|Brad Cole graciously allowed me to use this picture of him from two weeks ago in his 30+ year old L.L. Bean version.|
And warning - this is a geeky, wonky, trope-filled fanboy entry even by the geeky, wonky, trope-filled fanboy standards of this blog.
The Norwegian Sweater/ Pullover is a classic European sweater with a 3-check design and a high degree of durability and warmth. It is also known as the Norwegian Heritage Sweater or the Nordic Crew Neck Sweater.
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. (For those interested, Heavy Tweed Jacket scanned in some L.L. Bean catalog pages from Christmas 1985 in this post.) 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 began offering again the Norwegian Sweater, and this time imported from the same Norwegian factory. Some people have asked me, how do these new versions compare to the original?
As with many others, we have been wearing these sweaters since the mid 1970s. We have purchased some in every decade since. (All of our sweaters were made in Norway.) Over the almost forty years, there have been subtle but noticeable changes. (From the comments I have received, I believe quite a few people "notice" the change, but can't articulate the specifics, which I will attempt to do here.)
The first change I noticed was the shade of Navy. The ones from the late 70s were a brighter Navy, and in my opinion, preferable to the newest model.
|The Navy of the older sweaters (on top) is brighter than the current version.|
|Both are Men's medium but the original has broader shoulders. Chest measurements are the same.|
|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 current version looks after some use.|
|The current version (on right) also has a significant exposed seam.|
|Old Cuff; Old Dog.|
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. While I have not tried these, here are some other potential sources of "Norwegian" sweaters.
These are made in Ireland.
And (source?): Aran Sweater Market *
- Devold *
Here is the current source of the Norwegian Crewneck Sweaters that L.L. Bean imports:
* Added after this post went up, thank to the commenters on this post.
|From my archives...|
** I do have a Made-in-Norway Norwegian Crewneck Sweater that I bought from LLB’s sale catalog in 2006 for 49.95. I also bought this in the Fall of 2007. But those were anomalies.
|Our dog (now 12) and swans come to an uneasy truce.|
|I spotted this vintage L.L. Bean Norwegian sweater (complete with 20% rayon) in the rare color combination of Charcoal with Purple and Teal. And in my opinion, 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)|