We see it everywhere in the food industry – a return to whole and unprocessed foods, simpler seasonal diets, emphasis on organic and local farming, a rejection of ingredients whose names we cannot even pronounce. With so much attention paid to paleo and ancestral diets, one must wonder… is there a paleo wardrobe? Turns out that the story of wool and the story of humans has been interwoven over the past 9 to 11 thousand years. Sometimes it’s a shock to remember that fibers such as cotton and silk have only been globally available over the past couple hundred years, with their daily use being limited to those with the resources to pay for such extravagances. Over the past 50-60 years, synthetic, man-made materials like polyester, nylon, and rayon have become available and dominant in the clothing industry. If you turn the clock back 300 years, chances are that most of us would be hanging out in wool and linen. So why did our ancestors domesticate sheep? Imagine this perfect little package of mobile meat, milk, and fibers that likes to live in groups and gets it’s food from the landscape. It’s no wonder that cultures all over the world have raised sheep and goats for so long! For them, the advantages of wearing wool far outweighed the drawbacks of the coarser (itchier) fibers that would have been encountered before advancements in husbandry that have led to the fine fibered flocks of today.
+ Wool is naturally antimicrobial. This means that the build of up odor causing bacteria, that occurs with cottons and especially in synthetic fibers, is not a problem when wearing wool. With wool garments and socks, you can go longer between washes without developing a stink – critical to those nomadic herders, modern day camping trips, or a long day at the office.
+ Wool is thermo regulating. Wool fibers have the ability to adjust to your body temperature, thus keeping you so very warm when you’re out and about on a cold day. What surprises most people is that wool is also comfortable when moving around and exercising in warm weather. The wool fiber has a hollow core which can draw moisture inside while still feeling dry on the outside (wool can absorb 30% of its own weight in moisture before feeling wet). After absorption the fibers release the moisture to an area of lower moisture concentration, i.e. away from the body. Through the process of osmosis wool is naturally moisture wicking.
+ Wool is flame retardant and can also be UV resistant. This helps with long walks in the sun and nights spent sleeping close to the fire. Wool is not only comfortable to wear, but it is also very comfortable to sleep on or under. In fact, wool comforters are a luxury that can be enjoyed all year long. Check out these guys if you are interested in some American made sleeping heaven.
+ Wool is strong and seems to last forever, yet it can biodegrade in your compost bin. In a laboratory test called a bend test, wool has shown its strength by bending up to 20,000 times without breaking while cotton rings in at 3,200 times. For a little more perspective, a pair of 3,000 year old wool pants were just discovered by archaeologists in western China.
+ Wool is a renewable resource. When proper grazing methods are observed, sheep farming can be extremely good for the environment, as it preserves grasslands and provides a source of carbon sequestration. Sheep can be shorn year after year and their wool simply grows back – it’s fantastic. No synthetic materials are required for the production of wool, just grass, sunshine, and rain.
Wool has been field tested and refined by the ultimate laboratory – evolution on the planet earth. Seeing as sheep have to spend their time outdoors, rain or shine, their fleeces have to handle varying weather conditions and temperatures. When a sheep gets wet, it doesn’t just get moldy and die, it dries off and keeps on eating. With human intervention, sheep have been bred to produce fine quality fiber that can be worn against the skin without discomfort. It is possible to spin the fiber until it is so fine it can go into a t-shirt, all while preserving the natural benefits that our ancestors have known about for thousands of years, which is exactly what we have done!
For all of the above reasons and many more, we love using wool to create Appalatch garments. We hope to continue spreading the wool gospel around the world!