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This month we’ll take a deep dive into the American wool supply chain, from Rocky Mountain ranches to retail shelves around the country. Because the more you know, the more you’ll sell.
How much do you really know about wool? If you’re like me, probably not as much as you think.
Surely you know that it’s the current darling of the technical fabric world, and not just the stuff of socks and long johns. You know it’s warm (even when wet), breathable, and stink-resistant because your stores and websites are brimming with it in all sorts of iterations. The last few years have seen an explosion in wool across all apparel categories, from wispy summer tee-shirts and lifestyle travel clothing, from puffy jackets to weather-resistant outer layers.
But wool has not always been the cool kid. Of course, it was the original technical fabric, worn by the likes of Sir Edmund Hillary when he first summited Everest back in 1952. But when Polar Fleece hit the scene in 1979 (launched by Malden Mills, now Polartec), the world quickly embraced it as a comfier, softer, cozier alternative to then-scratchy wool.
Thirty-plus years later, the pendulum is swinging back towards natural fabrics that are more sustainable. And new processing techniques have helped wool, which has so many inherent performance characteristics, become a whole lot softer.
Though the lion’s share of wool is sourced and processed on the other side of the globe, American wool is on the rise, and with good reason. According to a study by Consumer Reports, 8 in 10 Americans would rather buy American-made products. And 60 percent will pay more for them.
Domestically made outdoor gear is good for our industry, our work-force, our country. And it’s also, it turns out, really good for our adventures.
By the end of this month, in which we will look at wool from all sides, we hope you’ll come away with a much deeper understanding of where it comes from, why it performs so damn good in the outdoors, and why our industry should support American wool products and companies, like Farm to Feet, Duckworth, VOORMI, Darn Tough, Pendleton, and Ibex. And ultimately how to sell more of it.
We’ll kick things off with a super-cool, GIANT infographic that tells you everything you ever wanted to know about sheep, shepherds, shearers, and wool. (Fun fact: The average sheep lives to the ripe old age of 7, produces around 55 pounds of wool in its lifetime, and costs about $25 per year to feed.)
Then, we’ll tag along with award-winning writer, Tracy Ross, on her epic quest to learn about American-made wool. From a third-generation Wyoming ranch, to the country’s only wool-processing plant in South Carolina, to the Nester Hosiery factory in North Carolina, we’ll peel back the curtain and show you the entire American wool supply chain, from sheep to shelf.
I’ve personally been a huge fan of wool gear for many years. But these stories made me appreciate it in a whole new way. I hope they do the same for you.