Wool, winter’s wonder fabric

Bozeman’s obsession with outdoor clothing makes sense. Warm, durable, versatile clothing is a necessity when you live in an outdoor mecca, and Bozeman is no exception. However, many of us would still like to maintain a higher level of style in our wardrobe, leaving us wondering how to balance practicality with fashion.

One textile that works great in both worlds is wool, nature’s miracle-worker. Apart from being slightly itchy in some cases, wool is perfectly designed for the outdoor enthusiast.

The characteristic crimp of the fabric gives it a greater bulk by allowing air pockets to form inside the fibers, making certain thicknesses of wool just as warm and windproof as nylon or Gore-Tex. Additionally, the exterior of the individual fibers repels liquid, while the interior of the fibers absorbs it. This allows wool to regulate your body temperature extremely well, even when soaked with water or sweat.

Alongside these standard properties, the varieties of wool that exist are truly mind-boggling. Over 200 breeds of sheep are cultivated for their distinct wools, not to mention cashmere and mohair from goats, qiviut from muskox and angora from rabbits — the strains go on and on. Combine everything together and you get one highly useful textile.

Wool is considered a great sartorialist fabric because of its wonderful texture, color, variety and warmth. It looks elegant when left untouched and intriguing when knitted into different designs. These elements combine to make wool one of the most versatile and valued fabrics in the industry.

Although wool might not be as popular now as it was 100 or even 50 years ago, there are still plenty of wool manufacturers in business. Companies like Pendleton, Woolrich, or L.L. Bean have a great selection of wool shirts, jackets and overcoats that look great and work well in outdoor weather. Often found in thrift stores, vintage coats by these brands are some of my absolute favorite pieces.

Wool sweaters come in many different styles, ranging from fine merino wool in solid colors to beautifully crafted Fair Isle treasures. As with all garments, a thicker, more textured sweater works better as a final layer than one with a simple design and finer texture.

Never sacrifice your lifestyle for your wardrobe. Rather, tailor your clothes to what your lifestyle necessitates and your style indicates as the right choice. Hopefully, a new appreciation for wool will make this harmony that much easier to obtain.