Cashmere is the luxury fabric of the winter season. This top-shelf wool makes purr-inducing holiday gifts and is worn by the style savvy man who wants the warmth of a sweater without the bulk (a necessity here in the teeth-chattering Milwaukee winter). But you are probably wondering, aside from the feel test, what makes cashmere so superior?

1. Well, first, it comes from a goat, not a sheep. While that fact alone might not impress you, perhaps that it is produced via a painstaking process of sheering the goat and then separating its fine undercoat (the stuff used to make cashmere) from its coarser top coat. If that isn’t enough elbow grease for you, consider this: the process is typically done by hand.

2. And now for a little history (don’t worry, there will not be a quiz). The name cashmere comes from an old spelling of Kashmir, the region where the fabric is said to have originated, thousands of years ago (possibly as early as the 13th century, which would be during the Mongolian empire). Cashmere shawls were the crème de le crème in those days, and were used as gifts in Iranian and Indian political and religious settings, usually to define a hierarchy between the giver and the receiver. Fast-forward to 18th century, when cashmere was introduced by several sources into Western Europe and America and was an instant hit.

3. Finally, triple fast-forward to the present day American Midwest—Milwaukee, Wisconsin in wintertime, to be precise—where the temperature hovers around a balmy 25-30 degrees, and cashmere is the most sought after fabric in the winter. Because the fibers are so fine, a cashmere scarf for example can feel impossibly light, but because the fiber is incredibly strong, it also feels cozy and warm (up to eight times warmer than a sheep's wool, in case you were wondering).

So if you want to stay warm this winter without feeling suffocated and cocooned, I highly recommend adding several (or perhaps just adding more) cashmere sweaters and scarves to your wardrobe. That, and perhaps a nice glass of scotch.

December 11, 2013 — D W Haberdasher Limited
Tags: Fabrics

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