Ever since landing in Auckland, I’ve noticed an absolute obsession with merino clothing. I mean absolute obsession. People will post on clothing resale sites that they are looking for certain types of clothing, but only if it is 100% merino. In the spirit of exploring all things New Zealand, I decided to purchase a couple of merino tops to see what all the hoopla is about.
I intended to purchase three tops, but the low-end version I thought might work was so incredibly cheap and flimsy that I couldn’t bear to spend any money on it. (Sorry, Glassons.) I ended up with two different shirts from different price points, one, from Icebreaker and one from Max.
Icebreaker - I purchased a black Valley Slim Crewe Sweater which sells for NZ$179 (or about US$122). Icebreaker is a New Zealand company that started out focusing on outdoor apparel made from natural fibers. The shirt I selected isn’t an outdoorsy-athletic top. It’s nicely ribbed and could be paired with jeans or a cute skirt for an every day look. It is quite long, so I plan on wearing it with leggings and either a big chunky sweater jacket or faux fur vest.
Max - I purchased a dark green Merino Crew Neck Top which sells for NZ$69 (or about US$47). Max started in Auckland in 1986 and focuses on trends and basics. It’s a step above Zara or H&M, perhaps akin to a J. Crew, but without the preppy emphasis. This shirt is much simpler. It could be a stand alone top, or it could work as a warming underlayer, almost like long johns.
I have two issues with these shirts. First, they are itchy. I just don’t understand why people want this scratchy, harsh fabric next to their skin. Even the smoothest, finest merino has some scratch to it. What’s up with that? Why not wear silk long johns under clothes instead of this itchiness? Second, they are like velcro. The tiniest thing sticks to both, whether it be a stray hair or crumb. I feel like I need to walk around with a lint roller.
Of the two, the Icebreaker is clearly my favorite. It is less itchy and is better as a stand alone piece. The thin Max option is fine as a thin layering piece, but it really needs something over it, like a cute jacket or a cardigan, to really work.
Does anyone know the secret to making merino a comfortable, wearable fabric? I really want to understand this Kiwi obsession!