Merino wool has been getting a lot of attention recently. Even if you’ve been living under a rock you’re almost sure to have heard about this fantastic material that somehow regulates body temperature, wicks away sweat, is hypoallergenic, and doesn’t smell. Is it too good to be true? Actually, no. Turns out Merino Wool is the best at keeping you warm and dry, naturally. Here’s why 100% merino wool beanies really stand up to the hype.
Merino wool comes from merino sheep, a particularly high-quality breed of sheep that originated in Spain. Now, you can find merino sheep all over the world thanks to the growing popularity of merino wool for many types of clothing. The reason that merino wool is so highly regarded is because of how soft and fine it is. Wool is judged by its diameter, which is measured in microns. The lower the number, the finer (and therefore less itchy and coarse) the wool. Wool from a typical sheep can be 40 microns or more. Merino wool, on the other hand, is typically about 24 microns (at the most). Top-tier merino wool can be as low as 15 microns. While merino wool has been around for a long time (in fact, merino sheep are the world's oldest breed, originating in the 12th century), its mainstream popularity is fairly recent. Because of its fantastic temperature regulating qualities and how lightweight it is, merino wool clothes were first primarily used for outdoor sports clothing. Think high-tech base layers and ultra-soft winter socks. But it didn’t take long for merino wool to find its way into everyday closets. Now, you’ll find it in many types of clothes from technical tee-shirts to underwear and more!
If you’ve looked at any merino wool products, you know that this super-soft wool comes at a price. A 100% merino wool beanie is going to cost more than something made from coarse wool or synthetic materials like acrylic. And at first glance, it might be hard to tell why 100% merino wool is more expensive. But the higher price of merino wool is worth it for quite a few reasons. If you’ve grown tired of the itchy feeling that a typical wool beanie leaves you with, picking a merino wool beanie is your solution. Thanks to its fine weave and soft fibers, beanies made from 100% merino wool lay comfortably against your skin, rather than giving you the prickly feeling you get with heavier weight wool. Merino wool is also very warm while still being lightweight, which makes it a top pick for winter clothing. And that’s just the start...
Unlike synthetic fibers that can lock in heat when you don’t want it or super-thin materials that leave your ears freezing, merino wool adjusts to different temperatures. This is one of the reasons that merino beanies are so highly prized for outdoor activities. You know the feeling. You start out for your winter activity of choice on a freezing winter day, all layered up. And 20 minutes later, you’re dripping in sweat. Wearing a merino beanie helps your body stay at a stable temperature throughout the day. Thanks to the kinks in the natural fibers, merino wool traps air close to the skin to keep you from feeling the cold, and when you heat up, the natural structure of the wool lets sweat out, keeping you cool and dry.
Thanks to tiny spaces in its fibers that leave room for moisture absorption, merino wool has the ability to take moisture away from your skin as soon as it’s released from the body. Merino fibers wick moisture vapor away from your skin and upwards towards the surface of your merino beanie, where it quickly evaporates. Because of this, the vapor never condenses to droplets of sweat in your beanie, so merino wool keeps you warm and dry even when you’re moving and sweating. Non-pourous synthetic fibers simply can’t compare. Because moisture vapor sits on the surface of synthetic fibers rather than being absorbed my them, synthetic beanies accumulate moisture and have to wait for time and temperature to dry them off once you start to sweat.
We’re not saying we should never wash your merino beanie (in fact, we’ll tell you how to do it in a second), but if you need to go a little longer between washes, no one will be the wiser. Thanks to lanolin, a natural wax that sheep produce, your merino beanie repels odor-causing bacteria. The antimicrobial properties of merino, partnered with how well merino wool releases moisture, means there’s no environment for smelly bacteria to grow. Still not convinced? This guy wore a merino wool shirt for two weeks without washing it.
Because the natural fibers of merino wool quickly move move moisture from your skin to evaporate back into the atmosphere, your merino beanie won't stay wet for long. This dry climate leaves no room for bacteria and other allergy-causing organisms, like dust mites, to grow. Plus, thanks to the tiny diameter of merino wool (about a third of the size of human hair), it’s so fine that it bends out of the way when it comes in contact with your skin, its too fine to poke or scratch, leaving you with soft, itch-free comfort.
Synthetic fibers that are commonly used for clothing, like nylon and polyester, can take upwards of a hundred years to decompose. Of course, that’s not including extras, like buttons or zippers. Choosing a merino wool beanie is a more sustainable option. Not only is merino wool sourced naturally from sheep, rather than made from oil-based materials, merino wool naturally biodegrades in 12 months. Compared to the energy and non-renewable resources needed to make synthetic beanies, using a naturally renewable resource like merino wool leaves a much smaller footprint. It takes about half the amount of energy to produce wool as it does to create synthetic fabrics like polyester. Besides biodegrading on their own, merino beanies won’t release microplastics into our waterways when they’re washed. This is a good reason to make sure you’re picking a 100% merino wool beanie- blends of merino wool with other materials can render them non-biodegradable.
Ultimately, no. They aren’t. If recycling plastic was a solution to tackle plastic pollution, we wouldn’t have a problem in the first place. We’ve been recycling plastic since it was first created, yet our oceans, rivers, and landfills are drowning in plastic pollution.
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