Wool in Summer. Yes, it’s appropriate! And I/O Merino is out to prove it with a new line of year-round lightweight, breathable Baselayers, Tanks, Tees and Underwear that can be worn in warmer weather. I/O Merino has stuck to its winning formula of using nearly 100 percent wool in all their garments, as opposed to blending with other fibres like many other brands have done in the past for this time of year. As part of one of Australia’s most famous wool families, Michell Wool, with over 140 years worth of knowledge and experience in the industry, I/O Merino is convinced the superior properties of wool will eventually prove to consumers that wool is more versatile than just a winter fibre. Their timing might be right, too, as a number of big fashion houses began showing wool apparel during their 2015 Spring/Summer runway shows. Woolmark, the not-for-profit subsidiary of Australian Wool Innovation, has also ramped up “Cool Wool”, a campaign from the 1980s re-launched a few years ago to get consumers wearing wool in hotter climates.
For most of their Summer range, I/O Merino uses their flagship fabric called Enigma, made from specially selected 18.5 micron superfine merino wool fibres. Enigma is 96% merino and 4% elastin, to create a snug, yet stretchy fit. It’s also lightweight (160 gsm) with all the usual benefits wool provides, such as anti-microbial properties and durability.
It’s temperature regulation, though, that makes wool, and the Summer line from I/O Merino, special. The misconception is Wool means warmth, but Wool fibres are rather unique in their ability to keep you cool in the heat, as well. Wool has the ability to absorb around 1/3rd of its weight in water (e.g. sweat) without feeling damp. This, in combination with the construction of an air trapping fabric, means the apparel creates a thermo regulating barrier between the outside world and the microclimate around your skin. According to David Michell, the founder of I/O Merino, “think of putting on a wet suit…the trapped water warms (or cools) to the body’s temp and so the person wearing the wet suit has a barrier between them and the hotter or colder ocean….this is how wool works”.
We’ve put this theory to the test over the past two months as temperatures in Australia have warmed earlier than usual. I/O Merino was kind enough to send us their Men’s Altitude Tank Top, which 3-time Ironman Athlete Phil Sawyer has worn out on training runs and under his jersey while cycling. After getting past the mental hurdle of donning a wool baselayer in summer-like heat, he found the Altitude Tank Top performed admirably. The normal rise in body temperature during exercise happened faster with the wool Tank Top, but then would stabilise without any discomfort or itchiness, even during a run along the Sydney foreshore in 28 C (82 F). Phil found the same during training rides at typical summer morning temperatures between 15-20 C (59-68F). The stable body temperature was slightly higher wearing wool than synthetics, but the overall performance was just as good as his regular performance apparel.
I/O Merino is available through the I/O Merino website for both domestic and international orders. Of the gear we tested, the Men’s Altitude Tank retails for A$59.50. Other products, such as performance Tees run between A$74.50 to A$79.50, and Briefs and Boxers at A$39.50.
Don Jurries and Phil Sawyer
Featured Photos: I/O Merino Media Images