy... the late Royal is famously pictured sporting a charming V-neck version, complete with flat cap and terrier, circa 1921. Notably, no roast turkey puns on that one.
A century later, Fair Isle styles continue their reign over the wardrobes of well-dressed gents. This month alone saw the Scottish sweaters take centre stage on Dior Men’s AW22 runway: they came in earthy browns, lime greens, and in bright oranges, yellows and navy with sequin embellishments and velvet trousers.
While you’ll have to wait until next year for that festive Dior fix, there are plenty of equally chic styles on the shelves. For a designer December, Loewe make them in a thick jacquard knit, all chocolatey browns and beige, finished with snowflake-like shapes. Valentino’s mix a traditional white and grey pattern with leopard print and an embroidered logo, while Japanese house Junya Watanabe’s are timeless in a pebble shade with forest green touches.
If you’re after the more affordable, Sézane’s menswear offering Octobre is the place to start. “Festive Fair Isles are jumpers you can wear all winter long, not only for Christmas,” says a member of their design team. You’ll find their’s holly berry red with block strips of cream and blue, or more muted in flecked grey. “We went for 100 per cent wool jumpers. This way they’ll be warmer and you’ll keep them longer than synthetic fabrics.”
Elsewhere, M&S combine deeper blues with burgundy in their finer lambswool fit, while Gant goes for fun with one both busy and bright. So, whether you want to tone it down, or go boldly into Boxing Day, there is a (slogan-free) pullover perfect for you.
Here is our round-up, ready to rock around the Christmas tree…
Gant, £185, gant.co.uk
7 Moncler Frgmt Hiroshi Fujiwara
7 Moncler Frgmt Hiroshi Fujiwara, £400, matchesfashion.com
Ralph Lauren, £349, ralphlauren.com
Massimo Dutti, £69.95, massimodutti.com
Valentino, £1,950, matchesfashion.com
Octobre, £125, octobre-editions.com
Junya Watanabe, £505, selfridges.com
NN07, £190, mrporter.com
M&S, £45, marksandspencer.com
Loewe, £825, loewe.com