This reduces demand on animals, diverts waste, and minimizes environmental impact.
On cold winter days, I stay warm by putting on a wool sweater. Given the choice between cotton hoodies and fleece zip-ups, I find myself always gravitating toward wool when the temperature outside has plunged below zero because I know it offers the coziest, most comfortable form of warmth.
Wool is an ancient material that people have used for centuries to keep themselves warm, but recently it has faced backlash from animal rights activists who are concerned about the way in which sheep are kept, treated, and shorn for their coats. This has contributed to a surge in synthetic insulating layers, which have their own environmental issues, primarily the shedding of plastic microfibers into waterways which, ironically, cause harm to marine animals.There's no easy answer to the question of what to wear to keep oneself warm, but I deal with it by doing one of two things. Either I buy my wool sweaters second-hand, which prolongs their life, spares them from landfill, and reduces demand for virgin product (they're also much cheaper); or I choose recycled wool content when buying new, an option that's becoming more widely available. This winter I received a sample sweater from California clothing brand prAna (best known for its yoga and workout wear), and it has quickly become a favorite in my closet. It contains 39 percent recycled wool, blended with polyester and nylon.
prAna began using recycled wool in select sweaters almost by accident. The company describes how it loved the wool coming out of Prato, Italy, before it even knew the wool was recycled. "From there, it just made sense." Recycled wool is made from reclaimed textile waste, and does not have to be re-dyed: "The mill is able to mix already-dyed fibers to create color, rather than shearing new wool and treating and dyeing the fibers."
Recycled wool performs no differently from virgin wool. It's still warm and light, breathable, durable, renewable, biodegradable, and recyclable. The Campaign for Wool says it is "hydrophilic — highly absorbent, and retains liquids — and so dyes richly while remaining colourfast, without the use of chemicals," and that when "a natural wool fibre is disposed of in soil, it takes a very short time to break down, whereas most synthetics are extremely slow to degrade." Sounds like an ideal material.
prAna released four new sweaters in winter 2020 – two for women and two for men – in a mix of pull-over and zip-up styles. I can attest to the comfortableness of the Brandie Sweater, which is not itchy, pulls over my head, and has a flattering, almost form-fitting cut without feeling constricting in any way. You can see it here, as well as the Women's Lockwood Sweater and the Men's Riddle Full Zip (currently out of stock) and Leonidas Long-Sleeve Henley. Prices are $139-$149.