GORUCK just launched their X-mas in July Sale with some great deals on their bags and clothing (although it is all final sale). A perennial favorite of ours is the GR1. If you are looking for some durable and performance workout clothing that can do double duty for everyday and travel (our general discussion), Ben loves the Stealth Polo and always travels with the Simple Pants as a backup pair.
Note: some of the items discussed here were provided for no charge, see the reviews for more details.
We want to start by saying, if you are in an unsure financial position, or there isn’t anything you need, we are not advocating that you go out and spend a bunch of money. However, if you’ve been eyeing something, now’s a good time to save some money and support some small businesses through these tough times. Also, we will keep this post updated as we find new deals or deals expire (Updated 4/16).
Bluffworks is offering 30% off with 10% of sales going to Feeding America (Men’s, Women’s). If you are looking for a new button-up, the Meridian is a good choice (our review) or if you need some more tees before the summer, the Threshold T-Shirt is great (our review).
is having a Spring Flash Sale. The Proof Stretch Flannel (our review) is still available at a bargain price of $29. Also notable are the heavy flannel The Crater Shirt from Taylor Stitch, Proof Elements Jacket, and Flint and Tinder Wayfarer Wool Blazer.
Outlier is offering an unprecedented 15% off
with code S-O-E, or an extra 15% added to a gift card within 10 days of the state of emergency being lifted in NYC with code Final Sale – No Returns, of course, this makes your purchase non-returnable. For a great intro to Outlier, check out any of their pants or shorts (we love Futureworks, Strong Dungarees, and New Way Shorts) or an Ultrafine Merino Tee (our review).
Taylor Stitch is offering
25% off site wide 20-30% off select products with a $20 credit for orders over $200. Some items of interest include their Chore Pant and Camp Pant in their Boss Duck fabric (hemp-blend heavy work fabric) and The Jack in Dusty Blue Hemp
is offering 25% off everything. We are planning to review their Performance Jean and put their anti-microbial claim on their Performance Polo and Performance Dress Shirt to the test. Kimberlee has a number of their pieces as well, and is a big fan of their women’s denim, as well as a number of sweaters and t-shirts she has picked up over the years.
is offering a $50 gift card for each $100 you spend. We’ve reviewed many of their pieces, and you can’t really go wrong. We are really enjoying the Limitless Merino Wool Shirt and Polo (our review) and Diversion Pant (our review) for working from home.
is offering gift cards at a 10% discount that can be used starting April 15th. If you are looking for pure merino performance, you can’t go wrong with any of their offerings, especially their button-down shirts. Ben loves their socks for work, for whenever we get back to the office.
Note: Some of these shirts were provided free of charge for review; see original review for more details.
Now that winter is getting close to being over, I’ve had a good chance to wear many of my warmer button-ups, including some new ones added this year. So let’s jump into a round up of what I’ve been wearing and some of my favorites.
Wool & Wool Blends
Wool&Prince Button-Down Oxford 210 (our review): This was my first merino button-down and is still a favorite when I want to dress business casual and up. Made from a 2-ply, 17.5 micron, 210 gsm fabric, it has a traditional oxford look. It has a substantial feel, but regulates temperature well since it is 100% merino. While I usually pair it with a pair of Outlier Futureworks (our review)) or Wool&Prince Slim Chinos (newer versions), it looks equally at home with a dark pair of jeans. The burgundy color is amazing.
Patagonia Long-Sleeved Recycled Wool Shirt (our review): This is a great, casual, heavy wool shirt. It keeps you warm, without overheating, but it’s definitely not a shirt for the warmer months (other than maybe as an overshirt). The one caveat here is that the wool is a little scratchy, but I still love the shirt. One benefit is that I always wear this with an undershirt so it can go a long while between washes.
Western Rise TechWool Flannel Shirt (our review): Another great casual shirt, with by far the least amount of wool (only 5%), but it still maintains odor resistance. I’d compare the warmth here to a heavier oxford, but with more breathability.
