The All-Weather Wool Shirt

Mj 618_348_icebreaker departure

Forget everything you thought you knew about grandma’s itchy wool sweaters. The natural fiber, especially the kind derived from merino sheep, is enjoying a renaissance as an adventure-worthy material for base layers, sweaters, and jackets, thanks to its ability to stay warm when wet and not retain odor. But not everyone has embraced wool as a warm weather choice, still opting for cotton or featherweight synthetics when the temperature peaks. Icebreaker, the New Zealand-based brand, is trying to change wool’s wintry bias.

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The Departure Shirt, a handsome, short-sleeved button-up made from woven merino, reveals a fitted and athletic cut, along with an angled chest pocket, set-in sleeves, and gusseted underarms. The wool wicks away moisture well and dries quickly, making the shirt suitable for hiking or climbing without finishing sopping wet. 

We tested the shirt over a week in tropical Bonaire, and while we’d still prefer cotton for a softer touch and more breathability, the plaid wasn’t too itchy, and we never overheated. Overall, it’s a good choice for those times when you’re packing light and need versatile clothes that can go from the trail to the table. [$135;]

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