Merino Wool vs. Wool

What's the Difference

Have you heard about merino wool? Soft, moisture-wicking and naturally high-tech, this game-changing material challenges everything you thought you knew about wool. Unlike its basic counterpart, this wool variety is made with finer fibers that provide temperature regulation and all-day comfort without the scratchiness of the old-fashioned stuff. In short: Merino isn’t your grandpa’s old wool sweater.

Both merino wool and other wool varieties have their benefits, but one stands above the rest in terms of reliability, comfort and performance (hint: it’s merino).

What Is ‘Standard’ Wool?

What’s the difference between these two common materials? Simply put, merino wool is a specific variety of sheep’s wool.

When you think of wool, you probably think of a thick fiber used to make hats, sweaters and fuzzy socks. In reality, it’s a bit more nuanced. There are many different varieties of wool derived from sheep, goats and rabbits, and their fibers differ widely from the very coarse to the very fine. Standard wool—what you’re likely thinking of when you picture a chunky wool winter sweater—is thicker and coarser than merino wool. Unlike merino, your standard fare wool tends to be scratchy when you wear it without a base layer underneath, and can be irritating to people with sensitive skin. Soft merino wool feels better, plain and simple, and is the only kind of wool we suggest wearing as a next-to-skin layer, such as bras, underwear, leggings and tees.

Standard wool has been used for centuries to make clothing, bedding and more, thanks in part to its natural warmth and durability. But it’s not as breathable or efficient at wicking away moisture as merino wool, which is why merino is becoming more and more common in socks, base layers and even sweaters.

What Is Merino Wool?

Merino wool is a type of wool derived from the merino sheep, which are most commonly bred in New Zealand and Australia these days. Merino wool fibers are quite a bit softer and slimmer, which makes it a popular choice for everything from next-to-skin base layers to heavyweight hoodies. Even though it’s thinner and finer, merino wool is shockingly high-tech — it has the unique ability to both insulate you in the cold and keep you cool when you’re working out on a hot summer day. It’s exceptionally breathable and is naturally antimicrobial and odor-resistant so you stay feeling fresh.

Some of our most popular items include slim and lightweight leggings, underwear and tees that can be rocked alone or serve as a base layer beneath your heavier weight apparel. If you like the super-soft and fuzzy feeling of classic wool (minus the scratchiness), merino wool will serve you very well in thicker applications, too, like beanies and blankets.

Merino Wool Is…

Softer — Merino wool is considered one of the softest kinds of wools. That’s because each fiber has a slimmer diameter (measured in microns) and is shorter than other kinds of wool. Together, these properties make merino soft and gentle to the touch so it won’t irritate your skin.

Better at Thermoregulating — Merino wool has an incredible ability to thermoregulate, meaning it will help keep you warm in the cold and cool in the heat. While regular wool can do a fine job of warming you up, it’s not quite as breathable as merino wool, so it’s less adept at wicking moisture and dumping heat when you’re trekking uphill or out for a summer run. 

More Comfortable — Perhaps most importantly, merino wool is all-around more comfortable than other kinds of wool, which is why it’s the gold standard for outdoor apparel. Not only is it less scratchy, it’s also slimmer and lighter, which means it won’t weigh you down or limit your range of motion when you’re being active. Lightweight merino hoodies, sweaters, leggings and tees pack down small in your luggage and don’t need to be washed nearly as frequently as other kinds of clothing, making merino your best friend for trips of any length.

Quick-Drying — One more downfall of traditional wool: It can take quite a while to dry. Its thicker, denser fibers have a tendency to trap in moisture, which means you’ll have to wait around longer for them to dry. On the other hand, merino sheep have adapted their wool for ultimate airflow and breathability, which means moisture is faster to evaporate when you sweat. Another bonus? You can easily wash your merino undies and tees in your hotel sink and wear them the next day.

Rethinking Wool 

Don’t believe us that merino isn’t your grandpa’s sweater? Wearing is believing. Try some of our merino wool women’s clothing or men’s clothing to feel this high-tech material for yourself.