The visual complexity, the romance of the stitch names. It’s a wonderful garment that can be both utilitarian and fascinatingly complex.
However, not nearly all knitters feel up to the challenge. This is something that can be corrected. For all the visual complexity, the working of cables is quite simple.
Cables are formed by changing the order in which the stitches are worked by use of a cable needle. Stitches are crossed either in front or behind the work. The number crossed, the direction, and the frequency go to make up the pattern.
Stories are told and retold that families used a certain set of patterns so that a drowned man could be identified by his clothing. Rather ghoulish, and fortunately, a marketing fiction.
In designing items with cables and textures, the only “tradition” that one needs to keep in mind is the wishes of the designer. There are no sets of family patterns to use like a label. The designer is not even limited to the off-white of “fisherman” wool!
This is an area where a good stitch pattern dictionary is a key tool. There are dozens in my main stitch pattern dictionary, and that is simply scratching the surface!