The Magic of Merino Wool
Wool is a commonly used fabric in men’s and women’s tailoring because of its excellent properties, including breathability and insulation. It’s a natural fabric that can be used for almost any purpose, fine or humble, but it’s actually a much more complex material than it seems, and there is a lot to consider when choosing a woollen garment. The type of wool, for example, is important both to the look and performance of the garment you are having made, and all types have their own advantages and disadvantages.
Camel wool is warm but brittle, while Llama wool is rough but strong, Alpaca wool is fine but rough and unsuitable for wearing against the skin, but by far the most sought-after type of wool is Merino Wool. Made from the wool of a specific breed of sheep, Merino Wool is both lightweight and fine while still being soft. This makes it great at insulating whilst remaining lightweight and pleasant to wear, which explains its great popularity for everything from formalwear to outerwear and warm weather gear. So what is Merino Wool, and is it better than synthetic fabrics? Let’s take a look.
What is Merino wool?
Originally created by the Moorish rulers of southern Spain by cross-breeding North African sheep with local Spanish sheep from the Pyrenees, the new sheep were just as hardy and had thick wool, which also possessed the fine and strong quality of the North African breed. Merino became known as one of the finest wools for cloth making during the Renaissance, and Spanish traders held the monopoly because exporting Merino sheep from Spain attracted the death penalty, until other European powers gradually acquired breeding pairs through theft and wars. This led to an explosion in the production of Merino wool in new strains, particularly in large New World countries such as the United States and Australia, and better varieties of wool. Today the industrial production of Merino wool in vast herds of sheep has made it one of the world’s most popular wools for use on high-quality garments.
Why we use Merino Wool.
Merino wool was originally used for only the most luxurious cloth because of its expense and softness against the skin, but greater production made it more accessible as a fabric, and its insulating properties became more appreciated. Now it is used for just about everything in its different forms, with ultra-fine Merino used to create fine garments like scarves and warmer Merino used to create more utilitarian garments like hats and socks. Its adaptability makes it the perfect choice for garments of all kinds because whatever you need your clothes to do, there’s a good chance that Merino wool is able to fulfil that need.
For everyday wear against the skin, Merino wool is fine enough not to scratch and irritate while still being pleasantly warm. That’s what makes it an excellent choice for knitwear such as cardigans and jumpers like the Submariner’s Jumper as well as the Knitted Mens Fisherman Jumper, which keeps the body warm without causing sweating. Similarly, Merino Wool is known to be excellent at insulating thanks to its tightly woven fibres, but without causing overheating, because the natural fibres still allow heat and moisture to escape. That’s why we also use it to create high-quality outerwear, such as our Merino Wool blazers and our Merino Wool Cardigan.
Is Merino Wool better than Polyester?
Despite all the praise and good press that Merino Wool gets, many people find it hard to believe that it could be better than Polyester. After all, wool is a natural product, while polyester was created scientifically for its insulating properties. It’s true that both materials have their strengths and weaknesses, but there are many ways in which Merino Wool is simply a better choice. For example, in terms of comfort, Merino Wool can feel silky and smooth to the touch, especially if it is one of the finer types of wool. This is because if it is a higher grade it is more tightly woven and has thinner fibres, which feel softer and more luxurious to the touch. All of this subtlety is lost with polyester, which feels consistently artificial and plastic, with none of the same natural softness.
In terms of its performance in outdoor or cold weather settings, Merino Wool is also a high-quality option. Pound for pound, one amount of Merino Wool is just as warm as the same amount of Polyester, it’s just that wool tends to be used in thicker garments, which gives the impression that it is warmer. One area in which it is undoubtedly high performing is in terms of breathability. While Polyester is tightly woven and good at trapping heat, it is less good at letting it go, which can lead to both overheating and discomfort caused by sweating. Merino Wool, on the other hand, has fibres that are wider apart which allows the flow of air through and natural cooling.
Merino Wool is also much more ecologically sound than Polyester, which is not only an oil derivative created by drilling, it is also a producer of microplastics as it breaks down. Merino Wool, on the other hand, is naturally produced sustainably in a way that keeps habitats safe and has little adverse effect on the environment. It also needs to be washed less because it is naturally antibacterial, and when it is thrown away it is biodegradable, so it leaves no unpleasant traces behind.
Choosing Merino Wool garments for ultimate comfort.
Merino Wool has proven itself an excellent choice of fabric over hundreds of years and remains one of the most sought-after materials for high-quality knitwear of all kinds. Its excellent thermal performance, as well as its comfort and softness against the skin, makes it perfect for use in cold weather. However, it is also breathable and cooling enough to wear in warmer weather too, thanks to its natural weave that allows hot air out and cool air in. It’s why we work with it, and why we create exceptionally tailored British garments from it, such as our Merino Jumpers and Knitted Jackets.