Do you ever look at a sheep and think, wow, that sheep looks warm? No, me neither – but luckily for us, at some point in time someone thought it and many years down the line here we are using sheep’s wool for all manner of garments. Wool is an incredibly versatile cloth, it breathes in heat and insulates in the cold providing great cover all year round. It accepts dye very well, allowing us to create cloths of almost any colour and because it’s such an abundant cloth most wool has an affordable price. But wool is not your only option.
Humans are an experimental bunch, so once the properties of sheep’s wool were established and exploited we branched out. Mohair (goat wool) makes a great summer suit for example and silk worms produce beautifully light, soft fibers used to make some suits, ties and pocket-handkerchiefs. But for overcoats, there are three particular animals commonly used.
Wool – Wool is the hardest wearing cloth; especially thicker, heavier varieties. Though it is warm option, wool needs to be quite thick to feel its full effects, anything between 14 – 18oz is to be expected for an overcoat – which should be perfect for the British winter-time. Wool can be quite soft, though this will depend on the weave and quite often the thicker cloths are also slightly coarser. A wool will suit most – if not all – coat styles, though a thicker and stiffer wool will best suit a peacoats’ firm style and a softer more “floaty” wool will suit a longer overcoat.
Camel Hair – Often a forgotten gem, camel hair is a great option with a price right in-between the extremely luxurious cashmere and the ever-faithful wool. Camels live in an environment where they must endure the harshest desert heats in the hotter months and then blizzards in the winter. This makes for a cloth with an amazing resistance to the elements and it’s even lighter than sheeps’ wool, meaning a lighter weight cloth will insulate you just as well as thicker wool would. The camels hair is taken from the softest hairs that grow close to the body of the camel which means the hair is also softer than wool. Naturally camel hair is a tan colour but – like wool – the fiber accepts dye very well, meaning a wide range of colours are available.
Cashmere – Known for being incredibly soft and warm, cashmere is (no surprises here) the priciest of the three. It is from the goats’ soft undercoat, just like the camel hair. The softness of cashmere is the primary reason for its elite status and because the cloth can be lighter weight and still remain warm; a long overcoat in cashmere will make for a beautiful flowing garment. The coat becomes part practical garment, part work of art. If you can afford a cashmere coat, it will be the pride of your wardrobe for years to come.
There are more options of course, alpaca isn’t an un-common cloth for coats and there are blends of various cloths to provide a best of both worlds experience. There’s even a level up from cashmere called Vicuna – one of the most expensive cloths in the world. But the main three have been covered, each with their own unique properties that you can utilize to suit your own unique needs. A bespoke Fielding and Nicholson coat will take between 6 – 8 weeks to complete, you’ve got the style knowledge, you’ve got the cloth knowledge… so what’s stopping you?