Music & Art Feb 04, 2020

The History Behind the Famed Icelandic Sweater

Learn about Iceland’s popular sweater that has become a cultural icon both in the country and abroad.

If you’re visiting Iceland for the first time, one of the first things you may notice is the abundance of beautiful, unique sweaters that many Icelanders wear. Known as the ‘lopapeysa,’ which translates to “lopi wool sweater,” these sweaters have become a cultural icon in Iceland and have a history that dates back centuries. 

Esmee van Loon and Willemijne van Zelst, a photography and design duo known as Curly and Straight from the Netherlands, recently visited Iceland to learn more about the Icelandic sweater and capture the essence of this tradition. Read on to learn more about the lopapeysa and see some of the amazing photos from Loon and Zelst that appeared in the Winter 2019 issue of the Icelandair Stopover Magazine

The lopapeysa sweater is made from Icelandic sheep’s wool and a special yarn called “lopi,” which isn’t spun, so it maintains better insulating qualities. The modern, familiar lopapeysa pattern around the neck originates from the mid-20th century when Iceland became an independent nation. Today, the lopapeysa remains a popular, staple fashion item not only for local Icelanders, but also tourists and visitors. 

Many Icelanders still knit the sweaters themselves, while some visitors will send in their measurements for a custom-made sweater, and then pick it up during their visit to Iceland! See some of Loon and Zelst’s photographs of people proudly wearing their lopapeysa sweaters and the stories behind them:

Are you familiar with the lopapeysa? Show us pictures of your Icelandic sweaters and join in the conversation on Twitter!