The History Of Merino Wool

merino wool
April 20, 2020

At Unbound Merino, we take pride in the universal need to explore the world. Our love of travel and adventure is rooted in history, and knowing your past helps you appreciate who you are and where you’re going. We look at the history of Merino wool and how it became such a popular choice for clothing amongst adventurers.

Where it all Began

Merino wool has been a well-liked choice of fabric for clothing for hundreds and hundreds of years. Approximately 10 000 years ago, sheep became domesticated and archeological evidence of woven wool clothing dates back some two to three thousand years! Over the centuries, humans have worked tirelessly to create the perfect fabric; clothing that is warm, breathable, comfortable, durable and of course, looks good! 

Merino sheep were first brought to Spain in the 12th century, and rumours of a miracle fabric quickly spread. It’s important to remind readers that clothing was a lot more important back then. Not only did clothing play a greater role for survival, but the average person didn’t have a wardrobe full of different outfits. Between the 12th to 16th century, Spain had built a reputation for producing the highest quality Merino wool and it was revered amongst travellers as an exotic super fabric. In fact, before 1800 exporting Merino sheep out of Spain was a crime punishable by death!

The Napoleonic Wars devastated Spain and its textile industry, and around this time, legend has it that a few dozen Merino sheep were a part of the first journey to Australia, having been brought aboard as a food source and declared ‘only good enough for mutton’. Thankfully, those early adventurers knew better and that’s where the modern era of Merino wool began.

Australian Merino Wool

The story of the first group of Merino sheep arriving in Australia in 1788 as part of the First Fleet (the initial English colony of 11 ships that founded Australia) is a tale of discovery and bravery. Merino sheep were introduced to Australia in the late 17th century, and by 1810, there were over 33 000 Merino sheep in the country and Merino wool was no longer a foreign treasure. By 1830 Australia had over 2 million sheep and the word was officially out. It’s been said that Merino wool played a vital part in keeping early adventurers warm, dry and comfortable.

Merino Wool in the 21st Century

The reasons that early Australian settlers used Merino wool for their clothing are the same reasons why it’s so popular today with modern travellers and adventurers. Merino wool offers a range of performance benefits that is unmatched by any synthetic material, and anyone who was worn Merino clothing will tell you first hand, there’s nothing like it!

At Unbound Merino, we work tirelessly to produce clothing that will help you make the most of your adventures. Like the early settlers who came to Australia, you always should be prepared, and Merino clothing is suitable for nearly any situation. Be sure to check out our collection of Merino clothing for men, available in styles and colours that would make the First Fleet proud.


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