Perhaps this is because I was raised by sheep.
(Or was it with sheep? Sometimes it’s hard to tell).
In the dance studio or out in the wilderness, I’m wearing wool- and loving it.
I grew up on a small sheep farm. We’d sell the lamb meat at the farmer’s market, and work with the wool; spinning, knitting, selling it to other spinners and knitters. We raised Targhees, which produce a fine quality wool (just below Merino on the quality scale), and Colored Corriedales, medium quality wool in gorgeous shades of gray to brown to black. The Corriedales were my particular favorites, and my show sheep at fairs.
I was raised by sheep, and I hung out with the black sheep. They had a lot to say about life. The most important lesson I got from my woolly friends was: Wool is Good. (The other important one was: get to the food first).
Wool is an amazing natural fiber. Forget the common myth that wool is itchy, and delve with me into some woolyness.
The top brands that sell wool products: Smartwool, Icebreaker, I/O Merino, Stoic, Ibex, Minus 33 are using the finest quality wool a sheep can make. Merino wool from Merino sheep. The softest wool there is.
Wearing wool works in most weather conditions. It keeps you warm when it’s cold out, and cool when it’s warm out. Even though sheep do enjoy being sheared for the summer season (they don’t necessarily enjoy the shearing, but they like the fresh feel after). I think everyone would agree that being covered in 7 inches of wool on a hot day is a bit overkill.
Another great thing about wool is it’s resistance to odor. Often after a lot of athletic wear of synthetic clothing, it’s hard to keep the smell out. After a while, even when freshly washed, the synthetic clothes just don’t smell good. Wool continues to smell fresh while wicking away sweat.
And wool works when it is wet! Cotton kills in the same conditions, and while some synthetic clothes are made to be quick dry or water resistant, they don’t have the insulating layer included. One great way to cross a cold stream a little happier is to wear wool long underwear and wool socks. They’ll get wet, but you won’t be freezing on the other side.
Wool follows me everywhere I go. Every Christmas, I’m asking for wool socks. (I don’t think it’s possible to have too many wool socks.)
In the dance studio, I love dancing in wool socks. When it’s cold I dance in a wool vest and wool legwarmers.
On the trail, it’s wool all the way. Wool socks, wool briefs, wool sports bra, wool long underwear (top and bottom), wool hiking T, wool liner gloves, wool beanie. (usually not worn all at once, except for the occasional frosty night).
I wear a mix of products from all the leading wool brands. From my experience they all work well. My decision on brand is based on the usual mix of what is: available, in stock, on sale, fits my body just right. My socks tend to be Smartwool, I like the fit of Icebreaker tops, I’m trying out Injiji socks, Stoic boy shorts and an I/O merino sports bra. Wool is wool. If it fits right, feels good and is in my price range, I’ll gladly wear it.
Some of the wooly items I’ll be wearing on my PCT hike:
It feels good to wear a natural fiber. The production of wool (growing on a sheep who is happily chewing cud in a pasture) is good for the environment too. Sheep are also multi purpose, while they are growing their wool, they are also mowing the lawn or munching down on unwanted brush.
I feel good about what I’m wearing knowing it comes from something the sun helps produce, and because it just feels good.
Wool can be woolly or wooly.
Sheep can count 1, 2 and many.
Sheep recognize faces (human, dog, cat, other sheep), both ones they like and dislike.
The best sheep story: Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann. A sheep detective story. Originally written in German, this book has been translated into 30 languages. It is highly entertaining and enlightening about our woolly friends.