Hear the word “luxury,” and you’re apt to imagine a freshly popped bottle of Champagne, a diamond-set timepiece or a yacht idling on the Adriatic. What you’re less likely to imagine is a herd of sheep.
And yet, that’s the pitch behind Sunspel’s luxury British wool jumper, which aside from its blingy name, carries an $835 price tag. So, how can a non-cashmere sweater bill itself as a luxury product in title and price?
Part of the answer is sheep. The wool used to knit the piece comes from the Bluefaced Leicester, a rare breed whose fleece is prized for its extra-long staple and fine micron count (translation: its fibers are strong yet soft). The other factor is geography. The wool is shorn, spun and knit within 150 miles of Sunspel’s factory in Long Eaton, making the resulting sweater the wearable equivalent of a farm-to-table feast.
The wool itself is minimally treated, aside from a wash in organic detergent, and undyed. The trio of colors that the sweater is offered in—natural ecru, oatmeal and brown—are the result of blending fibers together during the spinning process.
The difference that this approach makes was evident from the moment I removed the sweater from its box, when I caught an instantly recognizable whiff of sheep. I wasn’t bothered by this aroma, which I considered a testament to its natural origins, but it largely dissipated after a day of outdoor wear.
While the sweater’s first impression was an olfactory one, its tactile properties are the most remarkable. The simply designed, rib stitch crewneck feels different from any wool sweater I’ve ever worn, making me question if I’ve ever really known how wool is supposed to feel. Its knit is as thick as chainmail yet as light and lofty as down feathers.
But wool spun from pure gold wouldn’t be worth its weight without a proper fit. In this case, Sunspel has opted for a classic fit that leans generous without being capital-O “oversized”: the right choice for a sweater that might be the coziest piece in my closet. On a more stylistic note, its high neckline frames an oxford-cloth button down just right.
I can’t imagine a scenario that brings me face-to-face with a Bluefaced Leicester. But should that event come to pass, I’ll have to thank it.