The Sweater Guy


In the west end of main street across from Information Exchange, bright scarves, handmade hats, whimsical jewelry and a wide variety of other trinkets mark a familiar, annual visitor. The fragrance of incense wafts through the Student Union every November.

In the midst of it all, students can find a kind-hearted man: The Sweater Guy.

“I’ve been doing this a long, long time,” said Ed Merritt. “It all started in second grade with a pen pal in Peru. His mom, aunt and grandma would crochet and knit and send hats and handmade crafts to our family and in exchange, we would send our own packages.”

Merritt now works with families in South America.

“I do everything I can to help make their lives better,” Merritt said. “And I like to think I’m doing an OK job.”

The ornate designs catch passing eyes and students file into the small area to inspect the unique wares. One possible addition to any wardrobe is an animal set. An animal set includes matching hats and gloves. Students can purchase zebras, moose, foxes, dragons, raccoons, penguins, horses and even unicorns. The sets are made from high-quality Merino wool and provide great insulation against the harsh South Dakota winters.

Initially, getting The Sweater Guy here wasn’t easy.

“Way back in the day, they wouldn’t let me come,” Merritt said.

Merritt says there was another woman selling items around this time who didn’t want the competition. Eventually, the school let him come in late January and early February. However, harsh weather kept students from venturing out. Soon, the competitor decided to retire and Merritt took her place.

Merritt currently stops at eight different schools nationwide and travels 10 to 11 months of the year selling his wares at music festivals.

He claims coming to SDSU is a chance to relax and spend time with his friends and the people he loves.

Being a nomad runs in his blood. His dad played baseball for the New York Yankees Organization.  Merritt grew up on the road with his father. After his father retired from baseball, he became a teacher in Iowa. Merritt didn’t want to be stuck there forever, so after he and a few friends turned 18, they bought a vehicle and jetted off to the mountains.

“I loved the mountains, I still do,” Merritt said.

The Sweater Guy will be in the Union until 5 p.m. on Nov. 17.