Chic or ugly: Your perfect holiday sweater is out there

Not warm these days, is it? Still, one of the joys of winter is cozy knitwear, and there’s no shortage of Jewish inspiration. From destination knits to stripes and teddy bears, meet your new sweater icons.

If you’ve ever hankered after a vibrant stripey knit, you have Sonia Rykiel to thank. The French-Jewish fashion designer, who died in 2016, was known as “the queen of knitwear,” thanks to her signature stripes and “poor boy” sweater. The ribbed, figure-hugging style was popularized by Audrey Hepburn. The Sonia Rykiel brand turned 50 this year, and the city of Paris paid tribute by naming a street after her: Allée Sonia Rykiel, in her beloved Saint-Germain.

 

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Some people like to buy postcards when they visit a new city. Sam Barsky takes things a little further: he knits a sweater to match every landmark, and then, to the joy of his 32,700 Instagram followers, he takes a selfie when he gets there. Thanks to his skill at matching his sweater to his destination — an Eiffel Tower sweater in Paris, the Manhattan skyline in New York — Barsky is now, in his mid-forties, a bona fide Internet sensation.

It’s one of fashion’s richest ironies that mainstream “preppy” style was pretty much defined by a yeshiva boy from the Bronx: Ralph Lauren (born Ralph Lifshitz). After launching Polo in 1967, Lauren set about selling a WASP-y dream of polo shirts, chinos, and cable knit sweaters that would fit right in at the country club. The brand’s Polo Bear sweaters, adorned with a teddy bear at the front, are still best sellers.

4Natalie Portman

So I know we’re meant to be concentrating on the lipstick here. But for me, the Natalie Portman campaign for Dior Rouge Ultra Rouge is all about the sweater. As photographed by photographer David Sims, the Israeli-American actress, who first signed up with the brand in 2010, wears a chunky knit red sweater that falls off the shoulder just so. That’s your perfect winter sweater right there.

5Seth Rogen

Were Hanukkah sweaters even a thing before Seth Rogen? In the 2015 movie The Night Before, the actor/comedian/writer sported a Fair Isle knit with a Star of David emblazoned on the front, and a trend was born. If you spend the first week of December shvitzing uncomfortably in a Hanukkah-themed novelty sweater while eating latkes, you now know who’s to blame.

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Susannah Cohen
Susannah Cohen is a fashion journalist, e-commerce editor (specialist subjects: lingerie and diamonds) and Jewish mom. Recently relocated from London to the West Coast, she’s feeling a lot more spiritual these days.