- 31 Jan 2022
We talk about what makes wool, in our eyes, a performance material.
Many people believe that wool is simply used nowadays thanks to its biodegradability and its fashionable nature. What is often misunderstood is that wool also has technical properties which can rival even the most developed of synthetic fibres.
To those in the know, wool is a material that will keep you warm even when wet, and it can survive long periods of wear without taking on unwanted odours. This tied in with its abundance in certain areas of the world is why mariners in days gone by chose it as their material of choice.
To understand why wool can keep you warm when wet, there is some interesting science to unravel. Thanks to the natural crimp in the fibres, wool can absorb up to 30% of its weight in water, before the tiny air pockets which trap warm air are flattened. Further to that, naturally occurring oily lanolin in the fibres gives a fantastic innate water resistance, meaning to get past that 30% is surprisingly tricky.
Also interesting is what happens when these wool fibres take on moisture right to the core. A chemical reaction breaks down the H2O molecule, and in the process releases heat. While this won’t feel quite like an electric blanket, it will help in drying whatever wool garment is being worn, be it a Merino base layer, a worsted wool coat, or a Sims Wear jumper.
And finally, on to odour. Some may know that it is not the sweat itself that can smell, rather the bacteria which grows thanks to the humid and warm environment. The fatty acids in wool fibres actively absorb and lock away those individual bacteria, thanks to its hygroscopic nature, meaning they can no longer multiply and emit any smell. These bacteria are only then release from the fibres once the garment is washed.
So to round up, while wool might not be as water tight as Gore Tex, it can act as a highly breathable antimicrobial layer when dressing up for cold climates, as well as a soft and light addition to a summers day.