As the weather turns, it can be challenging to find clothing that will keep you looking nice without making you gross and sticky. It’s a fine balance, and if you’re someone who runs hot or is always sweaty, you may think that wool is off the table. Yet knitwear expert and Soft Haus designer Gina Rockenwagner said that merino wool, a natural fiber woven from the coats of merino sheep, is naturally temperature regulating.
“Unlike acrylics or polyester, which are made from plastic, wool was designed by nature to keep sheep at a comfy temperature,” Rockenwagner told HuffPost. “The tiny strands of hair that make up wool are porous, so they absorb moisture and naturally wick it away from the body where it can evaporate into the air.”
In contrast to acrylic or polyester clothing that can trap sweat and moisture close to your skin, Rockenwagner said merino wool helps expel your sweat, keeping you dry. Further, she said, merino wool doesn’t absorb oils or odors, so if you’re always sweaty, you can quickly hand-wash your wool items to keep them fresh.
“Merino can absorb 30% of its weight without becoming wet,” said Maria Dora, designer of the clothing brand Georgia. “I often wear a well-loved merino cardigan because it is warm and soft, but also odor-resistant and moisture-wicking.”
Dora, who has also created knitwear for movies like “Haunted Mansion,” “Babylon” and “The Hunger Games,” noted that “because of its naturally long fibers, merino is a durable option for layering pieces or socks.” She also said that you can wear it in warmer weather, as well as the fall and winter.
“Depending on the weight, you can wear merino year-round, for all occasions. It is a material that has been worn in the desert by Bedouin and Tuareg tribes for centuries,” Dora said. “Merino is also surprisingly good for swimwear — I’ve made several swimsuits for period films and I’m always in awe of how well they hold up.”
Though Rockenwagner also loves merino for many types of clothing, she said she sticks to merino wool under-layers like leggings or long underwear, rather than for actual underwear, as it can feel thick on sensitive skin. She also noted that if you’re blessed with thicker thighs, the crotch seam in merino wool pants can wear out quickly with consistent rubbing, meaning you may get crotch holes sooner than in other pants.
When asked what types of merino wool items we should look for, Rockenwagner suggested sweaters, hats, gloves, socks and undershirts. Below you’ll find some of Rockenwagner’s and Dora’s merino wool suggestions, as well as other highly-rated finds.
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KateIrishTweedStore on Etsy
A 100% merino wool sweater, ideally one handmade with love
"Everyone should invest in a good merino sweater," Georgia
designer Maria Dora
told HuffPost. "I have several in rotation that are over a decade old. One is a sentimental old crewneck that needs some mending, so I’m currently using it as a scarf on chilly mornings."
If you're looking to start or to fortify your wool sweater collection, we recommend KateIrishTweedStore
on Etsy. They're a star seller, with thousands of glowing reviews, and use locally sourced wool to hand-create long-lasting wool sweaters (and other garments.) They're a part of the Ring of Kerry Crafts
, a family-owned business in Ireland that helps local artisans sell their work online.
Patagonia merino wool blend long johns
If you spend a lot of time in the snow or run cold, knitwear designer Gina Rockenwagner
recommends Patagonia's merino wool blend long johns. "When I lived in Chicago, I wore Patagonia merino long underwear almost every day in the winter," she said. "It's my favorite!"
Meant to keep you warm without making you sweaty or smelly, this long underwear is made to last. They're super lightweight while still giving you comfort and warmth, and they dry super fast, keeping you fresh.
Smartwool crew socks
Rockenwagner's other merino suggestion? Smartwool socks. "I love Smartwool socks," she said. "But it's best to line dry them instead of putting them in the dryer."
While Smartwool makes great skiing and hiking socks, their everyday crew sock will become a part of your weekly rotation. They're made with a merino wool blend, keeping your feet cozy without getting funky.
A 100% merino wool men's undershirt
Rockenwagner says that merino wool makes for great base layers or undergarments. We found this highly-rated men's undershirt that reviewers say works amazing in the heat
as well as in cooler weather
. You can wear it under sweaters or button-ups or on its own as a T-shirt. It even works well for hikes or working out, as it has UV protection and is odor-resistant.
100% merino wool women's long sleeve shirt
Merino wool convertible gloves
Keep your hands warm while still being able to apply chapstick or text on your phone with these convertible mitten gloves. Reviewers say they worked in below-freezing temperatures and will keep your hands warm without adding a ton of weight or bulk.
A merino wool beanie with removable puff
Rock a cute winter hat with a fur puff with this versatile merino wool winter hat. Created by the women-owned brand Sh*t That I Knit, which employs artisans in Lima, Peru, it's made from 100% merino wool to keep your head warm without making you sweaty and has a removable puff to match your style.
A merino half-zip sweater
The definition of snuggly and soft, this half-zip sweater feels like a worn-in hoodie, while still elevated enough to wear to work or dinner. It's made from boiled merino wool so it's extra soft and warm without weighing you down. With a 4.6 overall rating and hundreds of happy reviewers, wearing it is like "receiving micro-hugs all around your torso, arms and neck
," said one reviewer— and what could be better than that?
Or a felted merino wool cardigan
If you're more into the cardigan style, this option also boasts tons of positive reviews. It's warm without being starchy and has a nice boxy shape that's easy to wear without being heavy or looking too oversized. One reviewer called it "[t]he perfect snuggly slouchy cardigan
" that can be worn with jeans, trousers, dresses or yoga pants.
A merino quarter-zip you can put in the washing machine
Warm and cozy while still polished, this men's quarter-zip sweater is a sharp addition to any winter wardrobe. One reviewer says it is the best thing to "upgrade your sweatshirt
" as it pairs well with jeans or slacks. Best of all, you can wash it at home.
A machine-washable merino crewneck sweater
Another beloved and machine-washable must-have, this lightweight crewneck sweater is great for layering or wearing on its own. The ribbed collar and wrists give it a causal feel, while the classic shape is still dressy enough to wear out. One reviewer called it a "a staple during the winter,
" and we can't agree more.