Taylor Stitch The Crater Shirt in Navy Plaid (Huckberry): This shirt is made from a heavy, 9-oz. 100% organic cotton twill flannel, heavily brushed on both sides. If I had one word to describe this flannel, it’s classic. Taylor Stitch did put their typical extra attention to detail though, with substantial and classy cat eye buttons. Overall this is casual, but with a little up scale look. I think the Navy Plaid is a nice subtle twist on a classic flannel pattern.
Taylor Stitch The Jack in Maroon Brushed Oxford (Huckberry): The fabric here is a 6-oz. 100% organic cotton heavily brushed on both sides. This shirt is a nice cross between a flannel and an oxford, similar to the style of the Western Rise TechWool Flannel. The color here is what drew my eye, but it is also a solid, warmer oxford that works well with chinos or jeans.
Patagonia Long-Sleeved Lightweight Fjord Flannel: I just picked up this shirt in the Patagonia end of season sale, but it’s worth a mention if you are looking for a reliable lightweight flannel or are looking for some unique flannel patterns (you also can’t beat the price). I got the “Unbroken: Piki Green” for something different, and I really like it. The fabric is an unbrushed twill, so it has a nice texture. While Patagonia doesn’t list a weight, it is definitely the lightest of the three cotton shirts.
For business casual wear that can be dressed down, you can’t get any better than the Wool&Prince 210. For casual wear, I have to go with two: Taylor Stitch Crater for the coldest months, and Western Rise TechWool for more versatile wear.
Note: We received some of these items for review purposes. See our original review posts for details.
With 2019 in the books, we look forward into what we need to round out our performance wardrobes. Those items we have yet to find, buy, or like.
There’s only three things I am really looking for:
- Casual pants for warm weather: my go to pants for the hot Houston summers has been the Olivers Passage Pant (our review), but they are not quite ideal for me. So I am trying to find something else, and I’m not sure the Diversion Pant from Western Rise (our review) can be them or not, only time will tell. But I’d like something very passable as “normal” which handles hot and humid reasonably well. Why pants over shorts: the AC here is strong.
- Versatile blazer to match my stuff: I have the Kinetic from Ministry (our review), and the Gramercy from Bluffworks (our review). Both are amazing, neither works as a versatile piece that looks good with jeans, or with my more technically derived pants. I’m thinking I need to go back to classic materials, or swing over to a performance cotton/linen. Either way it should be unstructured, and light weight. I’ll be keeping an eye out to see who releases what this summer.
- Polo: I don’t understand why the performance wear market sucks so much at making a good polo shirt. But we’ve struggled here, and my go to Wool&Prince 100% Merino Wool Polo (our review) will need an upgrade this summer, likely with the Merino blend version (our review) unless something else comes along.
And that’s really all I am currently looking for, I finally got most of my wardrobe figured out, such that I probably need to shed a few items.
There are only two things I am really looking for:
- Work pants: when I’m working around the house and need a pair of sturdy pants, I typically go with an old pair of jeans — not too comfortable. I really need something with more comfort for when you find yourself in a weird position. I have v1 of the Livsn Flex Canvas Pants (our preview), and am awaiting v2. I wore v1 for a few months in the wood shop, but the fit is off on them for me. The thighs are about as tight as I would like, yet the waist was too big and I had to hold them on with a belt. I’m hoping v2 will solve this fit issue, but if not, I will be on the hunt for something better. Likely I will go to the Patagonia Iron Forge Hemp Pants next.
- Spring jacket, lightweight and breathable with style: when the weather warms up and I need just a light layer I’ve been grabbing my Myles Elements Jacket (our review) or my Patagonia Houdini Snap-T Pullover. While both great jackets, they don’t fill this niche. I just picked up the new Proof Elements Jacket, and am looking forward to giving it a try once the spring weather comes.
And that’s it for me, also mostly have my wardrobe figured out and could shed a few items as well, especially t-shirts.
