A comprehensive guide to cashmere

What makes cashmere so luxurious? And how best to buy it? We answer your pressing questions.
Green cashmere cardigan, Anderson & Sheppard at The Rake; sky blue cotton tab collar shirt, Edward Sexton at The Rake; burgundy silk medallion print tie, Drake's at The Rake; grey wool Blake check Aleks trousers, Kit Blake at The Rake; passport-red Redcliff Date watch with Fears blue leather strap, Fears at The Rake.

Here in the UK, we’re exceptionally good at complaining about the weather. But while we grumble about the rain and whinge about the cold, our climate is – in the grand scheme of things – pretty average. Especially when you compare it to somewhere like the Gobi desert, where temperatures range between -40°C and 45°C and can fluctuate by 35° in a day.

It makes sense, then, that goats living on this stretch of brushland, which reaches from Northern China into Mongolia, are the source of one of the world’s most versatile fibres: cashmere. From the soft underbelly of these goats, it's crucial to the animals’ survival that their coats can adapt, keeping them warm in subarctic temperatures and cooling them down when necessary.

We’d argue that cashmere has become a crucial part of our wardrobes, too (even if our climate does demand considerably less of us). According to Ladakh folklore, the first wearable item ever made from cashmere was a pair of socks felted by a saint in the 14th Century. Fast forward seven centuries, and cashmere socks are not only a Christmas day stocking filler, but designers and innovators have brought cashmere into a realm of its own, turning it into a fibre that can be used in everything from accessories to knitwear, from greatcoats to dressing gowns, from tailoring to leisurewear.

But it’s not just practical: cashmere is undeniably luxurious, with a seriously soft handle and fluidity to it that is almost impossible to replicate. Compared to its sheep wool counterpart, it’s roughly three times more insulating, as well as being finer, stronger and lighter. Those who can’t wear wool against their skin because they find it itchy or are allergic rarely have the same reaction to cashmere, making it the perfect material for Edward Sexton’s fine-knit rollnecks, Altea’s preppy cardigans or Anderson & Sheppard’s polo shirts.

Published

November 2020

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