Monday, December 5, 2016

The Norwegian Crewneck Sweater

Photos by Salt Water New England
I recently went up to Maine to visit family and to check on the houses. It was bitter cold up near Mount Katahdin. I'm SO glad I brought along my Norwegian sweater. It truly is the warmest sweater I've owned. I don't care how it fits or looks on me. I love it because it's functional and serves it's purpose well. 
- Wasp Decor
Sweater from the 1970s

A 2010 Sweater (aka "The New One"), With Bear, the Maremma Sheepdog



How does the 2009 L.L. Bean Norwegian Crewneck Sweater compare to the "Fisherman" original? 

Many in the U.S. associate the sweater with L.L. Bean.  For example, consider this quote from Guaranteed to Last : “When [Roger] had the opportunity to work for the company that made his favorite sweater, he grabbed it. “  [Page 154]

However, unlike the Bean Boot (Maine Hunting Shoe) which L.L. Bean Inc. designed and produced, the Norwegian Sweater was an European import and already had been, in the words of LLB’s early catalogs, “long used by Norwegian fisherman who required an unusual degree of durability and warmth in a sweater.”

The sweater sold well.  Then L.L. Bean made, again quoting from Guaranteed to Last,  “a shift in the manufacturing from Norway to China in the early 1990s.” 

Sales fell.  And L.L. Bean stopped selling the sweater in 1999.

In 2009, L.L. Bean offered again the Norwegian Sweater, and this time imported from the same Norwegian factory. How do these 2009 versions compare to the original? 

The first change noticed was the shade of Navy.  The ones from the late 70s were a brighter Navy, and one might say, preferable to the newest model.

The Navy of the older sweaters (on top) is brighter than the 2009 version.
The cut has changed, especially the shoulder width. The originals had significantly wider shoulders, or more accurately, dropped shoulders in the more traditional Nordic manner.

The overall cut of the 2009 models was a bit more trim.
Both are Men's medium but the original has broader shoulders.  Chest measurements are the same.
The cuffs were also different. The 2009 cuffs stretch out and become wide at the openings which one has to fold back. It does make it somewhat less comfortable to wear under Barbours, especially Bedales which have knitted cuffs.

On the left is a 35 year old cuff from the original; in the middle is how the current version looks new; on the right is how the 2009 version looks after some use.

The 2009 version (on right) also has a significant exposed seam.
Current Cuff

Old Cuff;  Old Dog.
Perhaps one should prefer the purity of all wool (and in Guaranteed to Last, LLB says the wool is stronger these days); the old ones with the rayon just feel tougher.

So while many like the 2009 100% wool version, more love the originals with the 20% rayon,  shorter length, brighter Navy, wider shoulders, slightly larger neck opening, and tight cuffs.  While the originals are an "A", the 2009 Norwegian Sweaters would be about a "B-"


Alternatives to L.L. Bean

Finally, in this age of the Internet, people who love the European sweaters don’t have to rely any more solely on the US importer L.L. Bean (and their not insignificant markup). Here are some other potential sources of "Norwegian" sweaters.

These are made in Ireland:
  • Aran Sweater Market Norwegian Sweater
  • The Nautical Company
  • Yarmouth Stores
Here may be the original Norwegian manufacturer (thanks to Adrian Holand Wigé Nordtømme):
Here is the current source of the Norwegian Crewneck Sweaters from whom some say  L.L. Bean imports:

Around Salt Water New England

This vintage L.L. Bean Norwegian sweater (complete with 20% rayon) was spotted in the rare color combination of Charcoal with Purple and Teal.  This is the way these tough sweaters are best used.

The Reverend Bobby Ives.  Photo Courtesy of The Lincoln County News, Damariscotta, Maine (used with permission)

19 comments:

  1. Where can one buy these sweaters Muffy ?

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    1. L.L. Bean has a women's version this year.

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    2. Thank you . That's a good price too !

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    3. Any ideas on how the women's are fitting these days? Just wondering what size to order. XS are sold out already!

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    4. You can call or chat with a Bean sales rep and they will give you the actual garment measurements, which you can compare to a sweater that fits the way you like.

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  2. Virtually every Colby College student had one of these in the late 80s/early 90s. We gathered everyone in the dining hall who was wearing this sweater with a turtleneck (pink for the girls), khakis and Bean boots for a photo once...there had to have been at least 15 of us in the same outfit. I still wear mine from 1988 every winter.

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  3. Years ago I bought one of these sweaters at a tag sale for $1. I wore it three weeks ago pulling borlotti beans out of the garden. It would be hard to find a more trusty garment.

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  4. Wore my "Norwegian" yesterday while blowing the last of the leaves before the snows arrive. I've had one or more of these since college, which is a while ago. My absolute favorite for working outdoors in cold conditions.

    Aiken

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  5. I own 4 of these sweaters. The oldest is forty years old, the sleeves are full of holes, but it is still warm and used mainly for working in the barn. The second oldest was bought as a replacement for the first. I use that for working outside and when I might be in public as in going for the mail. It doesn’t seem to have the quality of the first. The third and forth were purchased about 10 years ago when LL Bean began to restock the sweaters after some years of them being absent from their catalog. They seemed to have returned to the original great quality. Sweater # three is used for dress. Sweater # four is my spare to be used when the others wear out. At this point I don’t think I will ever need it.

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  6. I have three and love them all. Have been wearing them since the 80s.

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  7. Bought as a college boyfriend gift eons ago; said sayonara to the boyfriend - kept the sweater. It was love at first sight ... uh, the sweater that is. The oversized pullover look was in then; seems like it's back (or maybe never left) as a campus look - dropped off my youngest child in September to start freshman year! Still have the L.L. Bean Norwegian - it looks just like new. Some things are meant to last!

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  8. Found a ladies version with a full zipper at the outlet a few years ago. I love it, since I can wear it like a jacket, rather than a sweater.

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  9. People (me included) talk about how good the sweater is when worn in the outdoors, and it is. Excellent, in fact. But, they can be pretty scratchy and even hot in normal wear (e.g., indoors). I bought a Norwegian sweater from Wool Overs (recommended here, I think) a while back. It, too, is an excellent sweater, but a little different. It is softer and lighter and good for non-work activities. So, another good option.

    Aiken

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  10. I’ve owned/lost/forgotten/had purloined several L.L. Bean classic Norwegian sweaters over many years. I bought another a few years back. Perhaps I’ve at last reached an age where I’ll keep track of it better than those in the past.

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  11. I love these sweaters and have worn them for years. I actually look forward to Winter to feel at home again in them.

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  12. The 'Norwegian' sweater was de rigueur in my student days at Plymouth. Cheap as chips from the Barbican chandlery and oh, so warm....

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  13. Avoid the LL Bean ones and get yourself a proper Dale of Norway Norwegian sweater, something like a Setesdal model with the birdseye body but the proper Norwegian trimming and pewter clasps. Sure you will be spending more but the quality over and above the Bean sweaters is well worth the price differential. I've had my two Setesdals for ages, one in the pullover and one in the cardigan, and they have served me well in the bitter cold Minnesota winters and will continue to serve me well for decades now in western Pennsylvania.

    I'd suggest visiting http://sweater.no/ online, or if you are close to Mystic, CT, visiting Bestemor's in Old Mistick Village.

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  14. Muffy, could you kindly provide any further details on the beautiful pink turtleneck (or mockneck, perhaps?) in the last photo? On my computer screen, that color really pops and is simply gorgeous.

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