Debunking the high-price myth of merino wool garments
A typical sentence we tend to hear at Core Merino is that wool garments (not just our products) are expensive. Indeed, when you directly compare the price tags of a synthetic, viscose, or cotton t-shirt with a wool t-shirt, a wool version will most likely be on the higher end of the price spectrum.
With this blog post, we want to explore why merino wool garments appear to have a higher price than garments made of other fibres and discuss if at the end of the day, wool garments are actually a good bargain.
Why wool garments sell at higher prices
Let’s first look at what merino wool garments tend to sell at higher prices.
Wool is a fibre grown by nature
As well known, wool is grown on the back of a sheep, a living animal. The quality and quantity of the wool grown by each individual sheep are highly dependent on natural conditions such as sunshine, rain, temperatures as well as the animal health condition, breed, and age of the sheep. For example, when a farm is hit by severe drought as was the case for many wool growers in South Africa over the past few years, additional feed had to be given to the sheep, and/or sheep had to be sold off. These kinds of circumstances mean additional costs for the wool grower, as he is doing the best possible to keep his sheep healthy and well-fed. But this also often means less volume in wool and a different quality of wool.
In other words, in nature, the circumstances vary every year, and therefore wool production and the costs associated with growing wool varies for each farmer and each year as well. A constant variation in the quality and quantity of available wool in the market influences the price of wool sold at auction.
Synthetic fibres, on the other hand, are made from raw oil and chemicals derived from oil. Of course, oil prices also fluctuate over time, but the quantity and quality can be fully controlled as synthetic fibres are produced by machines in factories. Therefore, production is quite predictable and stable.
Wool has a long supply chain
Another circumstance that is unique to wool, is its long supply chain. In order for raw wool shorn from the back of a sheep to be manufactured into a garment, it takes many steps. We have described the Core Merino supply chain here, if you want to learn more.
The time and effort that goes into creating a wool garment, therefore, is a bit higher and therefore costs a bit more compared to creating synthetic clothes.
Wool is a niche fibre
Looking at the market share of all existing fibres, wool only has a market share of 1.2%. This means it is a small fibre compared to synthetics, cellulose, and cotton. In other words, wool is a niche fibre as there just is not that much available compared to other fibres. Lower availability of a product in the market is typically also reflected in higher prices – it’s a matter of supply and demand.
Why wool garments are a good value for money
However, only comparing price tags is a short-sighted argument. So, let’s dive into the value and benefits of a wool garment, which then lets the price tag look like a bargain.
More benefits from wool
We have already written several blog posts about the many benefits of wool such as breathability, moisture management, softness, durability, UV protection, biodegradability and more. You can read up on the different benefits of wool here and here. In summary, man-kind has tried many times to recreate a fibre such as wool from synthetic materials, but has never quite accomplished the whole set of benefits garments made of wool have to offer. This actually means that you get so many more benefits from a wool garment for a relatively higher price compared with garments made from other fibres.
Wool garments last longer and are used longer
One of wool’s benefits already mentioned above is durability. This means that garments made of wool last longer, and therefore you get more wears out of it. The longer you can use a product, the lower become its cost per use. A cheap t-shirt that you only wear twice as it then loses its shape has a higher cost than a slightly more expensive wool garment that you wear many times over.
Lower social and environmental costs
Over the past decades, fashion consumption has been focusing a lot on quick and efficient mass production to drive costs down while increasing the number of garments we purchase, also known as fast fashion. This has also led to all of us being price sensitive and wanting constantly new and cheap clothes. What was, however, forgotten in this calculation, is the cost to society and our environment that comes with this high consumption of cheaply produced clothes. The more garments we buy, the more we use up scarce resources such as water and energy and pollute our environment through the high use of toxic chemicals and filling up landfills with garments no longer in use. In addition, the high number of synthetic clothes shed microplastics that end up in our waterways and have a negative impact on wildlife as well as our health. All of these negative side effects of cheap clothes cost us money as a society, which we pay for with taxes or charity, trying to reverse the negative impacts from our consumption.
In addition, sheep typically are reared in rural areas where there are large pastures for the sheep to roam freely. Sheep farming and wool growing, therefore, offers job opportunities in rural communities, allowing generations of families to stay connected to the land and continue making a living without having to move to large cities.
In the near future, a price tag of a garment will also need to reflect the impact the garment has on the environment and society. Wool garments may then actually be an even better bargain for your benefit as well as planet earth and humankind.
So, next time you look at the prices of our Core Merino products or any other wool products, change your perspective before making the judgment if the garment is too expensive by considering all the benefits and value it brings.