The “Lopapeysa,” or Icelandic sweater, is beloved by Icelanders and cherished by visitors and tourists alike. You can see them both in the city and countryside, as it’s worn by people of all kinds. Undoubtedly, the best way to get one is by visiting local producers you can find around Iceland. To travel “at your own pace,” we recommend reading our article on car rental in Iceland.

Lopapeysa, the typical Icelandic sweater

The lopapeysa is very warm, suitable for children used to playing in low temperatures, teenagers aiming for a “cool” look, and experienced fishermen using it as a shield against the cold.

The lopapeysa is both beautiful and practical. The wool (called “lopi”)—the unique material used to make them—has insulating properties and repels water. The sheep from which the wool is sourced have kept Icelanders protected from the cold since the Viking Age, although not with this exact type of garment.

Lopapeysa in Iceland

The geometric patterns used to adorn this sweater traditionally are larger around the shoulders and neck, with matching details at the bottom around the hips and cuffs. These designs have evolved over time, and today there are numerous types and colors available.

What is the Icelandic Lopapeysa sweater?

The Lopapeysa sweater is not just clothing; it’s a piece steeped in Icelandic history and culture. This traditional Icelandic garment is distinguished by its unique design and warmth, making it essential in Iceland’s cold climate.
The name ‘Lopapeysa’ comes from two Icelandic words: ‘lopi’, meaning wool, and ‘peysa’, meaning sweater.

Icelandic Lopapeysa

History of Lopapeysa

The history of the lopapeysa isn’t very long. The first ones appeared in the 1950s. The original designer is not known; it is generally believed to have been a group of women who gathered to knit together in one of their homes. The original colors of the lopapeysa were not the typical ones used today, which mainly consist of earth tones such as white, brown, black, and gray.
It wasn’t until the 1960s that these sweaters first appeared with bolder colors and began to be considered a more stylish garment. A little later, tourists began to show interest in the lopapeysa, which led to the popularity of natural tones like those from the 1950s.

Colorful Icelandic Lopapeysa

In recent years, controversy has arisen over the legitimacy of some of these jerseys being sold. It was discovered that some producers outsourced their production to China without clearly indicating their origin, only stating them as “produced outside of Iceland.”

Many, including the “Icelandic Knitter’s Association,” claimed that lopapeysa produced abroad were counterfeit, and buying them should be avoided to safeguard authentic products. This raises the question: what makes a lopapeysa authentic? Is it the wool, the color, the pattern, or perhaps even the nationality of the person who knitted it? The answer to this question is not clear, but one thing is certain: Icelandic wool and the yoke patterns must always be present.

Typical Icelandic sweater

In recent years, the lopapeysa has gained popularity within Iceland, likely due to the financial crisis that sparked a wave of national pride. People felt nostalgic for a simpler time in Iceland’s history, when natives were farmers, fishermen, and peasants. Even Iceland’s First Lady can often be seen in this popular garment.

Before this change in lopapeysa fashion, it was not commonly seen in everyday life. Its use was reserved for national festivals such as Independence Day (Sautjánda Júni) and Cultural Night (Menningarnótt), and during family gatherings in the countryside and camping trips.

Today, thanks to the popularity of this beautiful garment, they are readily available for purchase in Reykjavik and all other cities in Iceland.

Icelandic sweater

Distinctive Features of Lopapeysa

What truly sets the Lopapeysa apart from other types of sweaters are its geometric patterns and vibrant colors, often adorning the yoke—the circular part of the sweater around the neck. These designs are not only aesthetically pleasing but also tell stories of Icelandic traditions and nature.
Traditionally, they are knitted with Icelandic sheep’s wool, known for its insulating and water-repellent fibers, making them ideal for severe cold.

Price of the Icelandic Lopapeysa sweater

Handcrafted Lopapeysas typically range from approximately 8,000 ISK (about 64 USD or 60€) to 20,000 ISK (about 165 USD or 150€). However, the cost can increase if the sweater is customized or purchased directly from specialty stores in Iceland.

Where to Buy the Icelandic Lopapeysa Sweater

For those interested in purchasing a Lopapeysa, there are several options available, both within and outside Iceland. In Reykjavík and other Icelandic cities, numerous shops offer these sweaters, and they are commonly found at local markets and craft stores.
For international buyers, many Icelandic stores offer global shipping options, allowing fashion enthusiasts worldwide to acquire an authentic Lopapeysa without having to travel.

How to Care for Your Lopapeysa

Proper care of a Lopapeysa is essential to maintain its beauty and functionality. It’s recommended to hand wash these sweaters in cold water using a gentle detergent, and never in a washing machine.
They should be dried flat to prevent the wool from stretching or losing its shape. With proper care, a Lopapeysa can last for many years, becoming a heritage piece.

Why Choose a Lopapeysa?

In addition to its functionality and beauty, the Lopapeysa symbolizes a connection with Icelandic culture, representing the resilience and adaptability of the Icelandic people.
By choosing a Lopapeysa, you’re not just selecting a sweater; you’re embracing a piece of Iceland’s rich history and traditions. It’s an excellent way to carry a piece of Iceland with you wherever you go.

In conclusion, the Icelandic Lopapeysa sweater is more than just a fashion item; it’s a symbol of cultural identity that combines style, functionality, and deep cultural significance. Whether you seek to withstand the cold or add a unique element to your wardrobe, the Lopapeysa is a choice that promises both warmth and style.

With the right information on where to buy and how to care for it, you can ensure that your investment in a Lopapeysa is valuable and long-lasting.

If you enjoy knitting and want to create your own Icelandic sweater, the first step is to buy the wool. It’s available in all knitting stores and even in some tourist shops. You can even spend part of a day visiting the historic Álafoss wool factory/shop in Mosfellsbær, a 20-minute drive from Reykjavík. They started producing wool there in 1896, and there’s even a type of wool named after it that is very popular for making your own sweater.

If you want to buy a typical sweater, we recommend visiting the Kólaportið market in Reykjavik. It’s open every Saturday and Sunday from 11 AM to 5 PM.

So, whether you want to stay warm, look good, or even learn to knit, the Icelandic sweater or lopapeysa is what will fulfill all these needs.

Adrián, Islandia24 July 2024