Brand to Watch in 2020
Ben: Western Rise is poised for a big year, I’ll go on record with that one. (Note: they give us free stuff in exchange for review.) Outlier has been my perennial favorite but their style direction is veering away from wearable for me, and their staples are still good, but they don’t feel like they are pushing the bounds. The last three Western Rise products I have gotten seem like magic to me, a feeling I used to only get with Outlier. The AirLight (our review), insanely cool wearing and worry free care. The Diversion Pant is truly a modern and comfortable take on pants, and the Limitless Merino Wool Shirt (our review) actually lives up to its name. And it feels like they are just getting started.
My only complaint is that their styling lends more casual, but if they start to smarten that up with an eye towards the office, they are going to take off. And the other thing: their prices are fantastic, which is to say, they are pretty low prices relatively speaking.
Steve: I also will be watching Western Rise in 2020, but to not be boring, I am going to pick a fabric trend to watch in 2020 — hemp and hemp heavy blends.
Keeping cool this summer with my Outlier Ramielust T-Shirt (our review) turned me to other, non-merino fabrics. While merino will always be king for odor resistance, it does have weakness in that it can be delicate, and that in a t-shirt, it has a soft drape. In my search for other non-merino but still performant fabrics, I came across hemp. While on it’s own, it can be quite rough, it makes for a substantial but comfortable fabric when blended with cotton. So far, I’ve found a button-down (our review), sweatshirt (our review), and t-shirt in 55% hemp/45% cotton blends that work well for me.
I’m hoping to see some more fabric innovations in hemp (and other interesting natural plant fibers) this year.
Note: We received some of these items for review purposes. See our original review posts for details.
Looking back at 2019, we tested a ton of new stuff, and settled into some new habits. Here’s our most worn stuff, and some of our favorites from 2019.
Two things happened this year, which really caused a shift in what I wear: I moved from Seattle to Houston, and I started working in an office full time again. This meant both my weekend and weekday outfits had to change.
Weekend and Casual
For the most part I stuck to shorts and a shirt, but the AC is strong here in the summer so pants are sometimes a necessary evil. Here’s where I landed:
- Olivers Passage Pant (our review): I wore these a ton. They were the only casual looking pant I owned that could remotely handle the hot and humid weather of Houston. I still felt too warm in them though. While I wore them a ton, I can also say that the olive green color I have is not a great color long term for me. Solid pants though, and they show no wear which is a plus.
- Outlier New Way Shorts (our review): These have long been my go to shorts, and still are. I love them, and wear them basically all the time here in Houston.
- Wool&Prince 100% Merino Polo (our review): This was my go to, and it was fine. I love the comfort and I feel great wearing it. But I think it looks crappy, and the bottom hem is a nightmare to keep flat after washing it. This needs a replacement.
- Outlier Ramienorth Pivot (our review): If we were going out to eat, this was the shirt I wanted to be wearing in the evenings. Keeps you cool outside in the sauna, and keeps you from freezing out in the AC. This was a winner for me all year.
- Western Rise AirLight Short Sleeve (our review): If this shirt was clean, I wore it. Dang, love this shirt. It’s like magic for when it is hot out, and it looks really nice too. I should get a long sleeved one for this summer.
Big changes here. I started the year mostly with my go to Futureworks, and while I still absolutely love these pants, a new player hit my closet that took over the majority of the wear time at the office.
- Ministry of Supply Kinetic Pant (our review): If I had to pick one item which was the biggest game changer for me, it would be these pants. They look great, breath really well, and stretch like crazy. I wear them all day at work and never am bothered. These are really good office pants. So glad I found these, and I usually have to force myself to grab different pants to change things up, otherwise I would just keep wearing these. And some weeks I only wear these.
- Outlier Futureworks (our review)): Still a far more versatile and tough pant, and if I weren’t between sizes with these, like they would be just as worn as the Kinetic. The biggest upside is they hide pocket bulges better and repel lint. The downside: the waist isn’t elastic like on the Kinetic.
- Ministry of Supply Aero Shirt (our review): I don’t think there is a better office shirt to wear. They keep you cool, look sharp, fit well, and have tons of patterns to choose from. And while they don’t travel well, they do everything else fantastically well.
- Bluffworks Horizon Vest (our review): I love this vest, and wore it everyday the weather allowed me to. I even took it with me to Washington State so that I could stay warm. This is a great, versatile, piece that I will likely be wearing for a long time to come.
