One of the toughest breeds of animal on the planet, the merino sheep live in alpine environments (around 7,000 feet or more), so their fleece is built for weather extremes: insulating through harsh winters, light and breathable through hot summers. Because of merino wool’s tremendous versatility – and a few other attributes we’ll get to in a minute – it’s the ultimate all-natural fabric. World Cup sailors, alpine climbers and winter athletes rely on merino wool clothing because nothing warms, cools, wicks dries, and resists odor quite like it.
For the casual wearer, all of these great merino wool virtues equal one thing – COMFORT. So, we took it upon ourselves to scratch below the surface of this un-scratchy material for a more in-depth explanation of why our men’s merino wool sweaters should be at the top of your cold-weather rotation. Here are seven things you may not have known about merino wool.
It’s Incredibly Soft
The secret to merino wool’s great comfort? It’s finer. Viewed under a microscope, a standard wool fiber looks like the trunk of a palm tree – burred and jagged and, well, scratchy. Merino wool fibers are comparatively smooth, narrow and very soft to the touch – but super-strong, and they carry the same positive characteristics as other wool fabrics.
It Regulates Your Body Temperature
Again, under the microscope, merino wool fibers are actually hollow, so minuscule trapped air within each fiber helps you retain your healthy body temperature and keep you in your comfort zone. Step outside in the snow, and merino wool will keep you warm; Hurry back into a crowded pub, and it’ll help you maintain your cool. Pair a men’s merino wool sweater with a glass of wine or single-malt and you’ll be in tall clover.
It’s Naturally Resistant To… A Lot of Things
Weather, UV rays, stains, static, wrinkles, and even fire – merino wool is the Superman of fabrics. If you’re getting too hot, it’s super-porous fabric and can absorb sweat and keep body odor at bay. Also, because it comes naturally from merino sheep, it blocks UV rays like it normally would for its sheep host. And won’t melt if it comes in contact with hot temperature or fire. Take that, cotton!
Breathability and Quick-Dry Comfort
With its breathability, merino wool can quickly dry if it ever gets wet. Due to the fine and hollow nature of the material, it actually pulls moisture from your skin. That evaporation helps keep your body cool and dry, so you’ll rarely get the feeling of damp clothing on your body. (No one likes wearing a wet shirt or sweater.) For this reason, merino wool is frequently packed and worn by backpackers, hikers, and campers.
No Stink, Man!
Merino has anti-bacterial qualities because of lanolin. Lanolin is natural oil produced by sheep that protects the animal from infection and permeates the wool fiber. Most of the lanolin is washed from the wool during processing, but enough remains to prevent mildew and bacteria from building up. Just another reason why so many winter adventurers and athletes swear by their merino wool clothing. No stink, man!
Merino Wool is a Sustainable Fabric
After all, it does come from an animal! Given its all-natural status, merino wool is 100% biodegradable and renewable, making it one of the most environmentally friendly fabrics on Earth.
Last, merino wool is naturally elastic and doesn’t care about the shape of your body like other fabrics too. It easily moves, stretches, and retains its shape, which can come in handy when you’re chopping wood, reaching the overhead, or hoisting a cold beer.