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Learning to be warm: wool undershirts - tobias_buckell
Learning to be warm: wool undershirts

I talked about my quest to be warm over here in a last entry about silk undershirts:

Look, I grew up with a light shirt or no shirt at all around beaches. Constrictive clothing is annoying. Adding layers of it literally starts making me twitch.

Some people laugh like I’m making a joke, but I’m fairly straight forward about how just simply pissed off I get about it. By the end of the day when I’ve had a cotton undershirt, a long sleeved shirt, and a jacket on, my blood pressure is up. I’ve been shifting and twitching fabric around to sit nicely all day. It’s annoying.

And long sleeves. They bunch in the weirdest places and I keep noticing them all day long. If I’m not wearing a jacket and out in the cold, I don’t want something cover my entire arm when I’m inside a house.

My general impression of a house is that it’s a piece of technology designed to allow us to be comfortable.

It makes sense to be uncomfortable outside. I understand it. It’s outside.

But now I’m inside.

I found silk to be refreshingly comfortable and light to wear under anything. I can only find heavy silk in a long sleeve variety, however. My dislike of long sleeves limits options somewhat.

So here’s the next part in that series: testing wool.

But moving on, everyone raves about Merino wool, with Icebreaker being the big standout. I ordered 150 weight wool undershirts from Icebreaker and a 200 weight Smartwool short sleeve shirt.

The fit was nice, but I found the shirt to be colder than silk. People flocked religiously to wool’s defense, but walking around it felt like the cold was just cutting through the wool.

It was pointed out to me on twitter the wool I was wearing was too lightweight. But it was roughly comparable to the heft and weight of the silk (actually the silk was lighter and luxurious against the skin, while also being warmer). I needed to get a thicker, mid weight wool.

Fair enough. But I wasn’t going to be ordering a thicker fabric because… the wool I already had tested after a day drove me to itching. Sure, Merino isn’t supposed to itch, but it did.

I was told to wash the shirt to get rid of the initial scratchy. I ran it through the wash twice, and tried it out a second time.


While not as scratchy as those horrible old wool sweaters you may have once been forced to wear, it was still noticeable. It built up for me, slowly, throughout the day, until by the end of it I wanted to use pliers to pull the skin off my bones. Which is just not a fun sensation.

A suggestion was made that I wear a silk undershirt, with a wool shirt on top of that. Which is, frankly, getting comedic. Wool just doesn’t work for me. It’s okay, not every solution works for every person. Silk vs wool… for me silk won hands down. Now we know.

The silk is still not leaving me toasty, but it was better than cotton. Maybe not as good as a thicker Merino wool would have been, but hey, it worked great as a base layer in up to 29 degree weather under a simple cotton shirt. It helped regulate my temperature really well in the house under any of my polos or cotton shirts with the house set all the way down to 69 degrees, usually a temperature that left me miserable and shivering.

We’re on our way to finding a solution and way of handling winters. Not all of the items I’m testing will work.

This week I’ll be returning the wool shirts.

Mirrored from Tobias Buckell Online.

3 comments or Leave a comment
joycemocha From: joycemocha Date: January 22nd, 2013 05:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
UnderArmour polypropelene, or else generic REI. I can't wear wool directly against my skin because I'm allergic, and silk just doesn't do much for me.
ardaniel From: ardaniel Date: January 23rd, 2013 07:43 am (UTC) (Link)
Maybe you need a good tailor to shorten the sleeves on the silk shirts, if feasible?
tobias_buckell From: tobias_buckell Date: January 23rd, 2013 06:31 pm (UTC) (Link)
If I settle on silk, I may get a thicker silk and have it tailored, yeah.
3 comments or Leave a comment