Despite the military career of the Seventh Earl of Cardigan, Lieutenant General James Brudenell, it is his sartorial legacy - the cardigan - that lives on from the 19th century and has seen his title become part of everyday parlance. Legend has it that the earl invented the style because he wanted a sweater he could put on without tousling his coiffed hair. A more charitable explanation is that the jacket-style knit became popular after the lieutenant general and his officers wore a similar garment during the Crimean War. Either way, the cardigan has since become a wardrobe staple, and for that we thank the earl - as well as Ms Coco Chanel and the Ivy League look - for playing a formative part in its history.
The exact point at which the cardigan met the shawl collar, originally found on Victorian smoking jackets, is unclear, although early examples of this hybrid style date from the 1920s. Since the smoking jacket was originally intended to be worn in the home only, and the cardigan is largely concerned with comfort, it seems a natural marriage of elements. Furthermore, the smoking jacket association means that shawl-collar cardigans have a certain louche air about them, banishing the fusty image once associated with button-up knitwear.
The shawl-collar cardigan's unique blend of rakish style and comfort (not to mention the fact that the elongated collar frames the face in a flattering way) has won it legions of fans over the past half-century: from Starsky and Hutch to Mr Daniel Craig, by way of Mr Steve McQueen and Mr Paul Newman, the shawl-collar cardigan has become a style icon in its own right.