Not much links Medieval shepherds and modern streetwear enthusiasts (though, come to think of it, each spend a lot of time waiting outdoors) but Casentino wool is one of them. The nubby, fuzzy natural fabric—often compared to fleece—was until recently an arcane ingredient found mostly in outerwear made by Italian heritage brands like Rubinacci or Liverano & Liverano.
But in the last few years, something changed. Suddenly, Casentino began turning up in varsity jackets made by skate-favorite Noah in collaboration with Golden Bear, and sporty half zip sweaters from Drake’s (who at one point stocked a Casentino duck). It’s even become something of a house signature for buzzy streetwear label Aimé Leon Dore, which has utilized it in everything from duffel coats to Clarks Wallabees.
In the surest sign yet that Casentino has gone mainstream, it’s been picked up by basics brand Alex Mill in the form of a kangaroo pocket popover that no fleece-wearing dad would shy away from. To try and make sense of the fabric’s rapid rise, we spoke to The Armoury co-founder Mark Cho, whose shop recently introduced a Casentino version of its Road Jacket.
“Casentino wool hails from Tuscany, Italy,” Cho tells Robb Report. “It was invented around the 14th century and was originally intended for people (and animals) who spent a lot of time outdoors. It is rough in texture, very warm and wear-resistant. Local sheep, which grew relatively rough coats due to their breed and the weather conditions in the area, were the source of raw wool fiber used in the cloth. The cloth is heavily brushed by a process known as rattinatura, which helps to compress it and give it its signature fuzziness, as well as improve its ability to keep you warm and dry.”
Cho also notes that two distinct colors have been historically associated with Casentino and persist in its present-day popularity: emerald green and “duck’s beak” orange. While the emerald green was traditionally used for Casentino linings, the orange was the happy result of a botched dye job in the 16th century.
However, it’s the wool’s status as a “practical, sturdy and low maintenance” fabric that inspired Cho to use it in the Road Jacket, which was designed to be a denim trucker substitute. “Casentino is an excellent wool-based alternative to denim as it shares many similar properties,” he says. “The texture is also reminiscent of modern fleece garments, especially in streetwear.”
Freemans Sporting Club has emerged as another recent booster, using the fabric in a Casentino wool overshirt and a Casentino wool full-zip jacket. Nikko Lencek-Inagaki, who serves as the label’s director of design and merchandising, calls Casentino “an OG performance fabric,” noting that it “feels like a luxurious but rugged blanket. It has great, efficient outdoor performance characteristics. It’s wool, not petrochemicals.”
Cho credits Casentino’s raised profile to the increased interest in classic menswear over the last decade but believes its popularity could be capped by concerns over its frizzy hand or preferences for a more luxurious cloth. However, he heartily endorses the medieval fabric’s newfound status as a streetwear favorite.
“I find the idea of a streetwear-inspired design made in a very traditional type of fabric very interesting,” he says. “After all, we live in the 21st century, not the 16th. Why not blend all the things we have available to us?”
Fleece, you’re officially on notice.