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Know Your Wool Before You Buy

Know Your Wool Before You Buy

Many wonderful men’s wardrobe items are made from wool, but not all wools are made alike. Don’t let slick marketers pull the wool over your eyes. Learn the most common types of wool used in the men’s fashion industry, and how to choose wool based on the characteristics you desire.

Merino and Lambswool

Merino wool is characterized by fine fibers that make wardrobe items less bulky and more elegant. Merino wool is soft, durable, warm, and cozy. Lambswool is ultra soft and smooth and is also resilient, which makes it less prone to wrinkles. Those qualities also make it somewhat more expensive.

Cashmere and Mohair

Cashmere comes from a species of goat, and can be nearly 10 times warmer than sheep’s wool. But it is also much lighter and more luxurious. Those qualities make it considerably more expensive than sheep’s wool. Mohair is another pricey but exceptionally soft, warm, high-quality fiber from a particular type of goat.

Alpaca and Angora

Alpaca comes from animals that are similar to the llama. It is slightly warmer than cashmere, and is also very lightweight, durable, and soft to the touch. Angora comes from Angora rabbits, and is fluffy, warm and exquisitely soft. But it is more delicate and less durable than other wools. Both Alpaca and Angora tend to be high-priced. But top-shelf wools are worth the investment when they have the qualities you want.

Thickness or Ply

Thickness is determined by how many strands of wool are twisted together to make yarn. Single strand yarn is labeled “1-ply.” Others may have multiple strands.. The higher the ply, the more fiber is in the yarn. For ultimate comfort and warmth, look for a high-ply garment that is also made from the warmest type of wool.

Worsted Wool and Wool Blends

Suits are often made of worsted wool, which has longer fibers than other wools and a rather dense, hard finish once it’s woven into fabric. While you may prefer a softer, fluffier wool for a sweater, the firmness and tightness of worsted wool may be ideal for a suit. You’ll typically see it used for pants, suits, and blazers. Blended wool fabric is another kind you’ll often see. That means it is made of a combination of different types of wool or other textiles. Ragg wool, for example, is a rough wool usually woven with a third fiber like cotton or acrylic. It’s durable and relatively inexpensive, but can be itchy. You might consider it as a top layer (so it won’t scratch your skin) and wear it for more rugged outdoor activities.

The Content Ratio of the Blend

But don’t be fooled by clever advertising involving blended wool. A sweater may be advertised as a “cashmere blend” to emphasize that it contains fancy cashmere. But it may only have five or 10 percent cashmere fiber, blended with less luxurious wool or with other fabrics. If you want 100 percent, study the label and small print carefully. Wool products can only be labeled as 100 percent if they contain at least 95 percent of the wool they indicate.

Now that you have a basic overview and understanding, shopping for woolen products will be easy. You’ll also avoid overpaying for inferior items that the untrained consumer doesn’t know how to detect.

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