Who is the smart one in this picture?

Published 12:04 pm Thursday, February 8, 2024

Last week, on one of those very cold days, I put on the warmest sweater that I have. It is made of Aran wool, and I knitted it way back in 1967. Actually, I started knitting it in the fall of 1967 for my boyfriend at the time. But, he broke up with me before the sweater was finished, so I altered the pattern and made the sleeves a bit shorter so that it would fit me. I’ve been wearing it ever since. 

It is long enough that it can keep my ‘backside’ warm, and it was borrowed by several of our female friends when they were pregnant because it was stretchable enough to keep them warm until the baby was born. All in all, that sweater has been well worth the hours that I spent knitting it.

So,  I was wearing that sweater when it was 10 degrees outside, thinking about how great wool is for winter clothing. There have been some holes in it over the years, and I have been able to darn those holes closed. Darning is a bit of a lost art, but it is actually quite easy. I’ll fix those few little holes while watching TV one evening.

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At the same time as I was wearing that warm sweater, I was wearing smartwool socks. One good thing that I can say about smartwool is that it is perfectly suited for fine, thin articles of clothing. The socks that I was wearing that day were smartwool. They are really nice and they stretch to fit my feet perfectly, but the heel is getting very thin and I cannot darn them because what is left is the stretchy polyester that makes the wool “smart.” It’s impossible to darn through that stretchy stuff. If they were made of all wool, I could darn them and they’d last another couple of years at least. 

That’s what made me start thinking about what’s smarter, the smartwool or the sheep’s wool that lasts many, many times longer. What makes smartwool better than regular wool? Well, you can put it in the washing machine and the dryer, and it does not shrink. That means that the person doing the laundry does not have to think – the smartwool makes that unnecessary. With all wool, the person doing the laundry would have to pay attention to what they are putting in the machine, or they’ll end up with small socks. Yes, I’ve made that mistake once, but I learned; now I pay attention.

But there is an unseen consequence of smartwool: it does not hold up or last as long as plain wool, so it means that we’ll need to purchase more of it over our lifetime. The smart one in this picture is the company that is selling us the smartwool products. Because we don’t need to think as much about how to take care of this product, we buy more. It’s smart marketing, plain and simple! 

Please do me a favor and start thinking about how we are often fooled and manipulated by marketing. It’s been going on for many, many centuries and it has fooled generations into making decisions that may have not been in our world’s best interests. Then think of what sheep have given us for centuries: wool, meat, fertilizer, pasture maintenance, etc. Then think about what polyester has given us.