Easy and Elegant Life

The Search for Everyday Elegance and the Art of Living Well.

Bully for Wooly Layers

Source: By Original: User:Fir0002Derivative work: Charles Esson at en.wikipedia – Edit of Image:Sheep eating grass edit02.jpg, GFDL 1.2, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=12599612

Those who have followed me forever, and those who might have strolled through the archives, know that I’ve always been one to dress a little better than I have to. Pre-pandemic, I frequently sallied forth in a suit, or sport coat at the least, to do something as mundane as the grocery shopping. You see, I like to wear well-tailored clothing. It’s easy to wear, perks me up and lends a sense of occasion to the quotidienne. Easy and Elegant… .

Then COVID hit, everybody was locked down, restaurants closed, and I discovered that I could get my groceries and wine delivered for free (Whole Foods and Amazon have probably saved lives, and I’m pretty sure I have a personal delivery person at Total Wine.) Needless to say, knocking about The Manse in a three piece POW flannel seemed a bit much, even for me. And so, I found myself in shorts, khakis, moleskins, jeans, flannel shirts, polos, or sweaters depending on the weather — anything that could be worn more than once or machine-washed.

Which is when I discovered the incredible versatility of the original tech fabric: merino wool. I should say “remembered about the incredible versatility” after comfortably wearing SmartWool merino socks during our two summer weeks in Israel in the before-times. (REI’s run a close second. I’ve spent the whole pandemic wearing merino lightweight and midweight hiking socks.)

I think I read an account of someone who is a minimalist traveler who suggested merino shirts as the ultimate go-to since they are naturally antimicrobial, odor resistant, thermo-regulating and moisture wicking (I had my doubts, having encountered sheep during my children’s petting zoo phase.) So off to the interwebs it was.

Soon thereafter, I lucked into a Mountain Hardware sale on some merino t-shirts at the start of summer and decided to buy a few. Well! I wore them on my 5 mile dog walks through the city in our typical hot and humid summer conditions and they performed as well as the climacool/dryfit/techy-poly stuff that I had been wearing almost exclusively to that point. (I gave up on cotton ages ago. It gets soaked, and I stay uncomfortable. The exception being Sunspel’s Riviera Polo Shirts, which are in and of themselves a small miracle.) I quickly scooped up Mountain Hardware’s long sleeved versions for the upcoming cooler months.

Flushed with success, I tried to score some less expensive Wooly brand white t’s from Amazon. They’re pretty good, but left me unsatisfied (a bit more length would help,) That led to some Unbound and Bombas merino wool purchases. You get what you pay for, which I should have known from my years in menswear. With a bit of elastane woven into them, the t’s are machine washable, and with interest rates at all-time lows, almost affordable.

I’m now branching out into a pair of merino-lined, stretch-cotton, tech fabric trousers to wear instead of my sweatpants (with their pandemic stain … the Clorox spray bottle leaked) when hiking the city, or if we ever get back to traveling.

So, if you’re still WFA’ing, commuting via something other than your climate controlled car, traveling (lucky you!), walking for fun and to maintain sanity, or like the idea of sustainable, well-made and very useful garments, give merino wool a try.

6 thoughts on “Bully for Wooly Layers

  1. Dearest Chris,
    You deserve some kudos for always managing to find the best and most comfortable things to wear in a still stylish way!
    Glad you can get your Whole Foods deliveries… we have to drive our two hours one-way for stocking up!

  2. Chris, you hit the bullseye as usual. I now teach my college classes online and have done so for over a year, consequently there is little reason for me to dress up. I still like to look professional though and so my new daily uniform is comprised of merino wool long underwear, heavy corduroy pants, a Pendleton solid wool shirt and one of my wool Allen Edmonds vests. If I need to dress it up a little, then I put on a fine tweed sport coat. Otherwise, I wear a wool pea coat when heading out into the weather. I still try to wear some appropriate and beautiful shoes, but only those that match the casual look. A young woman approached me in the grocery store to tell me how nice I looked. I was shocked, but happily so. Of course, this is all thanks to you and your great advice.

  3. If you don’t mind, where are you buying the pants? I too take long walks with my greyhound on the weekends for mental health purposes, and given that’s it’s now a snowy, cold, and wet winter here in the Midwest, I’d love a suggestion about what to wear.

  4. Hi Nick,
    It’s a brand called 686. I took them out for a spin today where it feels like 20ºF with the windchill. I was comfortable, but still a bit cool. Perhaps layering a pair of merino boxers will solve that. They’re slim cut, too. So I’m on the fence for now.

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