Workout and Miscellany
A few odds and ends to wrap up 2019:
- ExOfficio Give-n-Go Boxers: I know not everyone loves these, but I do. Still the only underwear that I wear.
- GORUCK Simple Pants: I wear these to work out, and to wash cars in. They are light, so they keep me cool, but protect my legs from mosquitoes. Importantly they also dry really fast. I am always impressed with these.
- YAthletics SilverAir Merino Shirt (our review): This is my go to for working out, and they prove themselves over and over again. Great shirts.
With no big moves for me, some things solidified in my wardrobe as well as a few new favorites.
Weekend and Casual
This year, I dressed up my casual wear a bit, so there are some new and old favorites here.
Outlier New Way Longs (our review): These are still the king of shorts. They may seem pricey for shorts, but they are worth it. They look sharp with a button-down or polo, don’t look out of place with a tee, and perform no matter what you are doing while wearing them.
Western Rise Evolution Pant (our review): These are a 5-pocket cut that can be dressed up if needed. They are lightweight, fast drying, and comfortable. Favored over my Outlier Slim Dungarees.
Bluffworks Threshold T-Shirt (our review): Bluffworks hit a sweet spot here, finding a synthetic blend that looks normal, performs well, and has almost merino-like odor resistance.
Outlier Ramielust T-Shirt (our review): Nothing beats ramie on a hot and humid summer day. Hard to even describe how good this is.
Taylor Stitch The California in Olive Hemp Poplin: This hemp-cotton blend from Taylor Stitch has been working really well for me. I’ve found that hemp blend fabrics to have a great casual look while having some good moisture management and odor resistance.
Western Rise TechWool Flannel Shirt (our review): This has been my favorite for cooler weather. It’s not too heavy, is cut well, and is odor resistant.
The North Face Ventrix Jacket (our review): This active insulation jacket is perfect for many temperatures and became my main jacket this year.
After testing a bunch of polos for my guide, I finally had some polos in my wardrobe that I could depend on.
Bluffworks Piton Polo (our review): This became the polo I grab first, as it is light enough to keep me cool, wicks very well, and resists wrinkles. The only caveat is that it needs a rinse to be able to get more than one wear out of it when traveling.
Wool&Prince Button-Downs (our review): These button-downs are still my favorite for everyday and travel wear. I have them in both the 130 and 210gsm fabric — this allows me to wear them no matter what the weather. Being 100% merino, their odor resistance is superb, and if they get wrinkled, they look sharp again with just a little steam.
Outlier Futureworks (our review)): Another long-time favorite. They fit me well and are versatile in the office environment, looking sharp dressed up or down. No issues with durability, and they still look great after a few years.
Western Rise AirLoft Quilted Jacket (our review): Great technical insulation and fabric package in a classic silhouette. Works really well for me when I want a jacket that looks nice.
Workout and Miscellany
YAthletics SilverAir Merino Shirt (our review): These are still the best workout shirts that I’ve found and are proving themselves every day for me.
Patagonia Essential Boxer Briefs: Grabbed a pair of these on sale from REI and they have become my favorite. Soft lyocell material that holds up and doesn’t get stretched out over time. I haven’t bought more because I still have pairs from numerous other brands, but as I need to replace, I plan to get more of these.
Darn Tough Socks: Haven’t tried a lot of other brands because these work, have them for workout, dress, and hiking socks.
Rather than overwhelm you with a huge gift guide list, we wanted to keep it simple and recommend a few great items to keep you or your loved ones looking great this winter.
As far as pants go, we have a long time favorite and a recent pick to highlight here. If you just want to own two pairs of pants, the Outlier Futureworks (our review) and the Ministry of Supply Kinetic Pant (our review) are the two that could cover almost every activity in your life. We’d go with lighter casual Futureworks and dark business oriented Kinetics for a perfect two pant setup.
For a button-down, we typically think of two scenarios — travel and normal wear.
