The Shaggy Dog Story

Written by Jason Disley
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There are many pieces of knitwear out there, and a whole multitude of styles. One style is an Ivy League staple, and the long-established American outfitter J Press have affectionately called them “Shaggy Dog” sweaters.

So, for those that don’t know, here is why and the history behind this particular garment.

The Shaggy Dog, for those that don’t know, is for people who want to dress as they went to Princeton or Yale in 1962. Called “everyone’s favourite Ivy sweater,” by the Ivy Style website, a few years back, The Shaggy Dog gets its name because the jumper is made of Shetland Wool, and it’s characteristics resemble the hair of a “Shaggy Dog.”

Native Shetland wool has had a protected designation of origin since 2011 and provides uniquely strong and warm characteristics. A classic Shetland crew neck made from this wool will use a medium thickness of yarn and have a gauge of knit that is not overly tight, but not ridiculously loose either, and it has a slightly uneven and coarse look and feel. The wool can be a bit scratchy, but with a warmth and beauty that compensates the brave wearer; and if you wear a smooth-as-silk shirt and underclothes underneath there's no harm done. In fact, that smooth/rough contrast heightens the natural beauty of the wool. You can perch a tie on the neck of the sweater, which looks pretty sharp in an old-school way if you can't abide the thought of going tie-free.

Obviously, Shetlands become the sweater of the season when the temperature drops, simply because they are such a classic and inoffensive style of jumper.

A good Shetland is usually made up of a brushed woollen yarn

The brushing technique used on them, when they are manufactured makes Shetlands even softer, cutting down on the wool’s natural coarse texture, resulting in a fabric that isn’t just easier on the skin but has a nice worn-in quality to it. Brushed Shetlands have become a cornerstone of American style since the mid-twentieth century thanks largely to classic brands like the aforementioned J. Press and their signature Shaggy Dogs, which has become the apt nickname for the texture of these sweaters. When it comes to fit, the early Shetlands – best described as boxy or frumpy – were a far cry from the ones most men like to wear these days. However, that didn’t stop icons like JFK and John Updike from popularising them as a vital piece of any American East Coast inhabitants wardrobe. Today, authentic Shetlands can still be found from labels that use authentic wool from Scotland while updating the cut for a more form-fitting silhouette. When the cold drops, pick yourself up one of these new slimmed-down versions because while you might want to be as warm as a shaggy dog, you don’t want someone comparing you to one.

One big fan of such a sweater is the ever style-conscious Paul Weller, who has long been a fan of the style. So much so he included such sweaters as part of his Real Stars Are Rare label, a few years back and has just recently launched a collaboration with the UK’s leading Ivy Style purveyor John Simons. Paul has chosen vibrant colours for this small collaboration, and once again shows an appreciation for this classic style, and has chosen modern colours to make them both relevant, and cheerful in these uncertain times.

Smart, and practical. A well fitted Shetland always looks good, and if well looked after. You won’t look Shaggy at all.

You can purchase them here:


Read 541 times Last modified on Monday, 21 December 2020 12:34
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Jason Disley

Jason Disley

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