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Why a Cotton Sweater Might Be a Smarter Investment Than Wool

Cotton sweaters stay cooler in fluctuant weather, which means you can wear them a year-round.

banana republic cotton sweater
Banana Republic

There are few garments more universally beloved than sweaters. They're adored in all their shapes, knits and textures, whether they're cashmere, merino or another type of wool. But what about cotton ones, which, while not as warm as wool sweaters, are often more versatile?

What to Consider

Why Cotton?

There's a reason most sweaters are made from wool: it's warm. Within, its fibers come crimped. The tiny air pockets created when the fibers are stacked together help make wool warm, breathable and naturally elastic. Wool is also able to absorb up to 35 percent of its weight in water without feeling wet. It's odor-resistant, too, and somewhat water-repellent and stain-resistant, courtesy of its natural lanolin (oil) layer. This all might sound too good to be true, but it isn't — wool is an excellent choice.

But cotton might be less of a headache, making it the better investment (at least for your mental health) in the long run. You see, there are a few problems with wool you won't encounter with cotton. For one, moths feast exclusively on animal fibers, which means wool is very much a part of a moth's diet. That means when you're storing your wool sweater, you need to do so in a moth-proof bag, which tapes up precious space in your already cramped closet.

Cotton sweaters, on the other hand, can be worn year-round. As a base layer in the winter? Yep. As a top layer in the summer? For sure. Cotton sweaters are also easier to take care of. While wool sweaters must be hand washed, cotton ones can be cleaned in a cold wash cycle and dried... in the dryer.

And last but not least, there is one obvious benefit we've overlooked: being free from animal byproducts. Cotton lets vegan buyers still wear sweaters, and the vegan population is still growing, even if most people only think of it as an ideology that covers what we eat.


Cotton sweaters have less apparent texture than wool ones, but there are plenty of cotton sweaters designed with a three-dimensional element, whether that be the way it's knit or the alternative fabric it's infused with.

That being said, steer clear of anything too sweatshirt-like. These details are a dead giveaway that what you're wearing isn't wool. Let cotton take wool's place — find steadfast styles that swap cotton in for wool.


Cotton sweaters depend on weight and thickness to keep you warm. It's not as naturally gifted at heat retention as wool is. As such, you'll find your cotton sweater to be much heftier than your cashmere, while being roughly equal, if not inferior, in terms of temperature regulation.


Most cotton sweaters can go right into the washing machine, albeit on its coldest setting and with like colors. Most can also be tumble dried, but not on high heat.

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