When it’s really cold out, the ultimate fashion goal is combining style with warmth. Many people think the two aren’t mutually exclusive, but that’s not true! You just need to know the right fabric (or fabric blends) to buy. Certain fabrics are natural insulators and will keep you nice and warm even when the temperatures are uncomfortably low. Some of these include wool and cashmere, but which is the better one to buy?
Which Is Warmer, Wool or Cashmere?
There is a lot of debate on this topic. Some people argue that wool is warmer because the material itself is thicker and its crimped texture makes it a better insulator. However, it’s been proven that cashmere is actually the warmer of the two! Even though cashmere is thinner and lighter than wool, it can be seven to eight times warmer than sheep’s wool.
Keep in mind that not all cashmere is made equal. The warmth, width, and quality all depend on the origin of the goat and the finishing during the production process. The highest quality cashmere is actually ends up being the most lightweight. Cashmere comes from kashmir goats that are native to India, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, China, and Mongolia in the Himalayas and Gobi desert. But the best quality cashmere comes from the goats that are found in the Himalayas of the Ladakh region of India. It can get as freezing as -40 C° during the harsh winters there so the goats’ fleece has evolved over time to adapt to the weather. Cashmere is made of the downy undercoat of the goats, which acts as an insulator. It’s literally nature’s answer to surviving extreme cold!
It can be hard to determine if cashmere is of good quality, and almost impossible to know where exactly the goat came from. But there are a few things that you can look for to determine the quality of the cashmere. Always check the tag before you buy as this will give you the information that you need. To get the full benefits of cashmere (including the most warmth/insulation), you need to buy something that is at lest 90% cashmere. Then you must look at the fibers themselves. Quality is measured by length and thickness. The highest quality cashmere is usually around 2.5 inches in length and 14 microns in width. Basically, the longer and finer the fiber, the better the quality will be. Also check where the item was made. Europeans have been producing cashmere for longer so they tend to have more expertise than other countries. Scotland and Italy in particular have the best reputations for producing quality cashmere.
Of course, the finest quality cashmere also comes with the highest price tag. A cashmere sweater from a luxury brand can cost upwards of $1000! If that’s not in your budget, you still have many options. You can go for lower quality cashmeres (they won’t be as tightly knit and will be more prone to pilling), or you can look for a blend. When two warm, insulating fabrics work together they also produce a great cozy combination. The most obvious one is wool, but sometimes synthetics such as polyester are added to the mix to offset the itchiness of wool (and lower overall price). A common blend percentage to look for is 70% wool, 20% cashmere, and 10% polyester.
If you do go for a blend make sure you are choosing the right fabrics and percentages for you. For example, if you have sensitive skin avoid blends with high percentages of wool as it will be more itchy, or try and find a merino wool blend as that’s the softest kind of wool. And remember - the higher the cashmere percentage, the softer and warmer the knit will be!