For travel, nothing beats a merino button-down for odor resistance and ability to get multiple wears. For that, we’ve typically gone for a Wool&Prince Button Down (our review) but have recently come across the Unbound Merino Classic Button-Down (our review), which has become Ben’s favorite travel shirt.
If you’re willing to give up the odor resistance of merino, whether for travel or everyday, we love the Bluffworks Meridian Dress Shirt 2.0 (our review). Or, for something with a more classic look, the Ministry of Supply Aero Dress Shirt (our review) is also great.
Western Rise hit it out of the park with their AirLoft Quilted Jacket (our review). If you’re looking for a versatile technical jacket that has the style to look great in the office, look no further than this jacket.
Recently, I’ve been trying out a few button-ups (and a polo) that are either all, or majority cotton. This has shifted my thinking some when choosing a shirt to wear.
Previously, all of my button-ups were either merino or 100% synthetic. Of course, I am able to get multiple wears out of the merino shirts, but the synthetic shirts either need a rinse or wash after each wear.
The synthetic shirts come out of my bag ready to wear, the merino sometimes need a steam in the bathroom. And when it comes time for a wash, the synthetic shirts are ready to go after hanging dry, while the merino shirts need a steam.
Now that I have some mostly cotton shirts in my wardrobe, I see some areas where they fit in. I’m specifically talking about a few from Taylor Stitch (The Short Sleeve Bandit in Heather Grey, our review and The California in Olive Hemp Poplin) and the Mack Weldon 37.5 Oxford. On the polo side, I’m talking about the Mack Weldon SILVERKNIT Polo (our review).
Being someone who often wears an undershirt under my button-ups, I’m able to get two wears out of each of these shirts. In the case of the Hemp Poplin fabric from
Taylor Stitch I’ve gotten two days of wear out of it even without an undershirt.
I find myself favoring these mostly cotton shirts in a few situations:
- When I need a casual shirt, these, specifically the Taylor Stitch shirts are perfect. They look normal, have great drape, and the small amount of linen or hemp blended in give them a little edge on performance.
- On my travel days, I tend to go for something a little more durable than a merino shirt. Synthetic was previously my go-to, but I found they could start to smell by the end of a long day of travel.
- When I want a shirt that just looks absolutely normal and simple, the heavy cotton of the Mack Weldon shirt gives that classic Oxford look and drape and the polo looks just like your standard pique polo.
While the Mack Weldon shirts do have some extra tech to up their performance to some extent, the Taylor Stitch shirts just rely on a small portion of other natural fibers to make them something special.
Wearing these shirts for a few months has made me more likely to give mostly cotton shirts a chance. There are many cases where cotton will suffice, or even be a better choice. If you’re looking for a shirt to wear once or twice before washing, and don’t mind ironing or steaming, merino might not be worth the extra expense and synthetic might not be the best for keeping fresh all day. For me, cotton blends come out on the top in these cases and if I’m going to spend a lot of time out in the heat, a blend with hemp or linen is my choice.
One of the reasons this site came to be, is because both Steve and I found ourselves traveling a lot for both work and leisure. And when you start traveling a lot, you start to look at how you can pack fewer items — this seems almost universal, as humans are generally uncomfortable out of their normal habitats and thus you really want to know you have the right clothing. Which means you inevitably google something like “best travel clothes for X”. And you get back a big mix of some really weird clothing.
The truth is, most travel clothing is some Frankenstein mix of stereotypical retiree clothing and hiking clothing. This type of clothing is marked by:
- Zip-off anything
- A lot of pockets, with some very dedicated pockets
- Zippers, like a lot of zippers
- Polyester or nylon
Some, but not all, of the above describes even some of the clothing we talk about here on this site, but if you look closely the clothing we really like is that which most people can’t even tell is anything out of the ordinary. But what’s really odd is that anyone who has spent time traveling knows exactly the clothing I am talking about.
There’s always a bunch of people wearing zip-off pants, button down shirts treated with bug repellant and with mesh venting. Pockets galore and more. People really seem to buy into these travel clothing traps, and I cannot understand why.
