Wednesday, August 26, 2015

That Australian Life - in praise of wool and the rise of the wundies

Regular readers will know that I am rather fond of wool. It's partly that I grew up with the stuff. From lamb to lunch or lounge suit.

A gownie/townie, I spent enough time on country properties owned by friends and family to see the process through from lambing to sheering to wool sales to the subsequent reappearance of wool in my suit.

Greasy wool is, well, greasy. So to a young boy, sheep were large, not very intelligent and distinctly greasy. They also gave a word the Australian English, the dag, that was sometimes (too often) applied to me. Now I had seen enough sheep being crutched to rather resent the term when a school fellow said you dag or, worse, Jim Belshaw is a dag, worse if it became a chant. Later it would be applied more affectionately as in Jim (or dear), you really are a bit of a dag.

Despite these various negative connotations, and the huge dislike I acquired of the mutton stew sometimes served for lunch at school, wool was sort of comfortable, familiar.

This shot shows brother David and I all dressed for an Aunt's wedding. Note the wool ties and jackets. Just to the left of this photo was a large open fireplace with sheep skin rugs. When staying with Fa and Gran as young kids, we would lie on the soft wool and watch the fire crackling in the darkened room. All very soothing. Wool, beautiful wool.

Mind you, wool was not all beer and skittles. to use an old fashioned phrase that somehow seems appropriate when we are talking about an old fashioned product. Wool is, well, warm.  That's great in cool weather, but not so hot (so to speak) in warm weather.It was later that new technology would be developed to allow fine light weight wool clothes.

One of wool's supreme advantages is that, unlike synthetics, it doesn't melt, just smoulders. There is something quite off-putting about dropping an ember onto a synthetic garment and seeing the immediate hole form. There is something more off-putting about synthetic garments tendency to ignite if near flames, as many parents have discovered to their distress.

I mention this now because it appears that Australia's armed forces are now wearing wundies, undergarments made from wool. Good to see!

I am flying shortly. While I normally don't bother on short trips, I wear a fair bit of wool anyway, on long trips I check to make sure that I'm not wearing synthetic clothing. The thought of trying to get off a plane while flames melt my clothes into my skin is not appealing. Silly or not, I regard it as a small safety measure.



Winton Bates said...

The other problem with wool that I remember from my childhood was that it wasn't very pleasant to wear next to the skin. I hope that problem has now been solved with the wundies.

Jim Belshaw said...

I had forgotten that element, Winton. That could be true. But the new wool clothes such as that in my latest suit have a smooth tactile feel.

Anonymous said...

In order to divert myself from commenting upon what 'tactile feel' means I am changing the subject to food. Or perhaps I should have just posted this link on Neil Whitfield's blog:

ps hope he does a 'what he wears' series; would love to know what 'Sea Island cotton' is :)

Jim Belshaw said...

Hi kvd. Liked that Bod link, although it crashed my computer! Sea Island cotton is good - - at least to wear.