Wool activewear a new global fashion fad

Leading athleisure companies are experimenting with growing acceptance of wool activewear and the properties associated with it. Be it wool’s softness and odour-resisting properties, brands like Adidas and Lululemon are making sure the trend catches on.

Added to this, wool’s inherent properties such as breathability and moisture-wicking capabilities are slated to drive the growth of the material. This trend was highlighted at the recent ISPO trade fair in Munich. Norwegian brand Devold won an ISPO Award 2018 for its Tuvegga Sport Air base layer. The reversible two-sided functional base layer is designed for high-performance activities and is made from 100 per cent Merino wool.

The Woolmark Company displayed products like wool footwear, seamless apparel and wool filling. Lars Ulvesund, sports and outdoor advisor, The Woolmark Company, stated while many outdoor brands already have wool in their collections, increasing number of brands are introducing wool into their high-intensity categories. Most of the team’s recent meetings were about new developments and taking wool in sports to the next level. A lot of wool innovations are in the making right now, both in current product areas but also in new segments where there is none, or very little, wool today. This will give wool a much bigger platform for the future, he added.

Here comes another sportwear frontrunner, Adidas. Craig Vanderoef, Senior Director of global running apparel and customisation, Adidas, says in developing wool activewear, his team wants a garment that will keep the wearer warm when cold, cool when hot, dry when raining, and windproof – and look great. During a recent Australian Wool Innovation (AWI) podcast, he said the company needed one thing to bring all those together and that was Merino wool.

Wool’s inherent properties

Wool’s natural properties make it ideal for next-to-skin items such as underwear, base layers, socks or T-shirts. One of the most important is breathability. Wool can absorb large quantities of water vapour – twice as much as cotton and 30 times as much as polyester – and allow it to evaporate. When worn next to the skin, wool works as a dynamic buffer for the microclimate between the fabric and the skin, smoothing out the humidity and temperature. This makes wool garments less clingy and more comfortable than garments made from other fibres. Add to this the traditional wisdom that wool keeps you warm even when wet. The inherent natural 3D crimp of the wool fibre traps pockets of still air, insulating you from a cold environment. In the outdoors, this can be the difference between life and death.

Less dramatic but equally important is wool’s natural resistance to odour. Athletes such as mountaineers and hikers, who may wear clothing for long periods without bathing or laundering, report less odour build up with wool apparel than with synthetics. Wool’s ability to absorb and release the water vapour that builds up during physical activity also prevents the accumulation of sweat and bacteria that lead to unpleasant smells. The unique chemical structure of wool enables it to absorb and lock away odours, which may develop, and only release them on washing.

Greater Than A, the sportswear brand of Norwegian alpine ski racer Aksel Lund Svindal, an Olympic gold medallist, uses wool in his sportswear brand. The brand aims to make functional clothing that looks and feels fantastic and at the same time causes no harm to the planet. Svindal likes wool for its technical features, such as how it handles changes in temperatures, and the transport of humidity away from the skin. Aksel uses wool for training and has a race suit designed for aerodynamics. The trick is to get changed as soon as you can in the finish area. Put on some dry and warm wool.