Merino wool is more than a fashion fad. People have worn it for centuries – starting with farmers in Spain and eventually migrating to Australia, where much of the world’s merino production is based nowadays. And, given its sustainability, people will probably wear it well into the future.
You can attribute merino wool’s longstanding popularity to its natural benefits. It’s breathable, making it a comfortable choice for warm weather. But it’s also insulating, providing a heat-retaining base layer in cold weather. Travelers love merino wool because it’s sweat-wicking and antibacterial, which means it stays fresh over several days of wearing. And finally, fashion-conscious people love its style and versatility; the material looks just as good in a crisp merino wool button down shirt as it does in a relaxed merino tee.
But what should you look for when you shop for merino wool? How can you tell a great merino wool garment from a so-so one? In this article, let’s explore some indicators of quality, provenance, sustainability and style that you can spot when you buy merino wool.
Construction and Fit
Most of the time, your eye doesn’t lie. As you shop for merino wool clothing, pay special attention to the fit and construction – even if you’re going by pictures on the internet.
You’re looking for balance here. The article of clothing should look well-defined without being too baggy or tight. The stitching should look uniform and sturdy. And the drape should be a nice middle-ground between stiff and droopy.
One way to tell wool quality of any kind is by its fineness. While certain wool types benefit from a coarser grade (think cable-knit or fisherman’s sweaters), merino wool should be superfine.
“Superfine” is a classification of wool with fibres less than 17 microns in diameter. In layperson’s terms, this means the fibres weave into a silky, soft and comfortable final product. Look for a merino wool clothing company that prominently advertises its product’s fineness.
Woolmark is a big deal in the wool industry. They independently test wool products (merino and otherwise) for content, quality, colorfastness and durability by running products through a battery of lab tests. Those products that pass the exacting tests earn the coveted “Woolmark certification.”
In other words, if you’re looking for an all-around indicator of quality as you shop for merino wool, a quick and easy tip is to watch for the “Woolmark certified” symbol.
Mulesing is a sheep farming tactic in which farmers remove strips of skin from the back of the animal to prevent infections. It’s roundly recognized as an inhumane practice by animal rights activists.
Most consumers want wool products from happy, humanely treated sheep. After all, when done right, wool farming can be a sustainable, eco-friendly clothing option that doesn’t harm animals. If you want to ensure that your garments are from humane sources, look for a company that offers “mulesing-free” merino wool.
If you want quality, sustainable, fashionable merino wool, look for the indications above. For your efforts, you’ll be rewarded with clothing that you can wear for years.
Images from MMSCENE STYLE STORIES: Hunter Beireis by Kenneth Medilo – See the full story here