Mohair Sweaters: Fashion Statement, Medieval Hairshirt or Terrorist Plot?

Last month, I went to Amsterdam on an annual business trip. Mid-November in North Sea countries usually means cold rain or damp blustery days. It’s pretty chilly there, (even for a cold-hardened, former Midwesterner), setting up perfect conditions for sweater shopping.

This year, mohair seemed to be everywhere. Amsterdam was wrapped in the stuff.

“You’d have to be stoned (a reasonable possibility in Holland) or clueless to miss the message: if you’re on-trend, you’d better be in an earth-toned longish, bulky-knit mohair blend sweater.”

I endorse shopping while straight, having made a few serious purchase mistakes in the past when not-entirely-alert. It was easy to succumb to the pull of Euro-style. Sweater-y shops were on every street.

Here’s what I bought.

Mohair Sweater, as purchased

The label said “10% mohair.” The sweater cost only 20 euros, about $35. Savvier shoppers would have taken the amazingly low price as a warning sign: this mohair was probably sheared off a genetically-modified goat.

It felt fine for the two minute try-on in the fitting room. As you can see, it’s a loosely-knit, see-through thing, requiring an underlayer.

I wore it with a silk turtleneck the next day and was okay for a few hours. At dinner that evening with our Dutch colleagues, my skin started crawling. The situation escalated rapidly to crisis-level somewhere between menu-reading and cocktail-ordering. Scratching and grimacing through the first course, I surrendered to impending madness during the entrée and frantically peeled off the sweater. Distracted by the image of fire ants attacking, I somehow resisted the urge to go bra-only at the table.

A devoted stiletto-fan, I remain faithful to the maxim that being fashionable may require sacrifice. The mohair, however, drags me far beyond sacrifice. Vivid images of medieval pre-saints wearing hairshirts come to mind.

Observing my deteriorating condition at dinner, one of our practical-minded Dutch pals offered up a fix.

“I’ve heard that storing mohair in the freezer makes it stop itching.” Ronald’s advice came from his clear-eyed, honest-looking Dutch face, so the cure seemed plausible.

“You’re playing with me, Ronald,” I thought as I skeptically stashed the offensive thing in our freezer as soon as we returned home. It’s been there nearly a month. Here it is, resting innocently.

Itch-Removing Rehab

Last night, the mohair’s long rehab session ended. Noticing that it wasn’t frozen or even slightly cool, I was instantly suspicious. Within a minute of putting it on, I was back on the Devil’s hitlist.

Today, I tried to pawn the creature off on friends. Most people, it seems, have an issue with mohair sweaters. A few questions arise here.

How can these things be “fashionable” if they’re unwearable by a chunk of the sweater-wearing public? How did they even get on the fashion short-list in the first place?

Extreme paranoia about terrorism is also all the rage these days. I have a few scratchy theories:
• Could mohair-producing Middle Eastern goats be part of an Al Qaeda plot to punish non-burqa-wearing women?
• Maybe a special kind of mohair is being exported to infidel markets?
• Will itchy-bitchy mohair-sweater-wearing women pose a bigger threat to the Good Ol’ American Family than gay marriage?

(Anything’s possible. Just watch the news.)

I don’t know the answer. But here are a few suggested antidotes to the dermatologic toxin of mohair.. even at a 10% dilution.

“Best way is to wash the shirt/sweater gently in a wool-wash detergent and then rinse in a fabric conditioner.
If this fails and the product is still itchy, then I suggest you drop a line to the manufacturer. He has used a wool which isn’t suitable to the product – ie too coarse and therfore not ‘fit-for-purpose’ . The right wool wouldn’t itch!
Hope the conditioner works!”

Kind Regards
WoollyLamb

“I think you might need to create a warning label with disclaimers about clothing that needs to be stored in a freezer!”
Best, Julie

“Have you tried it with a cotton shirt underneath? Seems obvious but it keeps the mohair off the skin.”
Dr. F

I’m open to anything and welcome your suggestions.

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10 thoughts on “Mohair Sweaters: Fashion Statement, Medieval Hairshirt or Terrorist Plot?

  1. Now that’s a very funny story! So you stored the sweater in your freezer for a month….?!? Interesting.

    Now that I am involved so deeply I feel responsible for the so well chosen sweater. So, I did some additional research :-\ and found out that the sweater in a plastic bag in the freezer for one night should be sufficient. However, this counts for (100%) “wool”. Your sweater is 10% mohair, which is a kind of wool I guess, but the interesting part is….: what’s the remaining of the sweater made of? All kind of interesting materials crossed my mind but the answer has to come from you.

    Searching a little but further, I believe washing the sweater with some kind of conditioner could be helpful too. Now, be careful. No idea how easy and fast the sweater will shrink. If only the 10% mohair shrinks then the problem should not be too big, but here again it depends on the remaining 90%. Keep the temperature low! No idea how low in C converts to low in F, but I guess a low temperature or cold temperature is the same for both parts of the world.

    I really hope the Dutch sweater finally will become your favorite one. A few steps to take though, I am afraid…..

    Take care
    😉
    Ronald

    1. Ronald, I suspect that the sweater, although purchased in Holland, is not of Dutch origin. It has …. how shall I phrase this.. a more Eastern aura about it. The price may be a clue to its origins.
      Although this incident now has international scope, Holland’s status as an upstanding, honest and high-quality country is not in jeopardy.
      Thanks for “being a witness” to this event, and for providing such thoughtful suggestions.

  2. Very funny! I still recall buying a purple mohair cardigan sweater with shell buttons when I was 20-LOVED it and yes it itched like crazy so I wore a white turtlenck underneath-sooo fashionable
    Needless to say I don’t know how or why it is still being manufactured!

    1. Thanks a million for jogging my memory on an earlier fashion infatuation with mohair sweaters! I remember having had several, now that you mention it. They looked so fluffy!
      I only wore them briefly. Might have added the turtleneck, too.

      “They” must roll these things back out in the market every few decades, hoping the people who remember them — in horror — are dying off.

      You ask a good question: “WHY?” are they still being made. I’m sure it has something to do with the goats. Angora. Turkey’s revenge on the EU for not letting them join.

  3. This is going to be a million-dollar sweater.. My solution is not doing anything with the sweater, but pouring enough alcohol in your body.. 🙂 .. It does wonders, you will not feel any itching any more..

    Have a nice day. .Jean-Paul

    1. Jean-Paul… another no-nonsense Dutch suggestion. This is a remedy I can deal with. Much more attractive than the freezer option. I confess that I only had one beer the other night when I tried it on. Clearly insufficient! Will give it a try.

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