It was inevitable that Mac Bishop, founder of the new merino shirting brand Wool & Prince, would eventually find his way to the do-it-all material that he calls the "the well-endowed fiber." Bishop's family owns Oregon's famed Pendleton Woolen Mills. He was, as he puts it, "practically fed wool" growing up. That's why he trusts the stuff, why he believes it should be made into more than patterned blankets and heavy jackets.
"Wool is our secret ingredient and something that gives our brand relevance," says Bishop. "We want to create a lifestyle brand, like a J.Crew or Ralph Lauren, but the difference is that we only sell premium wool apparel."
After launching Wool & Prince with a small lineup of slim-fit, simply designed button-downs, Bishop and his team expanded into knitwear like crewneck tees and plain polos, all of them made of premium, superfine merino wool. The garments are durable, soft, wrinkle resistance, and odor free, which means they need to be washed far fewer times than comparable cotton goods.
"After two or three wears, they started to smell," Bishop says of the cotton shirts he wore in his former life as a marketing executive. "That's about as good as it got until I started wearing some vintage wool shirts. I rarely dry-cleaned them and hardly hung them up." Because wool is much more efficient than cotton at absorbing sweat and releasing it into the environment, Bishop’s tired wool shirts smelled better than his newest cotton ones.
To test their new lines, Bishop has sent his friends out to test the shirts in a broad range of conditions. They've endured Argentinean summers, Chilean winters, Alaskan camping trips, and an extremely inefficient 20,000-mile cross-country road trip. They could take weeks of wear with washing before needing a gentle machine soak and air dry. Underwear and more shirting styles are in the works, but for now, Wool & Prince's merino dress shirts are set to become the company’s calling card.
"The less you wash your shirts, the longer they'll last," Bishop says. "We're excited about guys buying less clothing, cleaning less clothing, and being friendlier to the environment." [Wool & Prince oxford, pre-order for $128; woolandprince.com]