Think of a soft, comfortable, biodegradable textile material that is pleasant on your skin, eliminates your sweat quickly and is easy to care for, so it will last for years. Can you think of any? If not, don’t worry, we have the answer: merino wool. The finest sheep wool is a versatile material with incredible technical features that will make you love it—if you don’t already.
The exact origin of Merino sheep is not entirely clear, and many experts place it in North Africa, in present-day Morocco. What is out of the question is that the material we know as merino wool appeared for the first time in the Iberian Peninsula in the late Middle Ages, thanks to the selective breeding of Iberian and North African sheep. For 300 years, Spain was its sole producer, and this high-quality material was the cause of its near-monopoly of the wool trade in Europe until the 18th century.
Barely a century later, the proliferation of this sheep breed in British Australia began to grow rapidly and shaped the economy of this southern hemisphere country, making it the world’s leading producer. Other major merino wool producers are China, New Zealand and the United States. In total, there are about 100 countries that export this fabric, Sydney and Brisbane in Australia being the main trading centers.