Everlane Waffle-Knit Cashmere Zip Hoodie in Navy (size L). China. $165. Purchase.
This hoodie both caught my eye aesthetically and piqued my curiosity. It looked great, but was expensive for a “hoodie” and was made of cashmere a fabric I’ve only heard about.
It turns out to be a wonderfully soft and quite versatile cashmere sweater: slip it on over a t-shirt or toss it on over a button-up for a casual Friday look. Pair it with a windbreaker for breezy days or easily unzip it when the sun breaks through.
First though, prior to pulling the trigger I had to delve into why cashmere has it’s luxurious reputation and if it’s still running on reputation or truly holds its own against merino wool, another soft and popular wool. Merino has become very popular in both business and outdoor wear, but cashmere has not. Why is this?
Everlane chose “Grade A Cashmere” for this hoodie. It doesn’t seem to be an industry-wide grading term, but from what I’ve found it is the best of the best and means the average diameter of the fibers is 15.5 microns or less, with a staple length of at least 34mm.1 To compare, this is finer than the merino wool used by Ibex, which is 17.5 microns for their softest, lightest base layers and 18.5 for their heavier base layers. Both of these fall into the superfine merino category and have a staple length in the range of 65-100mm.2 This means the garment won’t be quite as soft, but will be more durable and less likely to pill. I have numerous Ibex garments and can attest to the benefits of merino wool. I love the stuff, especially for hiking, skiing, or mountaineering base layers–merino socks are also amazing, they’re the only socks to wear. Thus merino is used in outdoor apparel, but cashmere is not, because cashmere doesn’t have the durability required, whereas in an easy wearing urban environment the extreme softness of cashmere trumps. The exception to this is ultra fine merino, which is 11.5-15 microns, and thus finer than cashmere, with a longer staple length, making it king of the next-to-skin wools.3 Ultra fine does seem a bit overkill to me though, since my Ibex merino t-shirts are wonderfully soft and have never caused me an itch.
So cashmere is soft as f**k and Grade A is the best, this we know. But what else matters when it comes to cashmere and how does Everlane handle it?
The waffle knit is a porous weave as you can see in the photo below where it’s held up to the backlight, so it’s not going to provide much warmth if it’s windy. However, it does create air pockets of insulation, so if it’s not windy, that’s not a problem, or if paired with a windbreaker like the Patagonia Houdini, it’ll provide great warmth for cool, breezy, fall days. Together, this hoodie + windbreaker combination looks great and is super functional. Another benefit of the waffle-knit for Everlane is cost savings, since it makes a thick sweater with less material. This also makes is affordable for Everlane’s customers, since cashmere is usually prohibitively expensive (and this is certainly the most expensive hoodie I’ve ever purchased).
Style & Fit
Besides the insulating properties and cost savings of waffle-knit, as a fashion brand, Everlane likely chose the weave because it’s on trend, really ridiculously good looking, and provides a ton of natural stretch. I’m a very thin man (especially these days after a couple rounds of lung surgery have dropped me down to 168 lb, which at 6’6″ is very light), so the fact that the garment drapes to fit me, but can also stretch out to a much larger man lends a great one-size-fits all sensibility.
Design Quality & Quality Control
This sweater is wonderfully designed and constructed. The details at the intersections of the fabric, the not silver but not bronze YKK zipper, the size of the hood, it’s all really great. It’s clear that a lot of time went into the design of this product to be so minimal and pure. I’m happy to also report that execution by the factory was excellent, they must be the foxconn of cashmere apparel as garment came precisely packaged, without any floating threads in the box, nor a single loose thread on the garment. Great precision. Everlane knows what they’re doing.
Perfect quality control, incredibly soft material, with great fit for tall thin men, warm enough for California winters when paired with a windbreaker, and at home in the stylish urban environment. Yes please.
Other companies that use “cashmere” and “merino” to hit low price points are likely using inferior grades or blends. This doesn’t matter as long as you’re aware. Pilling is typically the concern for cashmere, since the shorter staple lengths in lower grades tend to exhibit this behavior fairly quickly. As always I’ll provide an update if anything changes.
- Robert Told, Cashmere.com
- Wikipedia: Merino
- “Garden variety merino wool clocks in around 23 microns (human hair is around 40 microns in diameter); fine merino around 18 microns; superfine is 16; and the king of kings, ultrafine, is anything less than 15.5 microns. The uninitiated will tell you that cashmere is the finest textile on the planet. Those who know, know that ultrafine merino is without substitute or equal.” GQ Magazine