Wanted: The Wool Jacket That Knows Its Source

Every garment made by this New Zealand wool clothier comes with its own "baa-code" that lets you track down the flock of sheep it came from.

sheep

Icebreaker is a New Zealand company that makes clothing for men and women entirely from Merino wool. If the idea of swaddling yourself entirely in sheep-stuff is appealing now, wait til you look at the inside of your Icebreaker garment: there, you'll find a special tag -- dubbed the Baa-code -- that lets you look up the location of the actual flock of sheep that provided the wool.

Below is one of the source farms that provided wool for the Icebreaker base-layer garment I've been wearing for several rainy days in New York. Thanks to hardy, clueless sheep pictured below, my Icebreaker garment felt comfortable and breathable, and didn't start to stink once it got wet (as poly garments tend to do).

Screen shot 2010-11-16 at 7.07.36 AM

Why does the source matter? Icebreaker deals only in Merino wool, a thinner, softer variety than you're probably used to. Merino is grown on the backs of the "economically influential" Merino sheep (as Wikipedia terms them) and its performance is superior to that of regular wool, which comes from pansy-ass sheep that you eat. By contrast, the highland mountain sheep that produce Icebreaker's wool are basically titanic wool-monsters like the sheep below, who was a world champion Merino circa 1905.

File:1905 champion

Available from Icebreaker.com. Show: Paramount Hood (Women's) and Boulder Hood (Men's). Price: $400 and $380 USD, respectively.

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3 Comments

  • Tom McCallum

    There is a very old school way to buy something made from wool and be sure where it came from and that it is made to rigorous standards. Buy something made of Harris Tweed featuring their famous "orbmark".

    Part of my family is from the wondrous island of Lewis/Harris, the only place in the world where Harris Tweed is woven.

    I live in Cayman, but last week found myself in a Brooks Brothers store in Manhattan in need of a new jacket (sport coat, if you will). When they brought out what they had in my size, my eye was drawn to a classically styled jacket. When I tried it on, then looked inside and saw the Orbmark, I was sold instantly :)

  • KT

    This idea isn't original, but if Icebreaker is looking to brand itself as being more transparent, sustainable, and eco-friendly, its a step. Will the consumer care where the material comes from? Maybe, but then again, maybe not. Do people care where their potatoes come from when they eat french fries (ala Five Guys Burger)? Probably not, as long as their stomachs and tastebuds are satisfied.

  • Kathy Ver Eecke

    Kudos to the manufacturer for the bookkeeping/tracking abilities, but I wonder if this isn't TMI. Now feels like I need to send a thank you card to the sheep.