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What is Sheepskin?

A sheep posing in IrelandWhat is Sheepskin?

Sheepskin, also known as lambskin or shearling,  is a type of full grain leather made from the skin and wool of a sheep.

It is similar to hair on leather, but is usually not classified as such, partly because sheep have wool, not hair. It is almost like a pelt, instead of leather. Sheepskin rides a very interesting line. It is not usually considered exotic leather, since sheep are really not exotic by most definitions, but it also isn’t your normal old cow leather. That is why it gets its own category, at least in my book. Regardless of what you call it, it has some pretty cool properties.

Fun Facts about Sheepskin

First of all, sheepskin, like all leather, is flame retardant. You would think that wool would be super flammable since it is so light and fluffy. It looks like a big piling of dry kindling! But it isn’t. It is quite flame resistant, and is also static resistant, and water resistant.

Itchy

Not to mention, a lot of wool is itchy.

Now you’re probably thinking “Dallin, I’ve worn a wool sweater, I know they get wet, shrink, and are super heavy when soaked.” And you’re right. All those things are true about knitted wool, but you need to forget all of that because this is different. The old joke about sheep shrinking in the rain is what comes to my mind. I can tell you from growing up on a sheep ranch that they don’t. They do just fine in the rain, and the reason why is something called lanolin.

Lanolin?

Lanolin is, for lack of better terms, what waterproofs sheep. It is a natural substance that their skin produces that keeps them from getting waterlogged every time it rains. Thus sheepskin is also waterproofed for the most part, and it doesn’t even have an oily feel to it.

Another fun fact would be that sheepskin is super soft and malleable, so you can use it to make things that you wouldn’t use cowhide leather for. For example, you wouldn’t make a stocking cap out of pure full grain leather. It just wouldn’t work right. However, sheepskin makes great hats, warm gloves, boots, etc. in a more soft and warm way, whereas regular leather is more rough and tough. You can click here to check out some of the cool things you can make out of sheepskin.

Soft and warm? So like winter wear?

Exactly! But also summer wear! I’m not exactly sure how this works, but sheepskin has a reputation for being warm when you’re cold and being cool when you’re warm. I don’t know if that is as true as advertisers like to make it seem. But there is enough evidence to show that as a material it is incredibly versatile, and works for both cool and hotter climates.

It just sounds like "ugh"

I think just about everyone has seen these around

For example, have you heard of UGG boots? You know, like the fuzzy boots? You may not have known it, but they are one of the most famous examples of sheepskin. Some of their products use other materials, but most of it is sheepskin. I have seen people wearing those things in the middle of summer, and they say that they are comfortable. I’ll be honest, I’ve never worn them myself, but I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt, even though their brand name sounds like an exclamation of disgust.

What Makes Good Sheepskin?

You want to avoid high seed density in sheepskin. When a sheepskin has high seed content, that means that it got a lot of seeds or briers or other unpleasant things caught in their skin and it left a scar. This usually isn’t an issue, but if there are a lot of them, it can weaken the material. Some of the stereo-typical “best sheepskin products” come from Australia and New Zealand. That is because they have 10 sheep to every 1 person in New Zealand, making it the highest sheep density in the world. So they know their sheep.

Should I buy it?

That is up to you. Whether sheepskin is right for you is a matter of personal preference. As for me, I’m a big fan. It is a wonderful materials with a lot of positive qualities.

 

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