Sean Kiffe is a Runner’s Edge Ambassador for the 2018/19 season. He is very visible around town as he runs just about every Runner’s Edge race and Run Wild Missoula event each year. We asked him to review the Smartwool Mammoth T-shirt and talk about the benefits of wearing wool. You can also follow Sean’s adventures on instagram@seankiffe.
At first glance the Smartwool Mobile Mammoth t-shirt appears to be just a shirt with a clever graphic. This of course appealed to my inner child, having dug countless holes in various backyards and parks hoping to unearth a wooly mammoth or dinosaur skeleton. Furthermore, what kid, or adult for that matter, would not be ecstatic about the idea of having their very own Mammoth that doubled as an enviro-friendly, Paleo-RV? Once on, the shirt easily ranked as one of the most comfortable t-shirts I own, if not the most. Any prejudice one has toward wool being itchy and skratchy is quickly dispelled by this garment. The shirt fabric is light and extremely soft to the touch. I slipped this on after a chilly fall run and was instantly comforted by the warm and bulk-less shirt.
Properties of wool
The use of wool in clothing fabric dates back as far as 10,000 B.C. Wool used to be the industry standard when it came to anything outdoors. The earliest explorers donned wool garments as they pioneered through the uncharted wildernesses of our world. From Shackelton in his heavy wool gabardine icebound in Antarctica, to Hillary on the summit of Everest, wool was the explorer´s choice. Of course, the traditional wool garments were heavy and bulky. The advent of modern synthetics in the 20th century removed wool from center stage providing the consumer with a bevy of choices. However, the wool products of today are neither bulky, nor heavy as refinements in textile production and technology have helped to produce some remarkable products.
Unlike other non-synthetic fibers used in clothing, wool harbors some unique properties. These set wool apart from cotton and other natural fiber.
➢ Wool is extremely good at wicking moisture. The unique physical structure of the fabric
allows it to hold warmth even when it is wet. The coil-like structure does not matt down
➢ Wool fabric is naturally antimicrobial and antibacterial (due to the lanolin found in it).
Therefore, it does not require the harsh chemical treatments that some modern fabrics
➢ Wool is a renewable resource. In this age of petroleum based hi-tech fabrics, it's nice to
know that wool is sustainable and easy on the environment.
➢ Wool fabrics stand the test of time. While a wool garment might initially be a bit more
expensive, it´s durability and longevity pay off in the long run. Wool´s longevity far
outlasts that of cotton, silk and rayon.
➢ As an added bonus wool is naturally UV resistant and somewhat fire resistant.
Smartwool uses Merino wool which is obtained from a specific breed of sheep. The Merino sheep were originally found in Spain but are now bred all over the world. Merino wool has a finer, softer feel to it, and it has been prized for its superior texture since the 1700´s. The tight crimp of Merino wool is what makes it so fine and supple. In the world of wool, the finer the crimp the pricier the wool, such as Cashmere. The fine nature of Merino does make it less durable than other wool types, but it makes up for that in comfort. Some companies are using
Merino/synthetic hybrid fabrics to increase the durability of their products. While it is possible that early Bronze age inhabitants might have used mammoth wool for warmth, I think it reasonable to assume that Merino wool is much more comfortable.
Smartwool has been around for 20+ years, most notably for their socks. From hiking, to skiing to running to everyday wear the Smartwool name has become synonymous with quality. Their shirts and other garments are no exception to this. The Mobile Mammoth T-shirt is light and refined. The soft weave of the Merino wool make it a comfortable choice for running, backpacking, kicking back at home, or getting a burger with friends after a day of adventure. Make no mistake, this is not your great grandpa´s WWII era, inch thick heavy wool garment. As a casual t-shirt this product rises above others. I look forward to exploring more of Smartwool´s range of products in the future. There definitely more to this company that just socks.