Sometime in the 1980s, clothing companies discovered that plastic fibers could be spun to look like wool fleece. This polyester fleece had many of the same properties as wool but lacked the itchiness of wool. The rest is history and we’ve endured (and enjoyed) thirty years of fluffy jackets, many in garish colors, that have been worn by everyone from mountaineers to taxi drivers. Wool was relegated to those uncomfortable sweaters and scarves that grandma would knit for Christmas. Those were the halcyon days of plastics before anyone cared about garbage patches in the ocean, global warming or unemployed sheep.
If someone could solve the itchiness problem, wool would be the superior insulation. After all, it’s sustainably produced, insulates as well as polyester, even when wet, and best of all, it doesn’t retain odor, important when you’re huddled in a mountainside bivouac for three weeks straight with two other grown men. Enter Icebreaker, the small clothing company in the wool capital of the world, New Zealand. Icebreaker has figured out that the fine wool from the merino sheep does not itch. They’ve also figured out how to make wool clothing that doesn’t look like a family handicraft or a ski bum’s Sunday best. Their new line for men and women, RealFleece, features athletically-cut but smartly-styled jackets, with a brushed pile inside and a smooth finished jersey finish outside.
The men’s RealFleece line so far only consists of a single offering – the Aspiring Zip ($200). It is a remarkably soft zip-up midweight jacket that moves from trail to town effortlessly, thanks to its sleek styling. The stand-up collar has a chin guard that keeps the zipper from snagging your trendy stubble, two slash hand warmer pockets and a stealthy chest pocket for small stuff. People will want to fondle the soft merino when you tell them it’s wool, as if you’ve got as genuine moon rock or shark’s tooth, so be prepared. One note: the cut of the Aspiring Zip is “athletic” so be honest about your physique when ordering.
Buy Now: $200