It is a little decision, often enough made. Do we use Natural Fibers vs Synthetics for our clothes?
The lure of synthetics is high. There are some great examples. Patagonia manages to constantly produce top quality items made from synthetics (such as the hearty Synchilla Snap-T, made from 86% recycled materials no less). There are also some high quality and innovative synthetic materials. Polartec, invented by Malden Mills in 1979 and branded Polar Fleece, is just one. And synthetics have many great qualities: they have vibrant colors, are lightweight, are machine washable and dry quickly.
So why do we keep rediscovering wool? One problem is that synthetics have been copied by everyone from high-end to low-end. There are now so many bad examples that pill and fall apart.
But wool itself has so many incredible intrinsic properties. And these have never been copied.
There is natural beauty of wool. Wool just has a better look and feel. Wool sweaters age better and even take to mending better, which makes them less wasteful.
It is breathable. Compare this to the almost rash-inducing and moisture trapping qualities of so many synthetics. Wool also doesn't propagate static electricity. It is fire retardant.
Wool keeps heat in and out. It can absorb roughly one third of its weight in water and still insulate.
Wonderfully, almost magically, it is now more widely available in itch-free and softer garments. Today's high quality ragg sweaters and socks feel more like cotton than the scratchy garments of yesteryear.
Finally, obviously, wool comes from sheep. The more producers there are of wool, the more landscapes we can enjoy dotted with grazing sheep, rather than plastic factories.
See Tom's of Maine's founders Tom and Kate Chappel's new venture at: www.ramblersway.comThis battle between natural and synthetics is being fought on many fronts, from lumber to butter to medicine to cutting boards to fertilizer. There is a small, critical place for synthetics. But when it is close, more of us will be happier for longer with natural.