Geek Out

The Greatest T-Shirt In The World

When you think about wool, you probably conjure up images of warm sweaters, scratchy socks or bald sheep. But certainly not a breezy, lightweight T-shirt, right? Change the way you think. This is the greatest T-shirt in the history of the world.

How can I possibly be qualified to make such a sweeping statement? I am obsessed with T-shirts. I have hundreds. They make up the overwhelming bulk of what I wear. Vintage shirts, technical fabric shirts, designer shirts, you name it.

I stole my first T-shirt at age 10. That’s right, I stole it. I stole it from my sister’s friend when she was over at our house for a sleepover. It was an already-worn-out Harvard shirt, and it beckoned to me like foil calls a crow. I had to have it. That article of clothing instilled in me a driving desire to attend Harvard — the secret singular academic focus of my high school career. I did not get into Harvard. Yes, Karma is a nasty, nasty vindictive bitch.

The shirt had a pair of moth-bite holes in it right over my left nipple. Eventually, they became one hole. I didn’t care. The shirt was so comfortable that I wore it for more than a decade before someone mistook it for a rag, cut it up, and used it to clean the shower. I was heartbroken, but I moved on. Filling its place required two shirts: a vintage yellow Sun Records tee (the collar separated from the rest of that shirt last year) and a birthday party-favor Hanes job with a 13-ball over the left breast: almost an homage to Harvard shirt’s nipple holes. You can read a newspaper through that thing now. I rarely wear it anymore because of this new hotness.

It’s called the Tech T, and it’s by Icebreaker, a New Zealand company that makes sporty clothing out of Merino wool. Merino is a kind of sheep that lives in Southern New Zealand. To deal with the hot summers and cold winters, the animal’s coat changes with the seasons, the wool becoming lighter in the hot summers and thicker in the winter. The Tech T is made out of the thin stuff, but it’s still awesome across a range of temperatures. I’ve worn it over the world — from sticky triple-digit Bangkok days to brisk New Hampshire evenings to downright cold British nights. It is always comfortable. I think it is magic.

OK, it’s not magic. It’s that badass sheep again. The fibres of the merino’s fleece have a couple layers to them: a hydrophilic layer on the outside that can hold up to 35 per cent of its weight in water, and a hydrophobic core that keeps the wool from getting waterlogged. The result is a material that soaks up just enough moisture to keep you dry, but never becomes sodden itself. These same physical characteristics make the Tech T dry super fast — quicker even than many synthetic technical fabric shirts. Another bonus: The fabric is remarkably resistant to stink. How much better can it get?

Now comes the bummer: this thing retails for around $90. Sigh. I’m compensating for that by wearing it every day.