Wool vs. Cotton vs. Polyester: Pros & Cons of Each

Walk into any clothing store and you’ll be bombarded with a slew of different clothing tags all claiming different percentages of different fabrics. Wrapping your head around it can be difficult, but it’s essential that you know the pros and cons of each so that you can make educated purchases – especially when shopping online. The last thing you want to do is order something and have it show up at your doorstep completely different from what you imagined.

Wool: expensive, but high quality


Wool fabric

Wool is made from the coats of sheep. Have you ever touched a sheep? They’re warm and fuzzy – that’s exactly what wool clothing feels like.
Not only is it comfortable, but it’s durable. The fibers are extremely strong, and they’re elastic so they can stretch without morphing the shape of the piece of clothing. And because of the strength of the fibers, wool insulates better than cotton or polyester.
Sounds good? Well, there are a few downsides. For one, it’s very expensive. That’s not because of the material itself – raising sheep isn’t particularly difficult – but harvesting it, cleaning it, and processing it all takes substantially longer than any other material. If you shop for wool socks in comparison to something like cotton socks, you’ll find that wool socks are (on average) about twice as expensive.
The takeaway of wool is to get it for those comfortable clothing items, but don’t rely on it for everything. Wool socks are the most popular piece of wool apparel, mainly because it keeps your feet warm even in the colder months.

Cotton: the all-encompassing material


T-shirts are cotton. Socks are cotton. Even bedding is cotton. Almost everything has a little bit of cotton in it – why?
The main reason is because it’s so cheap. One of America’s crops that made it what it is today was cotton. The process has been mastered over centuries, and companies are able to make clothing with cotton for ridiculously low prices… especially if they have a line to the cotton growers themselves.
It’s breathable, which means that you won’t feel as “trapped” in it as you would something like wool. For those with sensitive skin, cotton can be a godsend – if you’re prone to breakouts from other materials, cotton won’t let that happen.
The downside? It doesn’t insulate very well. That’s why you don’t see winter coats made out of cotton, and that’s why you will find your feet get freezing in the winter if you’re wearing ordinary cotton socks.

Polyester: sporty

polyester yarns

Polyester, unlike wool and cotton, is completely man-made. It’s basically a type of plastic. This “plastic” is extremely durable. In fact, you can’t find a cheaper, more durable fiber than polyester.
It does have its downsides – mainly, it can be too rigid, and no one wants to be wearing something that feels like plastic.
The solution is blending cotton and polyester. It’s incredibly common in sporty clothing. It combines the breathability and comfort of cotton with the durability of polyester for a perfect mix.

…and now you know! Next time you’re browsing for clothing, you won’t be in the dark. Make sure to read the labels each and every time so that you know exactly how much of each material is going into it – with this knowledge, you’ll be able to get the exact piece of clothing that you’re looking for.

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