These clothes look terrible. And they also generally perform terribly too. In most cases you would be better off with blue jeans and a pair of swim trunks than you would with any zip off pants. There’s a few reasons why:
- You have to wash most of those travel pants more than blue jeans.
- You can’t swim in zip-off pants.
- You’ll never use all the pockets.
- Cotton will hold bug spray just as well as that bug treatment on your clothes.
- You look like a target because you are specifically wearing travel clothing when you are traveling. So it’s not hard to target you.
But more than anything else, if these clothes are so good and so versatile: then why don’t people wear them everyday? Why only relegate them to travel?
It’s because you don’t want people you know to see you wearing this stuff unless you have a specific reason to wear them. Because they look terrible.
That’s why you read both Steve and I praising Outlier’s Futureworks (our review). These are nylon pants with a gusset crotch, stretch, and are highly breathable while also resisting some light rain. And yet you can’t tell it’s a technical pant. They drape well, make no noise and only have a zipper on the fly. They are stealth and superior to all other business casual/chino like pants I have tried to date.
They also aren’t marketed for travel, and that makes them hard for a lot of people to find.
My goal when I started down the rabbit hole of finding better clothing was to merge the two aspects of my life. What I wear everyday should be what I wear when I travel. It should perform to really high standards, because that’s just convenient for me and comfortable as well.
I don’t wear this clothing because I travel a lot any more. I don’t wear it because I write here at this site. I wear it because it’s more comfortable than any other option, while looking just as good.
So don’t fall into the travel clothing trap, and avoid anything with zip-off extremities.
If you’re a regular reader of Everyday Wear, you probably notice some fiber bias in our choices for tops vs. bottoms. We typically find natural fibers to be the best for tops and synthetic for bottoms. Hopefully that bias can be explained in more detail here.
Tops vs. Pants
To start, the nature of skin contact of tops vs. pants is different. Think about any of your traditional cotton clothing — bottoms like jeans can go many wears between washes, but cotton t-shirts typically need to be washed after every wear.
This difference in how much sweat and skin oils accumulate is why tops typically need more odor resistance than pants to have a benefit over the traditional options. Most also tend to be more sensitive to the feel of fabric of a top vs. bottom as well. This helps guide our choice of fabrics.
Natural vs. Synthetic
A few of the big differences between natural and synthetic fibers — odor resistance, durability, feel against the skin, moisture management, and looks — help guide fabric choice based on the application.
Natural fibers like wool and Tencel tend to have more odor resistance than their synthetic counterparts while maintaining good moisture management. They also have the best feel as they tend to look better with a more natural drape and non-shiny finish. Where natural fibers can fall down is durability (especially wool).
The synthetics, like nylon and polyester, tend to have more durability (nylon) and excellent moisture management (polyester). Where they excel in technical performance, they can lack in feel and looks. No one wants a rough nylon shirt against their skin or a clingy and shiny polyester shirt for wear outside of active pursuits.
Blends of natural and synthetic can often combine the best of both worlds, but can also end up with the worst properties of both.
For all the reasons covered above, tops need to have excellent odor resistance, moisture management, and comfort. This is why many of our favorites are merino like the Outlier Ultrafine Merino T-shirt (our review) and merino blends like the Wool & Prince Crew Neck. The odor resistance and comfort of merino can’t be beat.
We’ve also found some good synthetic and non-merino natural/synthetic blends that perform well for a top; including the cotton/polyester blend of the Proof Passage Tee (our review) and the polyester/Tencel blend of the Pistol Lake Minimalist Tee (our review)
Bottoms, on the other hand, can sacrifice some of the odor resistance and softness needed in a great top for more durability and structure. Our favorite pants include the Outlier Futureworks (our review) and OLIVERS Passage Pant (our review). These are both mostly nylon, which seems to us to give the best balance of comfort, looks, and durability.
Not a surprise, but the selection of the best fabric for a piece stems mainly from its’ performance. We favor natural fibers for tops for the odor resistance and comfort and synthetics for bottoms for the durability and structure.
Of course, this all comes down to personal preference, but we’ve found that we lean this way for our favorite pieces in our wardrobes.
