Remember wool, that scratchy old sweater fabric made famous by Mr. Rogers? It’s been around forever, but right now it’s experiencing a rebirth, and outdoor- apparel makers are finally convincing athletes that the high-performance wool of today is much more than the coarse, clammy, itchy-as-hell stuff of yesteryear.
“The two key things that make it better are finer fibers and longer staples [fiber clusters],” says Timm Smith, brand marketing director for Colorado-based wool apparel company Voormi. “Companies are starting to unlock the full potential of wool.” The result: Next-generation mid-layers and stylish outerwear that outperform man-made synthetics in spring’s fickle hot-cold-wet-dry conditions.
The fibers are so fine—less than a third the diameter of a human hair—and long that the barbs can’t jab and irritate your skin. What’s more, they produce a lighter-weight fabric that regulates temperature on warm days, wicking moisture from your skin to the wool’s surface, where it quickly evaporates—as well as it does in the cold, with better breathability and naturally occurring, odor-eliminating antimicrobials.
“It’s a pretty amazing material,” Smith says. Expect it to leave you itching for more time outdoors, no matter the weather.