A modern take on heritage knitwear

Our Winter 19/20 range continues to feature heavy-gauge knitwear inspired by the sweaters worn by Ernest Shackleton and his crew over a century ago. Here's why...

Looking back at the black and white images taken by pioneer photographer Frank Hurley during the 1914-17 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, the unforgiving conditions and stark nature of the frozen continent are instantly apparent. Huge snow drifts, savage weather and floating ice sheets that proved far too great to overcome. The stranded crew, against all odds, pulled off a remarkable feat of survival that has gone down as one of the greatest in history.

This was in large part due to the leadership of Ernest Shackleton and his second-in-command Frank Wild, who worked tirelessly to keep morale high when it could have sunk as easily as the Endurance, the boat they arrived on. Spurred on by their leaders' optimism, the crew hunted for food when supplies ran dry, dug camps into the landscape that could withstand the elements, and harboured the belief that one day they would be rescued.

On a more immediate, day-to-day level, they survived because they had the most advanced outdoor clothing of the time, built to endure sub-zero temperatures – Hurley’s photos show the motley crew clad head to toe in thick fur gloves, gabardine cotton jackets, cavalry canvas trousers and chunky wool-knit sweaters.

The latter were of particular importance and to this day inspire several of our knitwear designs. Back then, sweaters were usually made over-sized and then washed and boiled down so that they shrunk to shape. The result was that they not only acted as an insulating layer, but they were incredibly windproof – highly-valuable assets when spending months in Antarctica.

While we may look at these vintage photos and consider the sweaters to be insufficient by today's standards, the technology within the crafting of thick wool jumpers has remained very similar. In our Winter 19/20 range, the Hero and Nimrod sweaters are inspired by these very pieces worn by Shackleton, with a heavy-gauge knit that traps warm air in pockets in the weave, preventing the cold air penetrating from the outside. The big difference today is that this insulation can be achieved with far softer, more luxurious yarns – the Nimrod (above) is a cashmere-lambswool blend; and the Hero (below) crafted from Geelong lambswool.

Both are made in Italy to achieve a finish that is soft to the touch and retain the performance qualities of practicality, durability and warmth.

As the sweaters captured in Hurley’s images were the most advanced pieces for the time, built to stand up to the unruly forces of Antarctica, so too the Hero and Nimrod represent the best-in-class for this time. These sweaters are a modern take on the great heritage sweaters of old; built for survival then, built for survival now. Just with a redefined touch of luxury.

Visit our knitwear range for more information on the Hero and Nimrod sweaters.