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What does the UK call a sweatshirt?

In the United Kingdom, a sweatshirt is most commonly referred to as a jumper. While “sweatshirt” is sometimes used, especially when referring to American English, jumper is the predominant term used in British English.

What is a Jumper?

A jumper is a knitted garment worn on the upper body. It is similar to a sweater but is typically thicker and made from a heavier material. Jumpers are designed to provide warmth and insulation during cooler weather.

The term “jumper” originated in the early 20th century. It referred to a long woolen jacket or pullover worn by workers and athletes. The word “jumper” comes from “jump” because these garments allowed for ease of movement. Over time, “jumper” became associated with any long-sleeved knitted top.

Today, jumpers come in many different styles. They can be crew neck, V-neck, turtleneck, polo neck, or mock neck. Jumpers may be lightweight or chunky in texture. Popular designs include cable knit, fair isle, argyle, and knit sweaters with Nordic-style patterns.

Key Differences Between Jumpers and Sweatshirts

While jumpers and sweatshirts are similar casual garments, there are some notable differences between the two:

  • Material – Jumpers are always knitted from materials like wool, cotton, cashmere, etc. Sweatshirts are made from fleece, jersey, or other sweat-wicking fabrics.
  • Weight – Jumpers tend to be thicker and heavier than sweatshirts.
  • Neckline – Crew necks are common on sweatshirts. Jumpers have more variation in necklines.
  • Purpose – Sweatshirts are athletic wear meant to absorb sweat. Jumpers are focused on providing warmth and insulation.
  • Fit – Jumpers are more likely to have a loose, relaxed fit compared to the athletic fit of many sweatshirts.

When are Jumpers Typically Worn in the UK?

Jumpers are a wardrobe staple in the UK because of the country’s cool, damp climate. They are worn year-round but are especially essential during autumn and winter.

Some of the most common situations when Brits reach for their favorite jumper include:

  • Layering underneath coats and jackets in cold weather
  • Wearing around the house and garden during chilly days
  • Lounging with pajama bottoms or jeans
  • Going for walks and hiking outdoors
  • Wearing to the office for warmth in overly air conditioned buildings
  • Cozying up by the fireplace on cold evenings
  • Sporting their favorite football club’s jersey on game days
  • Dressing in festive holiday-themed jumpers before Christmas

Jumpers are worn by men, women, and children throughout the UK. They are a versatile piece of clothing that can be dressed up or down for many occasions.

Popular Styles of Jumpers in British Fashion

There are many beloved styles of jumpers that have become ubiquitous in British fashion. Here are some of the most popular knitted garments in the UK:

The Cable Knit Jumper

This style of jumper features a cable knit weave that creates a distinctive pattern of twisting, interlocking lines. Cable knits provide extra warmth and thickness. They have a classic, preppy look. The cable knit is one of the most iconic British jumper styles.

The Fair Isle Jumper

Originating in Scotland, these jumpers have colorful patterns knitted in motifs across the yoke, or upper portion. The patterns are inspired by traditional Fair Isle motifs like Nordic animals and geometric shapes. This style represents a more festive, statement-making jumper.

The Cricket Jumper

Cricket jumpers feature V-necks and sleeve bands in a team’s colors. They are part of the uniform for British schoolboys participating in cricket. Cricket jumpers have an academic, sporty feel.

The Fisherman Jumper

Inspired by clothes worn by real British fishermen, these chunky, thick jumpers provide extra insulation. They often feature a mock turtleneck and have a functional, outdoorsy look.

The Argyle Jumper

The diamond pattern in these jumpers originated with the tartan of Scottish clans. Argyle knits remain popular for their vintage appeal. They have an aristocratic, country feel.

The Roll Neck Jumper

This close-fitting jumper has a roll neck that can be folded down or worn up to cover part of the chin. Roll necks provide extra warmth. The minimalist, streamlined look is modern and stylish.

Common Jumper Materials and Textures

Jumpers come in a wide array of textures and materials to suit various styles and seasons. Here are some of the most common:

  • Wool – Warm and insulating but breathable. Provides classic jumper texture.
  • Cashmere – Ultra soft and lightweight. Offers supreme comfort and warmth.
  • Cotton – Natural fiber that creates soft, breathable jumpers.
  • Alpaca – Hypoallergenic wool alternative known for its warmth and softness.
  • Angora – Fluffy, delicate wool made from angora rabbit fur.
  • Mohair – Shaggy, fuzzy texture from angora goat fur.
  • Silk – Lightweight and luxurious. Often blended with wool for sheen.
  • Chunky knit – Uses thicker yarns for more insulation.
  • Fine knit – Uses thin yarns for delicate, lightweight jumpers.

How Jumpers Differ Across Regions of the UK

While jumpers are popular across Britain, there are some subtle regional differences in how they are worn:


The traditional cricket jumper is quintessentially English. English jumpers also tend to feature more reserved, subtle colors and patterns.


Scottish knits like Fair Isle and argyle patterns represent the Scottish jumper style. Tartan patterns and earthy tones are also popular. Textures tend to be chunkier.


Welsh jumpers often feature bold prints and patterns like checkerboard and contrasting horizontal bands. Reds and greens commonly represent Welsh national pride.

Northern Ireland

Cabled designs borrowed from Irish fisherman sweaters are prevalent here. Styles tend to be understated and practical for rural life.

British Isles

Region Notable Jumper Styles
England Cricket jumpers, cable knits
Scotland Fair Isle, argyle, chunky knits
Wales Vibrant prints, checkerboard, horizontal bands
N. Ireland Fisherman knits, cabled designs


In the UK, jumpers are the common term for what Americans call sweatshirts. British jumpers come in myriad styles and knits that represent various regional traditions. But across the UK, the jumper remains a wardrobe staple for its comfort and warmth during the country’s often-chilly weather.

So next time you come across the term “jumper” in a British shop or magazine, you’ll know it refers to those cozy knitted tops that Brits have been sporting for generations.