Named after a breed of sheep, merino wool is fast becoming the performance fabric of choice for many athletes and outdoor enthusiasts. Composed of ultrafine fibers (18 to 24 micrometers) that are amazingly soft, breathable, and durable, merino wool is used to make performance socks and underwear by brands such as Smartwool, Icebreaker, and Ibex.
Named after a breed of sheep, merino wool is fast becoming the performance fabric of choice for many athletes and outdoor enthusiasts.
Composed of ultrafine fibers (18 to 24 micrometers) that are amazingly soft, breathable, and durable, merino wool is used to make performance socks and underwear by brands such as SmartWool, Icebreaker, and Ibex. From its incredible softness and performance to the ethical treatment of the sheep, there's a lot to love about merino wool.
100% Natural and Sustainable
The product of happy New Zealand sheep in need of an annual haircut, merino wool's harvesting and processing requires much less energy than the manufacture of synthetic fabrics. Merino sheep are also browsers, meaning they nibble a little here and there, and are easier on the land than traditional sheep. Reducing your carbon footprint has never felt so good.
Merino wool is a uniquely versatile fiber that keeps you comfortable in both cold and warm conditions. Few other single fabrics work so well in such a broad range of temperatures. Merino wool insulates even when wet. This high-grade wool consists of naturally crimped fibers with tiny threads sprouting off them. The sheer number of thread surfaces is so vast that even when wet, wool fibers trap little pockets of air, which serve to insulate you. When dry, the number of air pockets increases, so the wool insulates even better. Miraculously, the same tiny crimped wool fibers that keep you warm in winter also keep you cool in sweaty conditions through the process of "evaporative cooling." The many fibers act as perfect little wicks to pull moisture up off your skin, move it across the face of the fabric, and expose it to the outside air where it can evaporate quickly. These wicks are what make wool a better moisture manager than many other fabrics.
Because of its unique combination of insulating and cooling qualities, a midweight merino wool piece can negate the need to pack both lightweight and heavyweight synthetics for variable weather conditions. Merino wool is commonly used to make performance socks, underwear, shirts, and lightweight sweaters.
Properly cared for, merino wool socks and sweaters will last for years. The naturally crimped springlike structure of the merino fibers retains its shape after multiple seasons of use, and has much greater tear resistance than cotton and many synthetic fabrics.
Merino is Wrinkle-Free
Merino wool fibers are very resilient and snap back to their original shape, creating a wrinkle-free fabric that's very travel friendly.
Because of the fibers' coil-like springs that compress and expand, they provide natural cushioning. It's this quality that makes merino wool an ideal fabric for socks.
Because merino wool wicks and evaporates moisture quickly, the individual fibers stay quite dry. This moisture-free environment helps prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria, mold, and mildew.
Merino = Soft Texture
Wearing is believing. Slip on SmartWool socks or an Icebreaker merino wool shirt, and you'll be amazed at the soft texture. Forget cotton flannel—this stuff is silky smooth!
Often worn by race-car drivers to retard flames, wool offers much greater fire resistance than synthetic fabrics.
Caring for Merino Wool
Naturally shrink resistant, merino wool stands up to washing and drying much better than traditional ragg wool. Some garments, like socks, can be thrown into the washer and dryer with all the other laundry. On the other hand, knit tops need to be gently machined washed and then laid flat to dry. (Be sure to follow the care instructions provided with each product.) In any event, avoid bleach! It will yellow the wool, or worse yet, break down the wool's individual fibers.
Soft Shell Warmth
Soft shell jackets come in different thicknesses. Those designed for spring/summer/fall are lightweight and offer only minimal insulation—enough to take the edge off a chilly morning. Winter soft shells are usually lined with a thin polyester fleece layer, making them warmer, but not quite as stretchable.
Founded by New England skiers who were trying to keep their feet warm, SmartWool was originally focused on creating the most comfortable shrink-resistant performance socks possible. The company now offers an expansive line of wool apparel, from boxers and tights to shirts and hats. Check our our full assortment of SmartWool socks & clothing.
A leading proponent of using merino wool as a performance fabric, this New Zealand company offers high-quality shirts, tights, socks, and underwear. Check our our full assortment of Icebreaker clothing
Jackets, hoodies, sweaters—you name it. While other companies focus on merino's application as an against-the-skin fabric, Ibex offers a wide assortment of merino wool garments and outerwear. Check our our full assortment of Ibex clothing.