I no longer have it but there is a photo of the late Gianni Agnelli wearing a mohair and wool dinner jacket that illustrates the best use of the hair of the Angora goat in men's clothing. Agnelli's clothes catch the light in a way that wool does not, but precisely as evening wear should. And though there is no evidence in the photo, his dinner jacket undoubtedly wore cool, for that is another characteristic of the silky yarn in the photo, a not inconsiderable advantage in over-heated ballrooms.
Mohair has been used in the West since the 16th century, when Charles V first brought angora goats to Europe. The delicacy of the species made mohair relatively rare as well as expensive and five hundred years later it is still a luxury fiber, like cashmere and silk, and considerably more expensive than most wool.
It is more expensive because, young or old, those delicate goats must receive a great deal of attention in between their semi-annual shearings. The finer hair from younger animals is particularly prized for clothing, with kid mohair commanding a premium over the stuff from adult goats.
In suiting cloth, mohair shares an important characteristic with linen. That is, it absorbs and releases moisture, moving perspiration away from the skin, which makes it more comfortable than wool in hot weather. It also resists wrinkles better than wool, though when mohair does wrinkle the cloth must be ironed or steamed as the wrinkles will not fall out on their own.
Of the mohair that is in current production, Smith and Co (Woollens) has a couple mohair blends in its formal wear book that represent what may be the best use of the stuff. Of course, it is also used successfully in daywear, particularly in blends of 40% mohair or even less where its sheen is minimized by the wool. Indeed, Scabal's high twist mohair and wool blend has little sheen and wears exactly like a fresco, which is both good and bad since all-wool frescos cost considerably less per meter.
But, as I wrote in the beginning, the silky sheen of mohair is at its best in the evening.
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Photo: Fessler Spinning and Weaving