Among performance (or travel) clothing favorites, you will often see the seemingly magical properties of merino touted. Properties like odor resistance and thermal regulation are king as these allow the garments to wear more comfortably and to go longer before they develop odors. Merino can be made into fabrics anywhere from luxuriously soft (Outlier’s Ultrafine Merino T-shirt being a great example), to durable but still soft (in the case of nylon core spun fibers, like the Wool & Prince T-shirt) and then to heavy and rougher (like Filson’s Crew Neck Guide Sweater). Merino garments, though, also tend to be some of the most expensive you can add to your closet.
It’s natural then to look at the abundance of merino based clothing and wonder when it’s too much. When do you hit a law of diminishing returns with merino wool? And, if you’re looking to cut some cost in your clothing lineup, where can you move away from merino to less costly materials?
We’ve been debating just this for a while now, especially for layering pieces that don’t directly contact your skin. But also for pants where the durability of merino, as well as the performance make us question the utility of such garments. In these instances, you can often even get multiple wears out of a traditional cotton garment (most people don’t wash their blue jeans very often, or in some cases, ever).
While a merino garment certainly will go longer than anything else without starting to smell, we’ve come to find that this isn’t always necessary. Take a pullover for example — you probably wear it over another shirt and when it’s cool out, so it doesn’t see your skin and you are probably sweating less. This type of wear isn’t a recipe for odors, and thus probably not a scenario where the performance of merino wool is going to add a ton to your life. There is a logical argument to be made that with a pullover (or something similar), merino is overkill. It’s not going to make the garment worse — you will still get the benefits — but at the same time you are paying a premium for something where the net realized benefits will be marginal at best. Or, put another way: whether lambswool, cashmere, or merino (or even a good synthetic blend), the sweater would perform within a close enough range on all fronts that you should buy the one which price works best for you.
On the thermoregulation aspect, you certainly won’t find any (comfortable or normal looking) fabric that will keep you warmer than merino. The natural ability of the fibers to trap air helps keep you warm. Therefore, in cases where you value packability or weight, it can be worth it to go with merino. But not always, as some merino wool will not pack as compactly as down, or even some newer synthetic garments. That said, merino adds another benefit in being easier to wash when traveling.
Another area we’ve started seeing merino show up is in jacket insulation. Icebreaker has their MerinoLOFT technology, which is an insulation made from merino wool. They tout it as an evolution of down and an alternative to synthetic down. While we haven’t tried anything like this, it seems like another area where merino probably doesn’t offer much over its synthetic counterparts. And you pay a high price for something you are likely not to notice, and perhaps which has other drawbacks from more traditional insulation pieces.
With pants, Ben has thoroughly destroyed a pair of Icebreaker wool pants over the course of just a year — while noticing little benefit from the merino wool itself. Often the wool needed washing more than basic blue jeans did — and didn’t perform as well as synthetic pants options like Outlier’s offerings. So even in the case where these pants are coming into direct contact with your skin, there’s little reason to select these over more durable options. Since Ben’s experience, many others have released merino blend pants (like CIVIC’s Frank Chino). I tried purchasing a pair to try, but the fit seemed really off so I didn’t keep them to give them a thorough test.
With the hoodie Ben recently reviewed, he found that while comfortable and performant, a hoodie may not be a good garment to use 100% merino wool as the material. Outlier has long made a HARD/CO Merino ZIP Hoodie which has cotton facing on the outside for better durability and merino on the inside for the performance — yet you pay a significant price ($395) for that benefit. Whereas most people rarely have performance and durability issues with a standard cotton hoodie.
Ultimately, the choice between merino or other performance fabrics comes from your use case for the garment. We’ve found pieces that don’t spend much time directly on skin as good places to look elsewhere where the expense isn’t justified. That said, you can often find very inexpensive merino sweaters from big box stores like J. Crew and Banana Republic (among others). While you don’t necessarily need merino in these garments, it is an added bonus if the price is right.
For most layering, outerwear, and pants, we have found that merino wool is often overkill and comes at an added financial cost as well as, possibly, durability issues.