Fashion History – the unexpected roots of the Lice Jacket

A traditional and probably the most famous Norwegian sweater is the so-called Norwegian lusekofte (“lice jacket”) sweater. This sweater type goes back to the Setesdal a region along the Otra river valley in southern Norway. Therefore, it is also referred to as “setesdalgenser” which means Setesdal sweater in English. In the 8th to 11th, i.e. prior to the Vikings, this region consisted of petty kingdoms leading to the development of local traditions for identification. While complex terrain and many borders (with customs) mean difficult travel and trade and isolation, they also preserve traditional culture. Thus, one can find many different pattern to knit this type of sweater.

Traditionally, these sweaters were men’s working clothes. Still today, wearing this sweater with a shirt and tie counts as business attire in Norway. Today they are worn by men and women alike. Paintings and photographs suggest that variations of this type of sweater existed already in the 19th century. The interested reader is referred to Annemor Sundbø’s (2001) book or her webpage. She collected many old photographs and newspaper articles of lusekofte designs.

#licejecket  #fashionhistory details of a lice jacket
Zoom-in on a lice jacket in white and green and embroidery on the collar and cuffs. The jacket has hooks for closure

Norwegian sweaters and jackets were hand-knitted on round needles or five double pointed needles applying a similar knitting technique as for the Fair Isle sweaters to create the pattern. Today a variety of colors and often more than two colors are used. According to old paintings and photos, originally the Norwegian sweater had white wool on the bottom and the pattern was knitted with two yarns, usually black/gray and white. The alternative use and catching of the yarns creates the pattern and insulation for the wearer. Norwegian jackets also have unique decorative embroidery that surrounds the neck, closure, and cuffs. Traditionally the embroidery differed among regions. Typically, silver colored hooks sewed on both sides of the jacket serve as closure. Note that in history, Norwegian clothes relied on brooches or hooks rather than buttons for closure.

Norwegian sweaters look great and in cold climate regions office appropriate with wool slacks or wool skirts, boots and tights, or for casual Friday with dark blue or colored jeans like shown below.

#licejecket #fashionhistory men wearing a lice jacket in style
Example of how to style a lice jacket with bow tie, shirt, colored jeans and boots shoes. The shirt, colored jeans and red shoes pick up colors of the embroidery

Do you like the lice jackets? Do you own one? How do you style it? Just curious.

You can read about the fashion history of the cable knit sweater or the origins of the pea coat at the links.

Photos of my photographer by me

© 2013-2018 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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