The Bargain Hunter Edits His Knitwear

It's winter time, won't be long before the knitwear is out. But beware, buying a good sweater is like buying a dog. It's not just for Christmas, and whether your mates have a younger, more fashionable one you can't just ditch yours.
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It's winter time, won't be long before the knitwear is out. But beware, buying a good sweater is like buying a dog. It's not just for Christmas, and whether your mates have a younger, more fashionable one you can't just ditch yours.

Now it's officially wintertime, I've had to use a few spare hours between football fixtures to fulfill an essential seasonal revaluation.

It's got nothing to do with a change of job or outlook, it's got everything to do with the hideous, mangled, multi-coloured vision that greets me every time I seek out an item of knitwear now the temperatures beginning to drop. I've just sifted, filtered and folded. It's ridiculous. Never mind the crewnecks, the cardigans and the tank-tops, I've got 13 v-neck sweaters! I've got cashmere ones, cotton/cashmere ones, cotton ones, Pima cotton, wool, everything.

Actually, no, not everything. There's no acrylic in there. For a start it would be a fire hazard but there's no place for man-made fibres in my knitwear wardrobe.

I'm discerning when it comes to fibres, for anything but sportswear at least. It probably stems back to the first knitwear purchase that really excited me. Sometime in about '84, I'd saved up my Christmas money and set off on a mission to acquire a golf sweater. Only those of a certain sartorial mindset will understand why a 14 year old who didn't play golf was investing in a lemon yellow, 100% wool, Pringle sweater, to be worn over a black Lyall & Scott polo neck. The lion rampant was something I'd been working towards since my Mum came home with a v-neck Slazenger she'd bought me in the indoor Market in Wrexham.

I was now on the knitwear ladder and I've been climbing and sliding back down it ever since.

"Never mind the crewnecks, the cardigans and the tank-tops, I've got 13 v-neck sweaters! I've got cashmere ones, cotton/cashmere ones, cotton ones, Pima cotton, wool, everything."

As I survey the now neatly-folded piles stacked high in front of me, I can see two great CP Company tops, both were bargains, naturally. The beautiful, brown Cardigan came from a carboot sale, £40, cash, stock acquired from a menswear shop that was about to go bust.

There's still a lion nestling in the midst of the wool jungle as well. A real retro eBay purchase made when you could pick up such pieces for a fiver, before the release of The Firm sent prices sky-high. It's pink, v-neck, plain and very nice.

Did I say no acrylic? I lied, a little. There's a Paul & Shark zip-up top I got for a tenner off one of the vintage clothes stalls at the Leedsmusic festival. It's a wool/acrylic mix, given the way they're put together, I think that's forgivable? There's also Lacoste crewneck that cost a few quid from a shop in some Bulgarian backstreet.

If the quality threshold's largely been maintained since those teenage shopping trips, I've become an awful lot less fussy about the label. Uniqlo, TK Maxx, even Tesco's F+F for cashmere, they're all represented in a collection that really needs culling.

The problem is, like puppies at Christmas, plain, good quality, sweaters are for life. So justifying their rejection on the basis of being out of fashion isn't an option. If I hadn't grown a bit, I could still be wearing that lemon yellow Pringle now.

There's another consideration though, as I mull over difficult decisions that may yet benifit charity shops in Wetherby, as a 14 year old dressed like Jimmy Tarbuck in trainers, I looked edgy, different, very 'street' now, as a silver-haired 41 year old, I just look like Jimmy Tarbuck.

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