L.L. Bean Norwegian Sweaters and the Trajectory of Trad

Via All Plaid Out

Well, in the end this wasn’t much a “Winter Week,” I suppose Sweater Week, or Knit Week, or even something about Trads and Fall would’ve been more appropriate, but oh well, hindsight twenty-twenty and all that.  While the name might be off, I still have to finish what I’ve started, and there’s really only one piece that can properly round out this collection: the L.L. Bean Norwegian.  The Norwegian erupted onto the scene in the mid-sixties and enjoyed decades at the top before slowly fizzling out in the early nineties, only to return to prominence recently, following along the same trajectory that trad style has taken as a whole.

Introduced in 1965, the Norwegian was L.L. Bean’s take on the old Scandinavian stand-by-the fishermans sweater.  Back then the brand still actually cared about authenticity, so they used a white and blue birds-eye pattern that was close to the original yet also uniquely L.L. Bean, and employed a small Norwegian knit factory to produce the sweaters the same way they’d been doing it for decades.  During their late seventies glory days, the Norwegian was crowning jewel of the L.L. Bean empire.  For card carrying preps, it was their card, a sign that you knew what the hell you were talking about.

From the Official Prep Handbook, via Alex Grant

Although, overtime that L.L. Bean empire began to crack and crumble.  All of a sudden, it was no longer considered cool to layer together every conceivable pattern and color, and the brash, dynamic wardrobe that once dominated was on it’s way out as the simplicity of solids moved in.  Companies like L.L. Bean lost their identity.  They began as a brand that embraced the American and European adventurer spirit, but their clothes were no longer even made there.  L.L. Bean became a shell of brand, doing whatever it took to make a buck.  Norwegian’s (if you could even call them that) started being produced in China, and the once high-quality sweater became a caricature of it’s past self.  Eventually in the early nineties the company decided to do away with the sweaters entirely.

From the Official Prep Handbook via All Plaid Out

Through those dark decades those that held onto the traditional mourned the loss of one of their favorite pieces.  The Norwegian even had an entire section dedicated to it in “The Official Prep Handbook.”  Which is why in 2009, when L.L. Bean announced it was going to resurrect their signature sweater I don’t even think they were ready for the outpouring of support.  Prep had begun to creep back in the conscience several years earlier and for those that held onto those ideals, their days of scouring eBay were over.  Search for Norwegian Sweater today and you can still find articles written about the triumphant return of the traddy trademark.  While I think we’ve all tempered ourselves a bit from the intensity of the layered out uniform of seventies New England undergrads, we can all take a page from their book when it comes to the Norwegian.

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