A Primer on Shearling Jackets
It’s really saying something that you can spend a good amount of time absorbing our exquisite fashion and almost overlook our shearling jackets and coats. We offer luxurious fashion in coats, jackets, hats and other accessories carefully crafted from chinchilla, fox, mink, rabbit, sable fur and others, which nearly eclipses our shearling fashion.
However, our shearling fashion deserves the limelight, not only for the fact that it is unforgettable from a perspective of design, but because of its history, its durability and its functionality. People have been using wool and leather - shearling - for thousands of years, and it’s far-reaching benefits are well and widely known. It’s time for a renaissance.
A Short Background on Shearling
Shearling jackets and coats are a little bit different from the other forms of fur accessories that we offer here at Maximilian.com. Sometimes, wool is shorn from a sheep, and then either spun or felted in order to produce textiles like coats, shirts, gloves, hats and other apparel. This, however, is not the case with shearling garments.
Shearling garments have a very long, very illustrious history of use. Coats and cloaks produced using shearling as a material predate modern history, and were used thousands of years ago because of their warmth and comfort.
By the Middle Ages, garments made from shearling had attained no small repute for their pleasing visual nature as well as their insulative properties. Shearling was used as a lining for hats and other garments which, being expensive to produce and also for its stunning nature, was a status symbol as much as a functional aspect of a wardrobe.
With all of that said, it was probably not until the turn of the last century or a little bit afterwards that shearling jackets garnered a reputation that would precede them, and has remained strong until the present time. Military officials, and pilots, in particular, made the classic shearling coat immortal - so much so, that today shearling coats are sometimes referred to using the blanket term “bomber jackets.”
Though the term is a catchall and not always accurate with respect to the design of the jacket in question, the fact that “bomber jacket” has grown in scope to include nearly all shearling coats is a testament to the functionality of the material.
The extremely cold, unforgiving, often wet atmosphere through which bomber crews piloted their craft was demanding in ways that modern humans, even modern pilots, just can’t understand. Before the modern era, the quarters, cabins and cockpits of aircraft were not only unheated - sometimes they were open. Pilots simply needed the best, most insulative material available - and shearling made the grade
Which, itself, brings something important into focus. It is not simply because shearling is a pleasant, lush material that it has garnered such repute. It is because it offers the wearer a wide range of benefits.
The Far-Flung Benefits of Shearling Jackets
Shearling jackets may have had a great cultural impact even if they lacked essential functionality. Many other materials and textiles do. However, in the particular case of shearling, it is specifically because of how useful the material is that it has stood the test of time. It just so happens that shearling is also a beautiful material.
- Extremely durable, soft insulation
Shearling’s greatest attribute is that it is remarkably warm and is suitable for a wide range of very unforgiving environments. It is one of the most efficient, effective materials for insulation and it has been used to great effect to keep wearers warm in all sorts of terrible weather conditions and environments. Everyone from bomber crews to Victorian patricians have had great appreciation for the warmth and durability of shearling garments.
- Remains warm even when wet
Shearling is not simply warm. Many other materials are as well and even come close to the insulative properties of wool. One thing that really enables shearling - which is wool - to stand out from the crowd is that it remains warm even when it is wet.
This is because wool, unlike many other fibers, such as cotton, is able to absorb moisture. Not only does this process remove water from the surface of the wearer’s skin, but it also releases an infinitesimal amount of heat as it releases the moisture. If you get wet while wearing some other fibers, they will absorb the water and keep it close to your skin, where it will continue to lower your body temperature. Wool will not; it will remove it from contact with your skin and keep you warm.
The other great thing is that because wool absorbs moisture into the inner layers of the fibers, a wool garment that is wet will not even feel wet. Wool can absorb somewhere around 30% of its weight before it starts to feel wet.
- Sheepskin backing is protective
Another reason that shearling is so valuable is because it remains paired to sheepskin, which is not only soft and supple but highly durable and relatively protective. You can get the same benefits of insulation that have been mentioned here from a wool sweater without a sheepskin backing, but then you will lose out on the protection of the natural leather.
Sheepskin is soft and flexible, allowing it to move with the wearer so as not to excessively restrict movement. It is also comfortable where it comes in contact with skin, yet durable enough to protect the wearer from contact, abrasion and more. Sheepskin even provides a measure of protection against the wind.
- Fibers can tolerate a lot of stress and are self cleaning
Another great thing about shearling - about wool, really - is that the fibers are arranged in a very peculiar fashion and have, for lack of a better term, what are effectively interlocking scales covering them. The effect of this is that as wool is stretched, folded, or just moved about, the scales slough over the tops of one another, “scrubbing” the wool clean.
