In 1968 Fred Rogers took off his sport coat and loafers and donned a cardigan and Keds for the first of what would be 998 times for his famed television show, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
A seemingly innocuous act, yes. Until you think about the renaissance that the cardigan has seen by 20-somethings in high fashion today. For the first time in history, the people setting style trends are the same people who grew up singing along with Rogers in the neighborhood.
So was it Rogers’ master plan to make the cardigan the style item of the early 2000s?
To answer this question we must first learn the history of the highly versatile sweater. We can trace its history to the Crimean War, and to Lieutenant General James Thomas Brudenell, seventh earl of Cardigan. Brudenell was the "Hero of Balaclava," a battle in which 107 of the 674 soldiers under his command were killed.
Naturally, he was greeted as a hero upon his return to England; and when controversy was raised about his conduct at Balaclava, he was of course knighted.
And to top it all off, his signature wool knit waistcoat — that he wore at Balaclava — was officially marketed as the cardigan and began flying off the shelves of retailers in London.
Now 150-some-odd years later, and after 33 years of indoctrination, the cardigan is again flying off the shelves. Why? What has changed? What has caused the stylish young people of the world to raid their grandparent’s closets?
I’m not saying, however, that this should not have happened — I’m wearing a cardigan as I write this. It is just rather interesting that it wasn’t until now that this most versatile of articles became fashionable.
Whether it was Rogers’ grand scheme to subliminally convince generations of young people to wear cardigans or not, my hat is off to him for, if nothing else, making the cardigan comfortable. Thanks, Mr. Rogers.