In the first of our series on iconic Irish products, brands and designs, we pay tribute to the Aran jumper.

The Aran jumper. Who hasn’t had one? Do you love them (or dislike them)? Let us know your thoughts on our Facebook page. 

To cement the Aran jumper’s place in the pantheon of great Irish designs, an Aran jumper from the National Museum of Ireland is set to feature in a major new exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

The history and impact of the Aran jumper will be explored alongside a host of iconic fashion designs such as a biker jacket from the 1950s; a Wonderbra; a Birkin bag; a 1960s Breton shirt; a pair of Levi’s 501 jeans from the 1940s; and a collection of ‘Little Black Dresses’.

The Aran jumper (pictured) will be sent on loan from Ireland’s National Folklife Collection, which is housed at Turlough Park, Co. Mayo. 

The MoMA exhibition will open on October 1, 2017. 

“The jumpers became particularly popular from the 1950s onwards when they began to be exported in their thousands from Ireland to shops in America, Europe and Japan.”

A profound impact on the world over the last century

According to MoMA, each of the 111 items explored in the exhibition were selected because they have had a “profound impact on the world over the last century”.

Aran jumper design

The Aran jumper in question is a cream, knitted piece from 1940 and made from a heavy, scoured wool. The patterns are different front and back. The centre panel on one side has a diamond stitch, and the centre of the other side consists of a trellis openwork pattern with bobbles.

It was last exhibited in 2008 at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life as part of the exhibition ‘Romantic Stitches and Realistic Sketches’.

“It is magnificent that a piece of our folk heritage will represent our country in this exhibition of groundbreaking fashion essentials.”

Aran jumpers – or sweaters as they are known in America – have long been a highly recognisable symbol abroad of the romanticism of Irish rural life and Irish folk art. The jumpers became particularly popular from the 1950s onwards when they began to be exported in their thousands from Ireland to shops in America, Europe and Japan.

“Chuir daoine ar fud an domhain an-spéis sna geansaithe seo de bharr na bainte a samhlaíodh idir iad agus na ceoltóirí Deartháireacha Clancy agus Tommy Makem, agus chaith Steve McQueen agus Grace Kelly agus daoine iomráiteacha eile iad.  Tá tóir ar gheansaithe Árannacha i gcónaí cé go gcniotáiltear iad inniu in ábhair seachas olann agus ar mheaisíní agus de láimh araon,” dúirt Tony Candon, Bainisteoir, Coimeádaí Ard-Mhúsaem na hÉireann – Saol na Tuaithe. 

“It is magnificent that a piece of our folk heritage will represent our country and one of our traditional crafts in this exhibition of groundbreaking fashion essentials,” says Clodagh Doyle, curator at the National Museum of Ireland – Country Life. 

Related Resource

READ MORE: Ten world-changing Irish inventions.