Why I'm Bullish on Wool-ish Products
April 30, 2019
When you hear the word "wool", one does not necessarily think of performance material. I certainly didn't think my dad's old woolen fisherman's sweater would be a great thing to throw on and go for a run in. It turns out wool has some great characteristics and may be the best material for your workout.
Wool is one of our most enduring textiles with one of the oldest garments found in a Danish bog in 1500 BC. In Roman times, wool, linen, and leather clothed the European population; cotton from India was a curiosity of which only naturalists had heard, and silks, imported along the Silk Road from China, were extravagant luxury goods.
Wool has evolved and has many varieties. The fiber comes from the fleece of the sheep or lamb or hair of the Angora or Cashmere goat and may include the so-called specialty fibers from the hair of the camel, alpaca, llama, and vicuna. But, it's the Merino wool that has the best use for athletics. And it out performs cotton, which absorbs moisture but feels heavy; silk, which is absorbent but feels chilly when wet, and propylene, which doesn’t smell great after the first wear. Wool, however, wicks away moisture, kills the germs that cause body odor and insulates your body in both hot and cold weather.
This wool comes from a particular breed of sheep called Merino sheep. Originally from Spain they are now the mainstay of Australia where new breeds have been developed to produce its fine, super-fine, and ultra-fine materials. So, there's no itching or bulkiness that are characteristic in the mohair wool which comes from Angora goat. In addition, wool is biodegradable.
Here are some reasons why runners and active people in general should switch to wool:
- Wicks away moisture. Merino wool makes a great base layer in the winter as it keeps you dry and absorbs sweat.
- Odor-resistant. Merino wool won't hold odor. Wool has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. The thin waxy coating of wool fibre contains fatty acids that inhibit the growth of mold, mildew and bacteria. In fact, it's a great travel accessory to have since you don't have to wash it often. Some companies claim you can go 40 days without a wash (I haven't tried that).
- Regulates temperature. Stay cool in warm weather and warm in cool weather.
- Dries quickly and protects. If it gets wet, it dries out quickly and it has a natural SPF protection built in.
- Durable and stretchy. Its natural fiber curl makes the material resilient and elastic.
While Merino wool has some great characteristics, the only real downside I found is the cost. Products are typically more expensive than the cottons and polyester performance fabrics, but the durability of the product and lack of odor retention makes the investment worthwhile. And caring for wool is not so bad either. As mentioned previously, it may not require as many washings as other fabrics, but when you do clean them, it only requires cold or warm water washing with laying them on a flat surface being the best way to dry.
Stay cool and warm wherever you are!