Each type of fabric has its own connotations and stereotypes, for better or for worse:
Cotton is remarkably soft but may absorb water too extensively to be used in wet weather or for extended workouts. Wool is warm but can be scratchy and is too hot to be worn in warmer months. Polyester and nylon are great for athletics but are too lightweight to hold up against wind or cold weather.
To an extent, all of these claims are true, and to an extent, all of these claims are false. The particulars of a given fabric matter more in determining its qualities than its material type alone. Low-quality wool is scratchy, overly hot, and can be unpleasant to wear in anything but cold environments. The same can not be said of high-quality wool, like that which comes from Merino sheep.
Merino wool is remarkable for its own special properties, which sets it apart from both other wools and other fabrics. We will be explaining the origins of the fabric and how it manages to be so exceptional. The truth that Olivers has to share, though it is surprising, is that merino even works for spring and summer.
The Origins of Merino Wool
Merino wool comes from the sheep variety of the same name. Merino sheep are known for the whitish color of their wool as well as the natural crimping it possesses. The sheep originated in Spain, somewhere around the 12th Century. The wool was immediately harvested for its countless beneficial properties and helped Spain achieve dominance in the wool industry.
Despite the value of the sheep, or rather because of it, they were not traded widely. For several centuries the exportation of Merino sheep was a crime punishable by death. This law was not repealed until 1786 when a small flock was gifted to a notable Dutch family. The sheep, though appreciated, failed to thrive due to the climate.
When Merino ewes were introduced to Australia nearly a decade later, they thrived. Today, Australia is noted for being the largest exporter of Merino wool. In fact, Australia is the largest exporter of wool in general in the world.
The fraught history of Merino wool begs the question: why? Could a fabric be so valuable and so exceptional that it would be worth imposing such severe sanctions? The answer to that question is most likely a negative one, and yet there are reasons such rules were made.
We have explained the underlying history of Merino wool. However, understanding the extent of this historical narrative requires an investigation into the special properties of the wool itself.
A Merino Wool: A Fabric Like No Other
Any negative perception of wool has likely originated from exposure to substandard wool products. Merino represents the other end of the spectrum as an example of the best that wool can be. The material is luxuriously soft, rivaling and in some cases surpassing the softness of silk. It has also been seen to cause reduced outbreaks for those with wool allergies.
It is also remarkably moisture-wicking and absorbent, even by the standards of the general material. It is estimated that Merino wool can absorb up to 30% of its own weight in water while feeling dry. It is also a relatively quick-drying material. It doesn’t dry nearly as fast as some synthetics but is extremely competitive among natural fabrics.
The material is also uniquely thermoregulating. As the material gets colder, it retains heat, and as body temperature rises, it releases heat. This means that it adjusts to the temperature of the natural environment in any season. This is a special property of wool that is incredibly difficult for any other material to replicate.
Most radically changing the perception of wool is that wearing Merino may even have medical benefits for select individuals. A scientific study on individuals with atopic dermatitis or eczema and Merino wool yielded fascinating results. This study revealed that wearing Merino wool garments led to a vastly enhanced quality of life compared to standard clothing.
The fabric did not suddenly cause skin hydration and complete cessation of symptoms. However, itching, scratchiness, and other negative factors were reduced. In general, it greatly reduced the severity of the condition. The fact that it can be worn even by those with sensitive skin conditions showcases its delicacy and use.
The above makes Merino wool remarkable. The next question is: How does it hold up against seasonal weather?
A Wool for All Seasons
Wool is a natural selection for cold-weather months. Merino wool is useful in any month, regardless of the weather. This comes from the properties we listed above.
Spring is defined by rapidly shifting temperatures, large amounts of precipitation, and the slow emergence of flowers and trees. It can be challenging dressing appropriately when early mornings and late evenings are chillingly cold, but midday is swelteringly warm. These complex conditions are perfectly suited to merino wool’s thermoregulating nature.
In the morning and evening, merino will keep you warm as the wool retains every bit of heat. At midday, that heat is released, and your body can adjust to the changing temperature. Sudden drizzles are kept away, thanks to the absorbent properties of the fabric.
Merino is just as effective in the summer months. You can wear merino wool in summer thanks to the above properties, which serve to keep you cool. The moisture-wicking nature lets it absorb sweat to a massive degree, great for exercising or long hikes.
Merino wool socks for summer hiking can be richly soft and help you avoid the discomfort of wet socks. The antimicrobial properties of merino can also help reduce the risk of illness associated with extended hikes.
The use of wool in fall and winter is clear. Warmth and comfort are critical in these seasons, and merino wool provides both. Merino wool creates high-intensity workout gear that feels amazing to wear throughout your day.
The one single downfall of Merino wool is it cannot repel extreme moisture like synthetics found in raincoats. These circumstances are often those where your clothing would get soaked regardless. Marathons in torrential downpours and heavy rain workouts require special attention to your apparel. No matter the season and context, merino will thrive in it.
Our Merino Wool
Merino wool can be effective in any layer. Skin-to-skin contact, as stated above, can provide lush softness and actively reduce itching. The material specially thermoregulates, situating the user perfectly in any context. The softness, durability, and moisture-wicking properties of the fabric are together unparalleled.
It raises the standard for what wool can be and for what performance fabric should be.
After examining it closely, it becomes less surprising why the kings of Spain wanted to protect such a spectacular material. The history behind the fabric, which led to its modern development, is complex. Then again, so is the material.
Olivers doesn’t just use merino, though. Our choice of fabrics includes luxury cotton weaves and special synthetic blends made to maximize the performance of apparel. The pinnacle of each type of material has special inimitable properties, just like those which make merino unique.
We are proud to utilize merino wool in many of our designs. We know that there is no such thing as a perfect fabric. However, at the apex of woolen goods, merino comes damn close.