eBay user Lulabel167 is offering cashmere scarves this year - she lists them as by a “luxury Scottish mill,” but we happen to know they’re by Begg, which is one of the finest “luxury Scottish mills” in existence. These often go for quite reasonable prices, and the UK-based seller is willing to ship worldwide. Check out her stock here.
A few readers have emailed us to point out that those of us in the U.S. of A have our own regional tartans. Wikipedia has a nearly complete list. Matt, an American living in Scotland, points out that the California tartan (above) is based on the family tartan of John Muir, the great conservationist.
I actively support be-tartaned clothing, especially if it bears your family’s tartan. That said: unless you A) live in Scotland, B) were born in Scotland and have a lot to recommend you or C) have a family tartan and are actively participating in a Scotland-specific activity (Highland Games, Sons of Scotland meeting), you should NOT wear a kilt.
If you do, you’ll risk the same kind of wrath that my Irish stepmother occasionally unleashes upon Riverdance and St. Patrick’s Day revelers. This type of wrath includes a lot of profanity.
It’s On Ebay
Three Pringle cashmere sweater vests
The Economist has an excellent summary of what to look for when you’re buying cashmere. In the past 15 years, cashmere has become a mass-market product. Previously, only the best fibers were taken from goats, and those fibers were milled and woven by artisans in places like Scotland and Italy. Today, standards can be much lower, and garments are often milled, knit and finished in China. In the past, cashmere was made from only the longest, finest fibers from the goat’s underside. Today, there are no such standards, at least for mass-market product.
Here’s how the Economist says you should differentiate between the good stuff (which lasts a lifetime) and the cheap stuff (which can pill in a matter of weeks):
"Look for tension in the knitting: stretch a section and it should ping back into shape. Hold it up to the light and you shouldn’t see much sky: paradoxically, the best cashmere, though made from the finest hair, has a density to it. Examine its surface: fluffiness suggests the yarn was spun from shorter, weaker fibres and will pill. Be sceptical about softness, too. Over-milling can make a garment too soft and silky, and therefore prone to bobbling and losing its shape. More expensive cashmere may be harder to handle in the shop, but will ease up with wear and hand-washing. The best cashmere actually improves with age - so long as the moths don’t get to it."
The whole article has been transcribed by a thoughtful StyleForum member here.
As for myself - when I’m buying cashmere, I focus on older sweaters (think 1980s and earlier) made in England and Scotland. They can often be had on Ebay for $30-60, and the density and softness of the wool is unparalleled.