Merino wool gets its name from one of the world’s oldest and highly regarded breeds of sheep, originally from Spain and prized for its wool. From the 12th century to the 18th century, the Merino sheep was exclusive to Spain, but during the 18th century, export of to other countries began, at first illegally. In modern times, countries such as New Zealand and Australia have become well known for their Merino wool production.
One of the things that makes Merino wool so special is its fineness. Merino wool fibers are typically under 24 microns and can get as fine as 15 microns, considered superfine. It’s fineness makes it not only a soft and luxurious fiber, but also adequate for everyday wear, as it can be blended with other fibers (making it more commercial) and used to make base layers that do not irritate the skin.
Merino wool is revered for its naturally-occurring temperature-regulating properties.The many microscopic air pockets on each fiber allow it to respond to the body’s temperature, providing both insulation and breathability. It thus keeps the wearer cool in warmer climates, and warm in colder climates. Merino’s climate versatility also has a lot to do with its ability to mitigate moisture, wicking sweat away from the body to keep the wearer comfortable in all conditions.
In addition to being slightly moisture repellent, unlike cotton and other natural fibers used in textiles, Merino wool has the ability retain warmth when it does get wet. Finally, Merino is naturally anti-bacterial, so it combats body odor and thus can be worn frequently without having to wash after each wear.