After my investigation of Pringle and its reinvention as an international fashion brand, I decided to show you the real deal. A genuine Scottish jumper, tartan no less, knitted in East Lothian and purchased last year at Macraes of Edinburgh at the bottom end of the Royal Mile, where Scott Officer's gorgeous hand-framed intarsia sweaters had a small cult following among the neighbours. I later discovered on a subsequent trip that its riff on the Hunting MacLeod tartan appears on more or less every carpet in every guest house in the country, making it the perfect nominee for the title of Appropriated Edge Christmas Jumper 2014.
|Buy the jumper!|
It's well known by now that modern tartan and its association with the clans is in fact a nineteenth century invention fuelled in part by romantic notions about Scottish identity as propagated by writer Walter Scott. It's not such a huge leap from there to yet more reimagining of an elite heritage which never really existed into a froufrou confection as seen through the gimlet eye of King Karl.
|The Kilt - real tartan for real men.|
The reality of tartan as signifier of a more quotidian national self-image is somewhat more contentious. Scotland's status as a nation is bound up with its complicated, conflicted relationship with Westminster and the rest of the United Kingdom, as came into sharp focus during 2014's closely fought referendum. In this context, the kilt, and by extension tartan itself, becomes a form of battle dress and a universal symbol of rebellious masculinity.
Which brings me to the many, manifold reasons a woman has for shopping the men's department, particularly when it comes to knitwear. While womenswear offers endless variety and all the possibilities for role-play that brings with it, men's knitwear delivers no-nonsense quality, practicality and bang for the buck, perpetually at odds with the effete affectations of high fashion. In short, if you can pull it off without feeling frumpy, dressing like a man will make you look tough.
|Ernest Hemmingway and woolly jumper|
|Ernest Shackleton and friend|
A woman who puts on such a garment sidesteps any reference to her sexuality and declares herself ready for anything. When Sofie Gråbøl (it rhymes with trouble) chose a traditional Faroe sweater by Gudrun & Gudrun for her portrayal of tough-as-boots detective Sarah Lund in The Killing, she channelled the police officer's boundless self-confidence and fiercely idiosyncratic nature. This was a fearless jumper, one that would walk into abandoned buildings with no backup and only a sidearm for company.
|Sarah Lund and sidearm|
But as Gråbøl points out, the sweater also tells another story of comfort and security, with a pattern which denotes a collective identity very much like the tartan.
"I wore this sweater and so did my parents. That sweater was a sign of believing in togetherness. There's a nice tension between those soft, human values and Lund being a very tough closed person – because to me it says that she's wanting to sit around a fire with a guitar; it gives a great opposite to her line of work and behaviour."Little wonder then that the jumper really was the surprise star of the show. Armoured on the outside and soft on the inside, Sarah Lund proves that a winter woolly can be a symbol of a very female kind of toughness. She doesn't need to telegraph her authority, she just has to show up to the game.