This is my first summer in the United States, and it’s nothing like I expected. In the beach town I currently reside in, I imagine a summertime typified by energy and activity, with very attractive people covering very little skin doing very athletic activities while very drunk off White Claw.
However, we’re a few weeks in now and it is looking more and more like we’re in for a summer of nothingness. As the virus continues to defy the expectation that heat will tame the spread, it seems as though the wind (summer breeze?) has been taken out of any pool parties. More likely, the majority of people will stay under lockdown just as they’ve done in the spring, staving off the incoming heatwave with sloth. We’re already starting to see signs of this — beaches in coastal cities were surprisingly empty this 4th of July weekend.
With no safe way of cooling down in a massive body of water, it might seem as though the existing summer trend of ‘clothes that don’t feel like you’re wearing anything’ would continue. The logic is sound: this summer is expected by Big Weather to be the hottest one yet, and easy breezy clothing helps with that. However, an unfeeling summer and feelingless garments together may be too much nothingness for even the most ardent nothing enthusiast.
Anticipating this, I propose you start taking control of your own summer. Part of creating a perception of feeling this summer, at least for me, is a loosely woven, kinda funky, highly textured Inis Meáin linen sweater.
Not dissimilar to American social fabric as of late, the Inis Meáin Basket Stitch has a relatively open weave. Without tugging on the sweater, you can, albeit barely, see through the other side. This, along with the choice of linen as the primary knit material, makes for an airy sweater that is, depending on how warm your summer days are, mostly three-season appropriate. Despite its breathability, the knit still feels substantial and dense, hanging nicely down the body by virtue of its weight. The knit also has a little elasticity and bounce to it, helping it retain its shape well, unlike what you’d typically expect from linen.
To me, Inis Meáin is unique in that its knits are funky and fashion-y even though the company has its roots making utilitarian knitwear. From afar, this drop-shouldered, low-medium neck-line, large cuff opening, chessboard-for-your-chest of a sweater makes for a unique silhouette and striking visual. Up close, the sheenly yarns, woven with a cool-grey-linen-purple-grey-silk blend, are punctuated with flaws in the form of stray linen knots to create a visually arresting texture. The stitch patterns at the collar are particularly interesting as well, with the top hem reinforced by 3 chain link knits and a braid. Added together, these unique details make the Basket Stitch sweater directional yet grounded in craft.
Lastly, as I mentioned in the preamble, this sweater is full of feeling. Sure, part of it comes from its authenticity, hailing from the island of Inishmaan and sewn by locals and all that. What I really mean, though, is that it is kinda scratchy. Like, knit-knicked nipples scratchy. The sweater has a dry hand and slightly abrasive linen yarns that is atypical of knitwear I’ve come across. Despite this, it never gets irritating or unpleasant against the skin. Rather, I find it enjoyable having something on with just enough of feeling as to provide a sense of security, but not too much as to annoy or constrict. My love of raw denim and boots, despite the many attempts by more fashion-forward folks to clown on this side of me, comes from this need, too.
Inis Meáin has quickly become my favorite knitwear maker. Everything the brand makes, from merino wool-cashmere raglan knits to pima-cotton cardigans, is made extremely well. You can track down its offerings directly from the brand, or from one of the many multi-brand retailers, my favorites being Matches Fashion and Mr Porter.