This does not mean that wool will simply remain clean forever, but then again, it does mean that wool helps to shed excess moisture, dirt and oil.
- Ages beautifully
Another reason that people just simply love shearling fashion is that it, like high grades of leather (think full grain) will age not only gracefully but beautifully, developing character as they mature. With proper care and attention, a shearling coat will develop a beautiful patina as time goes by, and a character that is truly one of a kind.
With all of this said, shearling books plenty of opportunities for fashion as well. It is a handsome, stately material that is just as useful for creating mystique and allure as it is for preventing a wearer from freezing to death.
Sure-Fire Tips for Shearling Fashion
Shearling fashion is a thing of beauty, and there are many different avenues you can follow to create a beautiful impression with a shearling coat or jacket - or even just shearling gloves.
There’s a classic misconception that the shearling jacket itself has to eclipse everything else about an ensemble, but this is not necessarily true. Here are some of our best tips to shine your brightest by the aid of a shearling jacket.
- The obvious: let the jacket do the talking
Probably the easiest thing you can do is allow your jacket to suffuse the rest of your ensemble with color and character. Downplay everything else, let the jacket take center stage. As a statement piece, it will probably say plenty.
- Forget what they say: wear your shades
One or two online venues will tell you that it is a fashion cliché or even a faux pas to wear shades with a shearling jacket - especially aviators. We say forget them. It’s literally called a bomber jacket - go ahead and rock the aviators.
Still, if that look is too played out for you, opt for something more contemporary like round shades or sport glasses. It’s hard not to appreciate that type of look.
- Throw off the natural tones of the jacket with bright, artificial colors underneath
Shearling jackets are often arrayed in very plain colors, like black, gray, tan or other neutral or earth tones. This can be as limiting as it is liberating. Perhaps you can make your own look by reaching for bright colors; wear a vibrant shirt or blouse underneath the jacket and wear the jacket open. See how you look; you might love it.
- Go all in on shearling
This is a difficult style to pull off, but you just might be able to do it. If it’s really cold out or you’re looking for harmony in your aesthetic, go all in on shearling. Wear a shearling trimmed hat and break out a pair of Uggs or furry boots. You’ll be able to cultivate a purely circumpolar aura.
- Don’t fear prints or patterns
It might seem like it's impossible or inadvisable to pair up a bright or bold pattern or print with shearling but it is in the incongruity that the harmony lies. Pick a smartly patterned shirt, blouse or other top and wear it under the jacket. You can leave the jacket open or let it peek through, and accord will stem from chaos.
- Create a monochromatic movement
You can also key in on the color of a shearling jacket and build out a monochromatic ensemble from that. If it’s black or blue or gray, breathe life into the picture with complimentary, well-aligned, alike-colored pieces.
Do you have additional ideas about how to create a memorable outfit using the help of a shearling jacket? Get in touch with us and let us hear it!
Caring for a Shearling Coat or Jacket
If you do decide to pick up a shearling jacket from our collection, or you already have one, follow some of these suggestions for care.
- Protect your coat from excess heat or light
Excess heat and light are both explicitly damaging to leather and wool, which constitute a shearling coat. Do not store your jacket in an area where it will be in contact with light, and protect it against overexposure to extreme heat.
- Do not allow the coat to become saturated with water
We understand that a jacket is a component of outerwear, but both sheepskin and wool will absorb a lot of water, which will damage their fibers. If your coat becomes saturated, you need to take it to a leather or fur specialist for maintenance right away.
- Spot clean as necessary.
As stated, wool will help to shed some dirt, but if you notice spots that need to be touched up, clean them up as necessary using methods that will not damage leather, wool or other natural fibers.
- Store it somewhere clean, cool and dry - and do not wrap it in a plastic garment bag.
When you are not wearing your shearling coat, hang it somewhere in a cool, dry place, and out of the light. Never store it in a plastic garment bag which will trap moisture. If you must store it in a garment bag, use a cloth one.
- Bring your shearling jacket to a leather or fur specialist for periodic thorough cleanings.
Finally, shearling garments require periodic, thorough cleanings, much like other natural materials like wool and leather. Take your shearling coat to an experienced, capable furrier at minimum once per year for a deep cleaning and conditioning.
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Still have questions about shearling, or how you can work it into your wardrobe? Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 1-800-TLC-FURS today. Make sure you also follow us on our social media platforms, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter so you can keep up with news and stay in touch!