Updated January 31st, 2021 – A cream Aran knit is about as timeless as a sweater can get. Steve McQueen wore his twice in the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair. First, while he was hanging out at the beach in his Meyers Manx dune buggy, quietly contemplating his next move. The second time was during the bonfire scene with Faye Dunaway (she’s wearing one too!).
But perhaps the best look we get at the sweater is in some behind-the-scenes pics from the production.
The Aran knit sweater has recently returned to the spotlight thanks to Captain America himself, Chris Evans. The great “Daniel Craig does Agatha Christie” film Knives Out features Evan’s character, smug rich boy Ransom Drysdale, wearing a beaten-to-hell version through a good part of its runtime. If you’re interested, there’s a fun interview in The Hollywood Reporter with the Knives Out costumer designer Jenny Eagan about how the sweater made it to the screen (and how it got all those holes).
Features wanted for The Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater
- Light beige color
- Center honeycomb pattern flanked by diamonds on the front
- Honeycomb pattern on the sleeves
Okay, first thing is the color. Crown’s sweater is not the common cream. It’s more of a very light beige or sand. But if we used the color as the defining characteristic, we’d only be left with one option: The King of Cool’s sweater. So I’ve been a little flexible with this.
The second interesting point is the pattern. As most know, the different elements of the pattern are symbolic. The cables are for the safe return of the fisherman and good luck during the day. The honeycomb represents hard work and diligence (bees). The diamond symbolizes plots of farm land, with the dots inside the diamond symbolizing the crops; together they represent wealth. And the basket weave is the fisherman’s net and represents hope for a good catch.
What some of you may not know is that most of this “symbolism” was made up by a self-proclaimed textile expert named Heinz Keiwe in the late 1930s. The Irish knitters didn’t bother to correct anyone because “Every Sweater Tells a Story!” is a great marketing phrase.
Regardless of it’s origin, the myth of the “symbolic Aran pattern” was pretty established by the time of The Thomas Crown Affair. And it’s fun to analyze McQueen’s sweater through that lens. The predominant patterns are honeycombs, diamonds and baskets. Unlike most Aran sweaters, the cable pattern is kept to a minimum. So the story McQueen’s sweater is telling is “hard work and diligence are the heart of wealth and good fortune”. Which sounds about right for the character.
Best Option for The Thomas Crown Affair Aran Sweater
Aran Sweater Market Heavyweight Merino Wool Aran Sweater in Oatmeal: on sale for $99.95/£72.89
Out of all the “made in Ireland” sweaters out there, why is this one the winner? Well, first of all there’s the color. That Oatmeal tone looks like a great match for the one Mr. Crown was wearing. The pattern is also very similar. There’s a couple of extra cables down the sides of the body. But the wider band of more intricate honeycombing down the sleeves in almost exactly what we want. Then there’s the material. Not all wool is created equal. And the 100% Merino wool they’ve used for this sweater should feel softer right out of the box. And last there’s the fit. Traditional Aran sweaters tend to be a little boxy and/or baggy. However, this sweater is knit to fit a little closer through the body and sleeves, which gives it more more fitted, contemporary look. Oh, the price is pretty great too! Aran Sweater Market has sizes XS to XXXL in stock.
Carraig Donn Aran Knit Sweater in Natural: $79.90 to $110.90/£48.00 to £56.42
A good, basic Aran knit, made in Ireland from 100% wool. The color is a traditional “natural”. So it will lean more cream in tone than the onscreen one. The pattern also has a few subtle differences. And I have to say I’m not a huge fan of the way the sleeves are attached to the body (check out the knit at the shoulders on this one and then compare it to the “Best Option” above). But you can easily order this one through Amazon (and easily return it if it doesn’t meet your expectations).
The Sweater Shop Aran Cable Knit in Natural: on sale for $104.90/£76.40
This 100% Merino wool alternative is very similar to our “Best Option” above. But the fit is more traditional and it only comes in the “natural color”. I’m including it for you gentlemen who want a good quality sweater at a fair price, but would prefer a more generous cut through the sleeves and body. Sizes XS to XXL are available on their website.
And now for something a little different. Peregrine’s Hudson is made in England from 100% British wool (“sourced no more than 60 miles” from the Peregrine factory). Design-wise, the pattern is a pretty good match for McQueen’s version. As is the main color, which has a beige main tone with darker flecks running through the yarn to give it some pop. All in all, I’d say Peregrine has done a great job giving the traditional Aran knit a bit of a modern twist.
Also, after wading through a sea of websites stuffed with photos of happy Irish men standing in sunny fields wearing their classic sweaters, I have to give props to Peregrine for including this pic on their product page:
About finding your size: the link above goes directly to the Peregrine website. Which should be fine for those of you in the UK. If you’re in the U.S., shipping could get a little pricey. There are some stockists state-side, but finding your size at a decent price is a bit like playing whack-a-mole. Huckberry has size small for $144.00. Country Attire has a size large on sale for $103.65. And Thread has sizes small to XXL in stock, but the price jumps up to $154.00 (which is about what it would be with the exchange rate before the shipping cost directly from Peregrine).
The Investment Pieces
Inverallan 1A Cable Crew: $265.00
So if you can get our “Best Option” for around a hundred bucks, why would anyone pay two and half times that? Well, as I mentioned in our post on Essential Bond Sweaters, each sweater is hand-knit by the family owned company in Alloa, Scotland. So each piece will be subtly unique. Hand knitting, while certainly more time consuming and labor intensive, also produces a heavier knit sweater with a full-fashioned construction. So expect a better fit and high quality construction. It’s an investment for sure. But it will be worth it for some of us looking for something really special. I’ve linked to END clothing above since they have a good price and easy shipping to the U.S. But you can also check out Inverallan’s website for more information about the company and its products.
If you have any comments or suggestions for alternatives for the The Thomas Crown Affair Aran knit sweater, leave them in the comments below. And remember to visit our Facebook page, Instagram account, Twitter account and Pinterest Boards for more James Bond style advice and inspiration!