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Cashmere – the ultimate luxury

socks

Cashmere socks from history

Cashmere socks and stockings have been around a long time and the word “cashmere” is synonymous with luxury.  An unusual story from history emerged a few months ago, in this Guardian article, which describes how a successful Australian lady cricketer from the 1940’s and 1950’s, Betty Wilson, improved her batting by hanging up a pair of cashmere stockings, each holding a cricket ball , from a high washing line, then hitting the ball with her cricket bat and using the natural resilience of the cashmere to follow through with another swing at a ball travelling in unpredictable ways.

Whilst it is not normally recommended to use your luxury, expensive, cashmere socks in this cavalier way, most of us aren’t international cricket players!

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Where does cashmere come from?

Cashmere comes from the very fine, soft down on the underbelly of goats (there is not a specific breed of “cashmere” goat). There are a number of countries and areas of the world where goats are bred specifically because they produce longer fleeces and therefore more cashmere.  One of these is the Himalayas, which is where one cashmere socks UK manufacturer, Corgi Hosiery, sources its fibres, because the intense winter cold causes the goats to grow very fine cashmere fleece, which is then removed during the warmer months.

The goats also have guard hair, which is coarser and serves the purpose of protecting the very fine, soft, insulating cashmere. One of the reasons that cashmere is expensive is the time-consuming process of separating the guard hair from the cashmere, to ensure only the highest quality fibre is used in the end products.  Another reason for cashmere socks, hats or scarves being very much a luxury item is that only a small amount of cashmere is produced by each goat annually (around 4 ounces).  The warmth, lightweight qualities and silky softness of a cashmere garment are instantly recognisable, however, ensuring a regular demand for these luxurious products.

Just to give some idea of how fine cashmere is, a human hair varies in diameter from 17 to 180 microns (a micron is a millionth of a metre), whereas cashmere has an average diameter of under 19 microns.  It is this superfine characteristic that gives cashmere both its extreme light weight and its insulating capability.

What can cashmere be used to make?

Men’s cashmere socks are often regarded as a very convenient, high quality, Christmas gift and the range of colours and patterns now available offers something for most tastes.  The hand-finishing used by UK sock manufacturer, Corgi Hosiery, for example, means that each sock has very flat seams and will not rub, but it is a time-consuming process.

Scarves, shawls, hats and gloves made from cashmere offer the ultimate in warmth and comfort and, with suitable care, will last for many years.  Such matching accessories can be fun to wear and, unlike some other fibres, feel very soft to the skin, not scratchy.

Obviously, larger items such as long-sleeved pullovers use more cashmere and are therefore more expensive, but sleeveless tops can be found which offer that light, warm, insulating layer without the bulk of a longer-sleeved jumper.  Having said that, even the long-sleeved tops are far from bulky when made from cashmere, because of the superfine fibres described earlier.

Perhaps my favourite indulgence is a pair of ladies’ cashmere bed socks – especially comforting on the cold winter nights we so often have in the UK.  And with possible power cuts forecast for the coming winter, something to keep your feet cosy at night is a worthwhile investment!

About the Author

Janice Porter is a marketing executive for a luxury UK knitwear company, so appreciates the appeal of items such as cashmere socks.  She likes to have a full understanding of how their garments are sourced and has travelled extensively to ensure fair trade principles are applied throughout the business.

She confesses to being useless when it comes to trying her hand at any kind of crafts, but enjoys sport, especially swimming and sailing off the South Wales coast.

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