The origins of the fisherman’s sweater are to be found in Brittany. It is from there that merchants left during during the 18th century to travel to England for the sale of their onions.
These merchants wore an item of clothing that made them recognizable from a distance.
The French expression "marchand d’ail" (garlic merchant) which is what these people were called, became in everyday speech "chandail" referring to this item of clothing.
Knitwear, which until then had been made from wool cloth, was made in a very tight stitching, using a secret stitch which granted to clothing warmth, water proofing, and considerable resistance to both the wind and cold.
The real Fisherman’s sweater was a long garment, very close fitting, designed to protect a sailor’s back and keep the body warm. Highly practical, very easy to put on as a result of buttons on the side, and in unwashed sheep wool.
Several variants appeared : colors like red, white, striped, but it should be remembered that, in the Navy, the single colored sweater was reserved for officers, and the striped variety for sailors. In the French Navy, young recruits wear a striped tee-shirt during their three month onboard training period.
Originally reserved for professional purposes, the Fisherman’s sweater has now become, like jeans, a 20th century fashionable clothing item.
Rooted in our common heritage, this mythical sweater is worn by both fishermen or weekend sailors, at sea, and in town. It is a real symbol of escape to distant horizons.