I am officially a wool convert, which is something I never thought would happen in a million years. Growing up in Chicago, I had no say in my winter apparel. My mom picked out my winter jacket, my scarf, my mittens (and those awesome little clips that hold mittens to the cuffs of your sleeves!), everything. As a little kid, I had no idea if I was wearing cashmere or polyester, although for the sake of full disclosure, I will say that the chances my mom put me in a cashmere ANYTHING at that age lie somewhere between “not a chance in hell” and “dream on.”
When I was in elementary school, we moved to warm sunny southern California and the need for warm winter clothes vanished. I had a few jackets for the inevitable winter rain, but usually I wore sweatshirts when the weather turned cold. The few jackets I had were chosen more because they were cute and had long sleeves than for actual insulation purposes.
After college, I moved to the Bay Area. It’s only a few hours north, but man does that distance make a difference. After only a few months, winter began and I was cold. All of my warm weather clothes (short sleeved shirts, capris, shorts) were abandoned, and I began the pursuit of adequate warmth.
My mom took pity on me and gave me a secondhand jacket from LL Bean (secondhand because my sister specifically asked for it as her Christmas gift and then decided that she didn’t want it, so I got a brand new jacket that my sister had rejected). It was waterproof and lined with wool, so it was supposed to be perfect for the inclement weather I had to deal with.
It kept me warm, but on my uphill trudge after work, I would start sweating. It was a strange sensation – half of my body was still freezing and the other half of my body was sweating. I could have lived with that (kind of) but the wool lining itched my neck and anywhere that it came in contact with my skin.
That Christmas, Mr. Awesome’s mom gave me a pair of cute holiday socks: bright red wool with white reindeer. I was looking forward to having warm feet…until I put them on and my feet started to itch.
Undaunted, a few years later, I bought a wool blend coat, thinking that since it was lined, the wool wouldn’t touch my skin and bother me. What I neglected to consider was the collar touching the back and sides of my neck. Every time I wore that coat, my neck would get red and itchy. I tried wearing a scarf underneath to separate my skin from the wool, but I somehow always ended up scratching at myself like I had bedbugs.
After that, I gave up on wool. I resigned myself to a wool-free existence, which didn’t seem too bad. In this day and age, there are a lot of other insulating materials that provide warmth, so I just had to make sure to read labels carefully when buying scarves, hats, and winter jackets to make sure they were wool free, which seemed a small price to pay in order to stay itch free.
Last month while I was looking for a winter hat, I found a pair of magenta gloves by SmartWool. I made an immediate beeline to them, only to see that they were 100% wool. The label said that this wool is itch free, so I decided to give it a try. I put on the pretty gloves and walked around the store for twenty minutes to see if my hands got hot, sweaty, or itchy. All that happened was that my hands got cozy warm without the slightest trace of an itch! How awesome is this color?
I used to hate pink. When I was little, my younger sister and I each picked a favorite color. I chose blue and she chose pink. That was that. We did not deviate from that for years. I can count on one hand how many pink things I owned: a sweet vest with tons of pockets that my sister and I both got at KidsMart, a pale pink party dress that my grandmother gave me for my birthday when I was nine years old, a bitchin’ neon pink mesh piece of fabric that my sister and I used to tie around our heads as 80s headbands (we have a picture of both of us wearing said headband while posing with the Easter Bunny at an egg hunt), a fuchsia satin prom dress that my mom made for me, and a coral sweater/Hammer pants outfit from high school. Who would not love such kick ass pants?
What is that pattern, you ask? Mendhi? Something in a trendy tribal print? Complex hidden messages? I always thought they were little men dancing, but I’ll let you be the judge. Check out the extreme close up:
This was the extent of my acceptance of pink. Aside from the few examples (and a costume I was forced to wear in a school play), I shunned pink for most of my life. On the rare occasion that I allowed pink into my life, I wanted bright screaming pink. Pastel pink was an abomination relegated to baby clothes and bathrooms.
Then about four years ago, I started to like pink again. It was totally out of nowhere. First I bought one pink tank top, and it was just an anomaly. Then I had several pink things and I finally realized I LOVED PINK. Where did this come from? I have no idea. It culminated in a holy grail search for a discontinued fuchsia Tylie Malibu purse, complete with fuchsia crystals:
Even though I love pink, I am very particular about the shades that I like, so finding some magenta gloves was really exciting. I saw some pink socks, but I decided to go with blue. These are the popcorn cable socks that I decided to buy with my gloves:
I wasn’t crazy about the greenish hue on the toes and heel, but I figured that no one would ever see that part of the sock besides me. These socks have extra cushioning on the sole, which gives extra support. That is really awesome for me because my feet are completely flat. If they were any flatter, they would bend upward.
I used to wonder how it was possible for my feet to sweat but still be so cold. Now I never have to wonder again because these socks kept my feet my feet warm without any itching or sweating. I started looking online, because $20 is a lot for a pair of socks. Sierra Trading Post had a bunch of SmartWool socks, most of them 40-50% cheaper than the retail price! It must have been my lucky day because the website was having a sale, so everything was an additional 20% off AND I found an online coupon! I decided that in light of all the extra savings, I should buy a bunch of different socks to see which ones I liked the best.
One of the really awesome things about SmartWool socks is that they have different levels of cushioning: no cushion at all, extra light, light, medium, heavy, and extra heavy. The knee high ski socks also have extra compression on the shins and the tops of the feet for even more support. I wore these the other night at a performance, and they were great. Usually by the end of my third set, my feet are sweaty and sore, my shins ache, and the inside of my pleather boot covers are slick with sweat. One night with these cute argyle socks and no more sweaty calves or feet!
The moral of the story: I am now totally in love with high quality merino wool. As long as I don’t itch, I am happy! SmartWool has a bunch of information on their website about the moisture wicking properties of their wool, why it doesn’t itch, etc. but honestly, I feel this is similar to the way that I feel about the inner workings of my tv and my car: as long as it works, I’m fine with believing that magical fairies do all the work.
And because I can’t resist posting pictures of cute stuff, this is the adorable (boiled wool) sweater coat that I bought the same weekend that I found the gloves and socks. Looking back, it was an unintentional wool weekend! Even though this sweater looks thin (which it is), it’s unbelievably warm. I wore it with just a thin, long sleeved cotton henley underneath to run errands until after dark and was comfortable both inside stores and outside. One of the reasons I do not miss Chicago winters is I hated bundling up to the point of sweat inside the house, going outside in the freezing cold, arriving at my destination, going inside all sweaty, and then peeling it all off. With this sweater coat, I did not have wild temperature fluctuations. And I love the ruffles – feminine without being juvenile!
SmartWool also makes clothes (none as cute as the purple sweater), but I haven’t tried any yet. You can find their socks and other accessories at REI and other outdoorsy type stores. A friend of mine is totally in love with Icebreaker, another company that sells merino wool products, but I have yet to try them. They are having a sale through December 15th so if you are interested, leave a comment below so I can send you the link. You will receive a coupon code for one of the following: 20% off, 50% off, a free Bodyfit or Superfine top, a free pair of socks, or free two day shipping!