When I was a child I loved watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood. It was a land of make-believe but there was this man who said things I needed to hear. Things like “You’re enough by just you being you.” That wasn’t a feeling I had deep down inside, but I believed him.
In the more than 30 years that Mister Rogers' show ran, he won the hearts of generations of Americans as, one after another, they watched, grew and became adults. It’s been 51 years since the show began and still it’s a message that reaches deep down inside. He would end each program by saying, “You've made this day a special day, by just being you. There's no person in the whole world like you; and I like you just the way you are.”
Today, more than ever, this is a message that is so needed. With social media and, well, the media in general, the spotlight tends to focus on not being enough. We see curated Instagram posts, Facebook posts, images run through filters and hear news about people who are either gleaming examples or who fall short of society’s expectations - both being equally hard to mirror. The underlying theme is that we aren’t enough, the competition and the expectations are bigger than the humans we actually are.
I believe that connection is what we crave most - connection within our families, communities, in our neighborhood and in this new global neighborhood. But connection is hard when you feel like you fall short, when it’s not ok, being who you are at this moment.
I had dinner last night with a friend who said that they had been avoiding our friends group because they were embarrassed that they had put on weight. I understood that. It’s easy to hide behind texts, phone calls and avoid one on one contact when you don’t feel good enough. That feeling permeates us and we start to hide ourselves in plain sight. It’s hard to put yourself out there when you feel you aren’t enough. I said to him, “I love you just as you are at this very moment.”
I think I fell in love with sweaters watching Mr.Rogers change into his cozy cardigans. Looking back, I can see the indelible impact left by the messages I received.
Last year I designed some men’s alpaca sweaters and did a photo shoot. Along the way, I found a Mr. Rogers tee-shirt and one of the models just happened to be wearing sneakers like Mr. Rogers, so we put the tee on him with a cardigan sweater and he struck the iconic pose. We had so much fun and I shared the photo with a friend who said “You should make Mr. Rogers sweaters!”
Back when I was first starting in my knitwear career I worked with an ex golf professional who loved the Arnold Palmer style alpaca golf cardigans from the 50’s & 60’s. He and I worked together to bring back a blast from the past sweater from his memories of this golf sweater. It is still one of our most loved alpaca men’s cardigan knit sweaters.
I did some research and along the way I heard a story that Arnold Palmer and Fred Rogers were friends who grew up outside of Pittsburgh PA in the town of Latrobe. The story goes that Arnold Palmer mentioned that he had been approached to create something for golfers in the way of apparel. Fred Rogers said “Why don’t you do a sweater? Everyone loves sweaters!” and thus the iconic golf sweater had its inspiration.
So, it made sense that things would come full circle and the Mr. Rogers cozy cardigan sweaters might be next, especially since Pittsburgh PA is my home town and where we began our company more than 20 years ago.
We sent the photo to the Fred Rogers Company with a request and to see if they would be interested in working with us. We wanted to share with them why we felt alpaca would be the best textile to create these sweaters. Alpaca is one of the world’s most sustainable fibers. Alpacas are very tender on the earth - they nip grassy shoots leaving roots intact which can regrow, their padded feet are soft on the terrain and their wool, known for softness and warmth, is shorn in order to keep them healthy. The fiber itself is allergen free and safe for everyone to wear as it contains no lanolin and is processed with gentle soaps and far less water than other wools. It comes in a wide variety of natural colors, but also dyes beautifully without having to use harsh chemicals for the dyes to stick. We know Mr. Rogers would like this.
Why did Mr. Rogers wear a sweater? It was a way to be close to his mother Nancy and take a bit of her love with him when he wore one. Mr. Rogers mother hand knit each of his cozy sweaters. He said that she would knit about 12 sweaters a year and he and his family members would all get one from her every Christmas. He said that his mom showed her love for her family with these gifts. I remember him saying a sweater was like a warm hug from a person when they weren’t near.
We met with our artisan knitters in Peru who were just as excited to be part of this project as we were. They know Mr. Rogers since his neighborhood has become global. Each one of the four zip front cardigan sweaters are hand knit with care under Fair Trade guidelines from 100% alpaca wool.
We designed these sweaters to be worn by both men and women. The styles are so classic and timeless, easy to wear to work or casually, when living life. All the cardigan styles can be worn regardless of climate and each is easy to layer. For women, think “boyfriend cardigan” - these knits can be paired with a blouse or tee and can become your own fashion style.
It is with great pleasure that we are now able to bring you four iconic Mister Rogers Sweater replicas for you to wrap up in and use as a tangible way to impart to another “I like you just the way you are”. From the iconic plain red signature sweater to the ribbed raglan sweater and of course the yellow chunky cable knit cardigan sweater, you can pick your favorite sweater style and happily remember the legacy left by Mr. Rogers.
Each sweater is licensed by the Fred Rogers Company, these “Original Mister Rogers Cardigan Sweaters” are tangible expressions of the timeless messages of love, caring and kindness. They are a way of expressing “I love you just the way you are” to a loved one or yourself and the licensing fees paid will go directly toward continuing children’s programing via The Fred Rogers Company, continuing to impart to children that they are enough and special just as they are.
Then we heard about the Mister Rogers Neighborhood movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” with Tom Hanks portraying Mister Rogers. It seemed so apropos with the timing and story that these sweaters be released with the movie debut and available at Thanksgiving for the holiday season. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is in theaters Thanksgiving, says “We could all use a little kindness” and that is exactly what our world needs now.
Mister Rogers Still Lives in your Neighborhood.
He lives in us and though us, by being kind and trying to be a better version of ourselves each day, while loving ourselves just as we are at this moment.
Inca Fashions an Inca Brands, Inc. women-owned US company and licensed by the Fred Rogers Company © 2019 McFeely-Rogers Foundation All Rights Reserved.