Cashmere is from Kashmir and the Scoop on Sweaters

 “The sweater is 100% percent cashmere, of course it’s comfortable, so we’re going to skip that part. It has to be the warmest sweater I have ever worn, in my whole life. This winter has been a really crazy one with an average daily temp of 10 degrees, maybe less to be honest. With wind chill we’re talking serious negatives. Every time I’ve worn this sweater I’ve been WARM, and on the rare occasion of 20’s HOT. I wear a windproof coat, and just the sweater underneath. The amount of heat that’s held inside is a bit ridiculous. The thickness of the sweater and density of the yarn must be key here, because I’ve worn cashmere before and haven’t had the same results. Overall I’m extremely impressed, and on the coldest days it’s my first pick.” – Deepthinker from Illinois

After recently covering some history of wool sweaters, I thought I’d explore the topic a little more and share some facts about the most luxurious of cold weather garments – the cashmere sweater. It is almost fall, after all, and inquiring minds want to know!

We’ll start off with this post’s title. Cashmere is simply an older Anglo spelling of the Kashmir region of the Indian subcontinent – an area whose borders have long been disputed by India, Pakistan and China (and engrained in 70s’ teens minds as one of Zeppelin’s greatest). Cashmere has been used in Kashmir and neighboring Nepal for thousands of years and was introduced to Western Europe through trade at the turn of the 19th century.

So does that mean a garment must be knit in Kashmir to be considered a cashmere sweater, like champagne must come from Champagne? No. The Kashmir region gave its name to the Cashmere goat, which is where the fibers come from. And I intentionally said “fiber” because even though it’s commonly referred to as “cashmere wool,” the Cashmere goat fiber is actually a hair (that comes from the undercoat in the goat’s neck area), which is what gives it the fiber’s unique characteristics, as compared to sheep wool. Even merino, one of the softest wools can’t hold a candle to the luxurious softness of cashmere. Thank you, goats!

In the US, there are additional labeling laws for a fabric to be considered cashmere. You can read all about the cashmere (and other wools) labeling laws here (scroll down to (15 68b(a)(6)) or search the page for “cashmere”) but here are the basics:

(6) In the case of a wool product stamped, tagged, labeled, or otherwise identified as cashmere, if–

         (A) such wool product is not the fine (dehaired) undercoat fibers produced by a
         cashmere goat (capra hircus laniger);

        (B) the average diameter of the fiber of such wool product exceeds 19 microns; or

        (C) such wool product contains more than 3 percent (by weight) of cashmere fibers
         with average diameters that exceed 30 microns.

The average fiber diameter may be subject to a coefficient of variation around the mean that shall not exceed 24 percent.

Specific, right? But that definition also helps ensure pretty consistent quality across products being sold in the US as cashmere sweaters, or scarves, or other garments. The way in which those cashmere fibers are woven, or knitted into a garment can still vary greatly, so make sure to do your research when buying your next cashmere sweater. A little attention to detail will go a long way towards your full satisfaction. And few clothing items are more prized in a closet than those made of cashmere, so when you make the right choice, the reward is all yours.


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