With a rich heritage steeped in old-world design and craftsmanship, the holiday sweater is an American tradition as iconic as apple pie. Since its rise to popularity in the 1920s, this notable piece of knitwear has become one of the defining symbols of the season, and is easily recognizable by its bold mix of colors and unique seasonal patterns. Each year, we welcome the return of this signature sweater with nostalgia, thanks to a vintage style that conjures images of Norman Rockwell paintings and holiday seasons past.
Decorated with Nordic-inspired designs of pine trees, reindeer and snowflakes, the holiday sweater is knit using a method known as intarsia, a technique used to create intricate patterns with multiple colors. Intarsia originally came about as a form of wood inlaying developed during the Renaissance. Over time, the process was adapted for knitwear by early craftspeople, allowing for more elaborate sweater designs.
Modern versions of the holiday sweater come in a variety of styles, design combinations and luxurious fabrics, such as cashmere, that make it suitable for a casual weekend or, layered with shirt and tie, for a holiday party. From chunky Shetland wool versions to a slim-fitting cashmere Fair Isle, it’s a sweater that continues to adapt while staying rooted in tradition—a true icon of style and a Ralph Lauren classic.