What You Need to Know about Cashmere

Close up of three shades of blue cashmere sweaters.

Cashmere is known for being one of the softest fabrics in the world. Its thin fibers mean that it can be woven into incredibly luxurious, long-lasting, and amazing to wear clothing. Not only is cashmere super soft and comfy it is also lightweight yet incredibly warm.

What Makes Cashmere so Great?

Cashmere is one of the most luxurious fibers that you can buy. It is a yarn with a silky finish that feels delicate but is actually very durable. If you get good quality cashmere, it will last a long time, and look as good as new even after wearing it for years, so you will be able to get quite a lot of use out of it.

It is also three times as warm as wool so it is one of the best yarns to keep you nice and warm,  without a lot of bulk or layers that you may need if you are wearing other types of fabrics.

Why is Cashmere so Expensive?

Cashmere is so expensive because it is a rare fiber with limited quality, that isn’t easy to source. It comes from the cashmere goat that is usually found in nomadic herds in areas like the Himalayas, Mongolia, China, and Iran.  Cashmere goats grow incredibly thick, warm coats that have two types of hair: thick guard hairs and super-soft, fleecy fibers underneath their coat, on the underbelly. Good quality cashmere is made from the fibers on the underbelly.

One cashmere goat can only produce about 200 grams of the soft undercoat fiber a year. If you compare that to a sheep that can produce at least 7 lbs of wool in a year you can begin to see why it is as scarce as it is. The entire cashmere fiber supply around the world in any given year is only about 0.5% of the world’s total wool production.

To process the fiber is also time-consuming and must be done carefully to ensure the best final product.  When the goats shed their coats the lighter hair is combed and sorted by hand. It is then cleaned and processed. Any chemicals or over-processing will damage the delicate fibers.

Close up of red cashmere sweater

Cheap Cashmere

Cheaper cashmere products from retailers like Uniqlo have become hugely popular recently. These retailers offer sweaters and scarves that have the benefits of cashmere, such as softness, warmth, and durability but without the hefty price tag. If you are buying inexpensive cashmere you will most likely be getting a lower grade of cashmere or fibers that haven’t been processed using traditional methods.

There is some chance when you buy inexpensive cashmere products they may have been mislabeled and not contain real cashmere. If you find really cheap products that claim to be cashmere, it may be too good to be true or it may contain the wiry guard hairs from the cashmere goat and not the underbelly hair.

There are also ethical and environmental concerns regarding cheap cashmere worth considering if you are on the market for cashmere.

What Is Cashmere Used For?

Cashmere can be used for all kinds of clothing and home essentials like bedding. It is most commonly used for sweaters, coats, and scarves. It is particularly good for winter clothing that requires heat retention.  It makes a great yarn for work sweaters when you want to stay warm in the office and look professional but don’t want to wear a bulky wool sweater.

Vintage men's cashmere coat

Used Cashmere

If you are interested in cashmere but are looking for a sustainable option, you may want to consider used cashmere. If you get lucky, you can find cashmere options when you are thrifting, since cashmere is so durable and long-lasting. Depending on where you live and where you thrift, it is possible to find high-end cashmere sweaters in thrift stores. You can also try Poshmark and eBay for resale options.

 

Read More: The Most Comfortable Women’s Cashmere Sweaters for Every Budget