Project Wool Socks - First Impressions

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Lesson #4: Wool Socks = Warm Toes

Cotton socks; not so much

The fact that I grew up in a tropical country really affects my evaluation of clothing quality. Where I come from, 100% cotton items are the bee's knees. Here in my new home Canada; not so much

As Calgary has slugged it's way through the coldest winter in 30+ years, I have experienced the interesting phenomena of freezing toes in winter boots. It's not about the boots y'all. Apparently, my favorite 100% cotton socks are the wrongest things to protect your toes with in the winter. As usual, I consulted the peoples of the Internets and was pointed in the direction of wool socks. Once I dug into the world of wool socks, I discovered that 
  1. wool socks are expensive
  2. some brands have a cult following 
  3. my scientific mind loves aimless experiments

So the engineer in me decided to "test" 4 pairs of wool sock brands through the Calgary grinder this winter. Each pair will go through the same wash and wear cycle and once spring rolls in (hopefully before June!!!) I'll see how they fared. 

I trolled the sales racks and found deals on all 4 brands that were the focus of my attention.  The brands I settled on were Darn Tough socks, Icebreaker, Wigwam and Smartwool. 4 pairs of wool socks later, here are my first impressions of the socks straight out of the box.  

Fit
All are supposed to be over the calf but from the picture above, it's easy to see that "over the calf" is subject to different interpretations. 
Darn Tough: Beautiful! This was practically knee-high and I love it!
Icebreaker: The shortest of the lot.
Wigwam: Also fit as well as the Darn Tough
Smartwool: The recommended size for me looked so small in store that I sized up immediately. It ended up being the longest but that may be because I got a Large size, not Medium like the others.

Wool Content
While shopping, I noticed other wool socks from recognizable sports brands. On closer inspection, all of those socks had a really low wool content. If I'm paying premium for wool socks, I expect the socks to be at least half wool. Here's how my chosen 4 stacked up.
Darn Tough: 60% Merino
Icebreaker: 72% wool (type not specified)
Wigwam: 46% Merino (barely making the cut)
Smartwool: 63% Merino wool ( going off the website info as I threw away the packaging before noting this detail)

Price and availability:
All are more expensive than what I'm used to spending on my beloved cotton socks. All were also hard to find. I lucked out on finding a few pairs of Smartwool in Winners while I had to go to a specialty sports store for the Wigwam and Darn Tough. The Icebreaker socks were ordered online. As most retailers are starting to clear their shelves for the Spring collections, I was able to buy all at discounts of 30-55% off retail.

Warranty
All the socks come with some sort of lifetime guarantee. Time will tell if I actually get to use that.

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