We all know that wool is pretty incredible stuff.
It’s resistant to bacteria, mould and mildew, making it incredibly durable and ideal for anyone who suffers from allergies.
Wool has incredible naturally balanced thermal insulation properties. In other words a pair of wool sock will keep your toes toasty in the winter and your feet fresh in the summer.
This unique property means that wool is being used as insulation for carbon neutral homes, which is actually a pretty big deal.
Wool is anti-wrinkle, anti-static and flame resistant.
But wool isn’t perfect - we’re as shocked as you are.
Wool is expensive - although the value outweighs the cost for the majority, there is no avoiding the fact that wool can be four or five times the cost of synthetics.
Wool shrinks when washed and is also susceptible to odours - especially smoke, food particulates.
Some lower quality wools can also be itchy on sensitive skin.
Of course we’re not here to advocate a purely synthetic solution. The reason why synthetics are cheap is because they’re cheap and often time a false economy.
What good is a synthetic winter jumper if it doesn’t make it through the season let alone last until the next?
Natural fibres are always a better alternative both in terms of durability and sustainability. However there are occasions when a little synthetic fibre can go along way to help address some of the issues outlined above.
Of course, wool blends such as wool and nylon have been used for decades.
Nylon is both a really effective way of softening lower quality wools but it also lowers the price too. A pure wool suit is very much an investment, not a purchase and as such isn’t an option for everyone.
A blend gives the more budget conscious individual the look they want at a price they can afford.
But nylon has other benefits. For a synthetic it’s actually quite useful. It’s strong, keeps it shape and provides moisture wicking properties which are compatible with wool.
Nylon has flexibility which isn’t necessarily present in the standard grade wools so it allows the garment to move and stretch without losing its shape. This is rather handy is a wool garment ends up going through the washing machine.
Because of its shrink and wrinkle resistant properties it helps the wool maintain its shape as well as softening the overall feel of the fabric.
The Other Alternative
Okay, so nylon can make poor quality wool feel like good quality wool and it can make a wool suit more affordable.
That’s all fair enough but let’s not miss the obvious - nylon isn’t a sustainable material. It has its uses but it isn’t the only solution to changing the properties of wool to make it more compliant or commercially appealing.
Blending wool with cotton has been around since the 1800s but gradually died out over time, despite England and other English speaking nations adopting it.
Demand for synthetic fibres was the main reason given for the blend losing popularity, however the demand for natural solutions to self inflicted synthetic problems has caused a resurgence to this old approach.
It’s not perfect - the cotton element is prone to creasing so if the blend is more cotton than wool you’ll look like you’re dressed in linen than wool.
However the overall look is both high end and the cotton aspect is highly compatible with the wool.
Cotton has high moisture transfer so transfers and releases body odour, much like Merino wool. It also has excellent heat transference and retains its shape well after washing.
The only area that a wool cotton blend trips up on in any real way is that it doesn’t stand up to much in the way of physical punishment.
So it’s ideal for suits, coats, scarves and other every day garments but high wear items like socks or a tracksuit then you’re likely to be disappointed.
There is clearly still work to be done. Blends make a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. For a start, blends use less wool per garment which means the world wool supplies go further. This makes the manufacturer more profitable and - in theory - the manufacturer passes those savings on in the form of a cheaper product.
Of course, the answer may lie in other wools. Merino wool is famed for its durable yet soft quality, not to mention its excellent moisture and anti microbial properties. Blending Merino with lower micron wools may be the solution that also balances cost effectiveness
Here at NZNC we have been ordering and selling blends for years and trials and sampling of different blends has been going on in the factory down the back for 50 years. 90% of the socks we sell are 70% Merino wool 30% Nylon this blend has proven to be the best to keep shape and form giving proper fit and comfort to the wearer.
Here are some of our favourite blends:
- 70% 30% merino - Ranger Socks
- 55% merino 20% Acrylic 25% nylon Gumboot Socks
- 20% cotton 50% merino 20% nylon Summer work sock
- 28% short fibre possum, 42% wool, 28% nylon and 2% lycra Everyday possum socks
We’re proud to stock all natural products including a range of wool garments, including Merino wool. Just get in touch if you have any questions.