Like dry ice or bipartisan cooperation, a wool T-shirt is the best kind of oxymoron.
Wool & Prince is a pretty new company based out of Brooklyn that sources superfine Australian merino wool for men’s clothing built to resist odor for weeks. Yes, weeks.
I used to be a skeptic, but the enlightened know that superfine merino wool is a very different fabric from New Zealand and Australian sheep that is the polar opposite of your grandmother’s sweater. It’s lightweight, moisture wicking, odor-proof, natural, renewable, comfortable in all climates, and pretty good-looking to boot.
I tested the V-Neck T-shirt from Wool & Prince for a month, and I wore it nearly every day. During that month, I went camping on Mt. Florida and in the Monroe State Forest, hiked on Mt. Greylock, ran through North Adams and Williamstown, biked all over Western Massachusetts, jet-setted in Las Vegas and New York City, went to a Reggae show in Cambridge outside of Boston, and still found time to buckle in for a foot surgery that put me on the couch for a week.
I slept on floors, slept in planes, and wore the shirt day-in-day-out. To give it the absolute wringer, I even took 5 days off from showering (a realistic possibility for backpackers and travelers) and still went out in public, and I wasn’t scorned; the shirt didn’t pick up any odor the entire time.
Here’s how it held up to the rigors:
When I first got the shirt, the color surprised me the most. I’ve owned a lot of merino wool, but the coloring in this was incredibly rich and vibrant. It almost borders on indigo, and looks very luxurious in person. The cut is modern, with no drop in the tail and a V-neck somewhere in between subtle and deep. The sleeves were on the shorter side, which I prefer, and it was trim in the midsection, but not as trim as I expected.
I am an athletic build and wool clothes are usually tight-fitting, like a baselayer. Wool & Prince opted for a relaxed fit, which suits the style and intent for the shirt. I could have done with a slightly trimmer midsection, but I’m a skinny fellow. If you’re used to regular t-shirts, this will suit you perfectly.
Head over to your local backpacking store and feel a few variations of Smartwool, Ibex, Icebreaker, or any other merino wool fabric. There’s a slight scratchiness to it, a reassuring “fibrous” feel that lets you know you’re dealing with wool.
Wool & Prince threw that feel out the window. This shirt is absolutely sublime- I’ve never felt a softer fabric, cotton or otherwise. The Australian wool they sourced for this T-shirt far surpasses anything I’ve had experience with. The fibers they use in this T-shirt are some of the finest wool fibers you can actually spin; all the way down to 16.5 microns, which is on par with cotton.
From Wool & Prince’s Website:
Wrinkle resistance is very good, but not legendary. I could wrinkle it, as I learned when packing it for a day while in Vegas. It usually lost its wrinkling with a spin in the dryer with other clothes, and it lost it instantly when washed. It’s much, much better at resisting wrinkles than a cotton shirt, but there is no “wrinkle-proof” fabric out there that I know of… yet. This probably comes closest.
I know what you’re thinking. “There has to be a flaw!”
Well, yes and no. I wore this shirt during some especially grueling activities, like biking up Mt. Greylock and walking 10+ miles across sunny and warm Las Vegas. The material performed admirably for moisture management. It stacks up pretty well with my other wool gear from Icebreaker, Ibex, and Smartwool; the garment would wet out from perspiration during high-intensity stuff, but it dried quickly and never felt clammy. It did, however, feel slightly damper than other wool garments I’ve used, like the weight-comparable Icebreaker Bodyfit 150.
I attribute the damper feeling to the fibers themselves. Unlike some of my other wool, this wool is extremely soft, and the individual micro-fibers give the shirt more surface area for holding moisture. The soft, almost fuzzy texture of the fabric makes it a little more eager to soak up moisture. Some of my other wool stuff is such a tight weave (like my Ibex) that moisture almost beads off. This is a bit less moisture-resistant, but again, it’s still head and shoulders above cotton.
Here’s where the shirt shined through again. I don’t expect any of you to wear this shirt like I did; I wore it for about 15 days, all the way through the Vegas/NYC Trip, and then washed it once after a full day of plane travel (more to get some wrinkles out from packing). I then wore it for another 15 days for the rest of April, and the way you see it in these pictures is after 15 days of continuous wear.
The odor is non-existent. I am not saying this from a purely subjective point of view. You can also take the opinions of my girlfriend, her housemates, most of my friends, bouncers at Las Vegas nightclubs, my mother, some clients from my job, and my dog. I never heard one comment about odor the entire month, and I asked people to double-check for me with some frequency. Nothing!
How does this work?
Wool fibers come from animals (sheep) whereas cotton fibers come from a plant. What this essentially means is that, at a cellular level, the plant fibers are evolutionarily designed to take in moisture through the cell wall. Microscopically, the wool fibers are different; they have a scaly appearance, and this gives them some pretty unique properties. Since the wool fibers won’t draw inw ater like sponges, sweat and perspiration is wicked away from your skin and evaporated quickly, keeping you feeling dry. Even when soaked, the properties of the fibers keep moisture from clinging to your skin, eliminating the clammy feeling of a wet cotton t-shirt.
From Wool & Prince:
Fatty acids in the molecular structure of a wool fiber provide a particularly unromantic location for bacteria to try and do what it does best: reproduce. Without a breeding ground for bacteria, odor simply can’t develop in the first place. This makes it resistant far beyond the capabilities of cotton, which lets bacteria run free.
This makes it perfect for travel because the shirt stays cleaner and odor-free much longer. In addition, it keeps your body cleaner, since bacteria won’t be propagating all over your skin. Are you peeling off your cotton yet?
I was impressed with this T-shirt for what it was; a lifestyle or casual shirt for lifestyle or casual use. Ultimately, there were certain features that I wanted more of, like a bit of stretch in the sleeves for reaching up over my head, or a bit of a closer, more athletic fit. These requests feel unfair, though, because the shirt is ultimately just a t-shirt. Compared to a cotton tee, it blows other fabrics out of the water.
I would not hesitate to recommend this product, especially for people who are unsatisfied with other merino wool shirts. If you’ve been hesitating to take the leap to wool, this is a great introductory piece.
You can swallow the price tag by taking every cotton shirt out of your wardrobe, adding up their prices, and donating all of them; this is the last T-shirt you will ever need.
Head over to Wool & Prince to pick this up. At the time of this posting, there’s a preorder wait since this is the first production run, and the shirt is $68.
Disclaimer: Wool & Prince gave me their T-shirt for testing purposes. I’m not getting a commission, we’re just scratching each other’s backs.