Merino is perhaps the softest and finest of sheep wools. The Merino sheep is bred in Australia (The biggest wool producing country) and New Zealand (The third biggest). Merino can be described in one word: Utilitarian. It’s incredible tough and elastic, which means it will hold its shape without wrinkling and can thus be packed easily in bags or suitcases.
The functionality of Merino makes it very popular when it comes to activities and athleticism. Merino also dries faster than other kinds of wool, and can carry up to 30% of its weight in moisture. Merino’s moisture “wicking” ability is also noteworthy, as it can absorb moisture or sweat from the body and transfers it outside.
Merino is also very breathable and lets air flow efficiently and keeps you cool when it’s warmer. All of these factors contribute to Merino wool being extremely durable as it can bend for years without damage. Merino is mostly used for active wear and base layers such as socks, as it can handle harsh and cold environments.
Cashmere is a whole different story. Cashmere is one of the softest, most luxurious fabrics you could ever wear. Cashmere comes from the undercoat of the Kashmir goat, which comes from China, Mongolia, India, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan, though the finest and most expensive comes from the Himalayas where the goats are bred in the cold climate. Strangely enough you can even find them in Australia!
Cashmere’s rarity comes from the fact that it takes approximately two goats to produce one sweater, but that also comes with a hefty price. Cashmere is incredibly soft, very fine, and lightweight. This makes it perfect for both cold and warm weather.
Cashmere is also notable for its insulating ability, as its function of keeping goats warm in the cold environments translates over to the products made from it. The silky nature of Cashmere and the way it drapes over bodies gives it this elegant and highly fashionable look. No matter what you’re wearing, if it’s Cashmere, you and everyone else knows it.
Which one to choose?
The simple answer is…. There is no right answer. Like all things in life, it depends. Merino and Cashmere are both excellent fabrics, and they share a lot of qualities. See which qualities are best suited to your use case.
Style or durability
Cashmere is the suave and elegant type that goes to fancy restaurants and wears a tux, while Merino is the rugged and strong type that lifts weights and works with his hands. It depends on what you need, if you’re spending time outdoors doing activities or working in an environment that needs high performance, then Merino is the way to go. If you want a silky and stylish piece, then cashmere is the hands down winner.
Merino is sturdier and can handle tougher environments better than Cashmere. It’s also easier to care for, as it is machine washable where cashmere requires hand washing (thus favoured in medicine).
While both are odour-resistant, Merino is more so, if you’re planning on having company. On the other side, Cashmere is softer, more luxurious, and generally looks better.
Warmth and breathability
Both are quite breathable, with high insulation and moisture wicking, though Cashmere can be up to 8 times warmer than Merino. Merino however is much lighter and adapts quickly to your body and outer temperatures.
Due to the high sourcing cost of Cashmere it is by far the more expensive of the two. This is very much country specific, as certain countries have access to Merino or Cashmere clothing at a lower price point. Always check to see if it is 100% or a blend!
Both wools are highly sort after for their adaptability and high quality. Merino is favoured in areas where climates vary and praised for its strength and its hypoallergenic qualities. Cashmere is used in high end designer clothing and primarily scarves due to its warmth factor. Ultimately the choice is yours, but hopefully this helps you make an informed decision.