2020 Knitwear

The Allure of Argyle

By Leanne Cloudsdale

Jul 13, 2022

The Allure of Argyle


Not solely the preserve of country clubs, the humble argyle jumper has lived many lives.


With argyle, it’s personal. Whether it’s a prissy Duke of Windsor vibe or Carlton Banks in the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, we’ve all got our own opinions on this 17th century design. For the historical nuts, perhaps the purist approach feels most comfortable, mimicking the kilts, plaids and socks of Clan Campbell of Argyll, braving the breezy Scottish Highlands. For others, a love of this iconic intarsia comes with a slice of the '80s – think a windswept Nick Faldo raising a champagne-splashed trophy, or a Saturday afternoon on the terraces with a bunch of football casuals. For me, argyle jumpers are soft woolly reveries of late nights and red-eyed mornings in the early 2000s.

When I moved to London at the end of the '90s, my weekdays were spent hammering out reports on unemployment trends at my civil service 9-to-5 gig in Westminster, but when Friday night rolled around, it was all about pushing into the queue to see Bob Stanley from St. Etienne DJ at the Salmon and Compass on Chapel Market in Islington, or breezing into the Turkish pool halls of N16 at 4am with a bag of kebab-shop chips, pretending to be Steve Davis with the bleeping chorus of antiquated arcade games as the soundtrack.

Forever the tomboy, I’d happened upon some seriously luxe cashmere argyles in the Stables vintage stalls at Camden market in 2001, all of which became part of my off-duty get-up. It was an era marked by cinch-back Levi’s, chunky outdoor trainers, high-tech outerwear (snorkel collar mandatory) and the softest cosy knits.

Weekends felt oddly nostalgic back then. Maybe it was all tied up with my searches for the perfect 1970s brown leather sofa along the Holloway Road, or schlepping over to the Old Kent Road to browse big stupid floor lamps and knackered-looking nesting coffee tables. Christ knows. Clothing-wise, at the time it made total sense to combine a blend of top-notch arctic explorer garb with brightly coloured crew-neck jumpers. Off-duty suburban executive meets Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

Anyway, back to argyle. Thanks to those brainbox weavers and clever ancient clan folk who flipped tartan on its side and sliced it on the bias – bingo – this timeless classic was born. Worn by the aristocracy, loved by hip-hop fans, teamed with chinos or layered-up with a high-class anorak – it can take you places a simple plain-knit never could.

As part of Collection Four, 2020, Drake's have introduced their own made-in-Italy version. A thermally satisfying blend of wool and alpaca, they’ve got three different colour variations to see you through the winter of discontent. And thanks to its superior quality and meticulously refined fit, this reinterpretation of a classic neatly avoids the pitfalls of looking staid or frumpy which can sometimes plague the humble argyle knit, so you won't end up looking like Alan Partridge on his way to a Branston Pickle convention. 


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