Green sweaters and patchwork flannel hats. Think kiss me I’m Irish” T-shirts, ball caps with harps or shamrocks on them, green gloves or stockings… you get the idea. Not! We’re talking about clothing that any self-respecting, traditionalist Irishman —- in America for the short-term —- would seek out and wear as evidence of his cultural pride. Good, solid clothing. Reliable clothing. Clothing with not just a past but a history.
The problem with this objective is this: Historians know little about the very early Irish clothing. The Celts of early Ireland had no written word, so everything learned of their early clothing was from the records of the words or Greek and Roman writers. In early Ireland, your clothing identified not only your clan but also your rank in society.
What about a kilt?
In general, the Scots were the kilt wearers, not the Irish! While there’s a perception that the Irish wore kilts, most likely what people considered a kilt was actually a leine gathered at the waist by a belt.
Oops, we took the road less traveled by with that one!
Let’s approach this from another perspective. Like many agricultural cultures, the Irish are known for a casual , affordable and very practical form of sartorial elegance. In other words, in a country of mostly farmland, chilliness and rain, a couple of set pieces have emerged which fit these conditions perfectly. Whether they be sweaters, tweed hats or sportscoats, oiled leather outerwear or brogues, the Irish have developed and focused upon certain items clothing that are second to none in the world.
For an Irish Gentlemen living in Maryland, here are four essentials for the wardrobe closet:
- Linen Driving Caps
Men in Ireland are often seen wearing linen driving caps. Europeans have been fond of linen driving caps for centuries. The patterns and colors of these hats vary greatly by their design but are most often found in neutral colors. Patchwork is also a popular look for these caps, although other more respectable and somber designs are more appropriate for some settings. However they look, a quality linen driving cap should be cool and not stifle the wearer.
- Aran Sweaters
Aran sweaters are a historical part of Irish culture. Clan Arans used to be very popular. Each family clan had its own unique stitching or pattern that was used in their sweaters. These sweaters were hand knit with careful attentiveness. Museums in Ireland have the different clan patterns registered and well-documented. Even today Aran sweaters remain a popular staple of the Irish wardrobe.
- Tweed Jackets
Tweed is another fabric traditionally noted in Irish culture. In the past, looms were used to create the tweed fabrics, and these methods are still used in modern times to make high quality tweed. Because most Irish tweed is handwoven it is more costly and durable than tweed commonly manufactured in other parts of the world. Jackets are a very popular way to wear tweed, as tweed jackets are appropriate for many occasions and have a simple yet elegant style.
Brogue shoes have perforations in the leather to allow water to drain.
These types of shoes originated in Ireland and Scotland and the holes were necessary for those walking in boggy areas.
While they weren’t acceptable formal wear in early times, due to the association with walking in the fields and rural living, today brogue shoes are worn almost everywhere.
The functional traditional design has taken on a modern look.