The History of Wool Sweaters: There’s More to the Story Than You May Think

Written by: Jeremiah Greco

Cable Knit Wool Sweater
Cable Knit Wool Sweater
Photo via orvis.com

The use of wool in textiles dates back as far as 3000 B.C., having been used for garments in some of the earliest civilizations. Naturally insulating, water-repellent, durable, and often anti-microbial, wool has long served as a go-to textile for garments. That history is what makes the wool sweater such a classic style for men. From fishermen in Ireland’s northern villages to shepherds in the highlands of the Middle East, the wool sweater has stood the test of time and guarantees itself a place in your wardrobe for decades to come.

From a casual cardigan over a V-neck to the classic style of a mockneck quarter-zip or crewneck over a sport shirt, wool sweaters deliver more than just warmth to your everyday outfits—they can build a versatile wardrobe from a few simple layering pieces. When choosing a wool sweater, you’ll have your choice of style (pullover, quarter-zip, cardigan, crewneck, etc.), weave or knit (such as felted or woven, rib, or cable) and fabric. Even in the category of wool sweaters there are many choices of fabric including lambswool, merino, cashmere, and fabric blends with cotton and silk for lighter weight or added softness.

Merino is one of the most versatile wool fibers. The merino sheep dates back to the 12th century, and the use of its wool has grown ever popular as it is often regarded as the softest wool fiber. One square inch of merino fleece produces nearly four times as many wool fibers as other breeds of sheep. Its natural wicking property, and next-to-skin comfort, make merino the favorite fiber for athletes, including runners, cyclists, and skiers. But the same comfort merino provides to athletes gives luxurious comfort to a casual wool sweater or men’s sweater vest. If you’re looking for pure warmth and comfort, look to a 100% merino sweater for that special wardrobe piece. For shoulder seasons and summer, a merino and cotton blend sweater delivers handsome style with less warmth, making for a versatile layering piece, no matter the weather. From backyard summer barbecues to snowy mid-winter walks, a merino wool sweater can give your wardrobe agility in style.

Like merino, our lambswool sweaters deliver natural warmth and softness. Lambswool is defined by the length of its fiber, which should be 50mm or shorter and comes from the first shearing of the sheep at around seven months of age. We use lambswool in many of our cable knit wool sweaters for a luxuriously soft finish, with the artisanal detail found only in this classic weave.

Cashmere V-Neck Pullover Sweater
Cashmere V-Neck Pullover
Photo via orvis.com

Around the world, cashmere is synonymous with luxury. When you really want to dress up a sport shirt or an oxford shirt, a cashmere sweater or sweater vest can go a long way in the style department. A cashmere sweater is one of the few wardrobe items that’s truly a pleasure to wear; once you own one, you’ll find yourself continuously shopping for more.

Whatever strain or wool fiber you choose, a wool sweater is a must in any man’s wardrobe. Truly a staple (pun intended) of timeless style, a proper wool sweater will last a lifetime and always deliver a familiar comfort when you wear it.

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