There are three things I look for in a shirt these days. First off it needs to be comfortable right from the start – there are too many advancements in fabrics to have a stiff, scratchy, or plain uncomfortable, wrinkly fabric. Second it needs to fit well and look good. I am a larger, older guy who likes his shirts to fit a little loose without looking like something stitched on an industrial tent machine or having an outlandish pattern on it. Third, last but not least, I like it to be made of sustainable fabric. I am big into alpaca, wool, organic cotton, and other renewable fabrics. Man-made rayons and polyesters are not real high on my list as I sweat when it gets humid, and these fabrics do not seem to work well for me as they cling to my body when wet but Alpaca and wool wick the sweat away to actually help me stay a little cooler due to their evaporation properties. Now I know cases can be made either way for your choice in fabrics….it may be ethical but most of the manufactured fabrics are really bad for the environment or vice versa. Alpaca is considered to be one of the most ethical and eco-friendly wools. Alpacas are related to camels and most of the world’s alpaca population is still raised in their native habitat. Alpacas don’t destroy their environment in the way that other livestock does, and they’re more efficient eaters, too. Local Peruvian farmers generally respect these animals and raise them more humanely. In return, alpacas support local economies.
Recently I received an All-Paca (yes alpaca, but this is the name on the website) crew shirt (and beanie) from the Appalachian Gear Company. This “Made in the USA” company manufactures their products in their plant (they import the yarn from Peru) which is located in Kings Mountain, North Carolina. Their products are 100% alpaca, NO synthetics. Owning more than one alpaca/wool product my first test consists of taking it out of its packaging (all recyclable and minimalist in this case) and putting it on the body. If I can actually wear it without washing it first, I know it’s a keeper. In this case it has managed to surpass that test. Since alpaca is light weight, odor resistant and moisture managing I have actually worn this shirt 5 times since receiving it and will be doing its first wash this weekend. This is quickly becoming one of my favorite tops and paired with a tee shirt underneath it has handled weather as low as 38 degrees with a light wind and rain (which, although it was wet stayed warm and dried quickly) up to 65 degrees while staying comfortable at all times. The one hike I got to take, with a light tee under it and the weather at 41 degrees I did not need my usual windbreaker and was warm by the end of the last mile of a 3 mile hike. A plus to this is I have been told by three separate people now they really like my shirt. For someone who wears what he wants and doesn’t worry about style points (too much) this speaks well for the fit and look of the shirt.
The overall construction is really good. Seams are well sewn, the fabric lays well and it just looks good. My only complaints are minor but could make a good product great. To start, it is a 2XL as I am a 6ft, 265 pound guy and overall it is a great fit – just loose enough not to cling but it also doesn’t hang off the body. First off, the neck is too large and loose, and it seems to stretch more every time I put it on. I have to wear a shirt underneath, or it looks more like a u-neck vs a crew neck. A band or collar may help that problem. Second the sleeves are about 2 to 3 inches to long. This doesn’t really bother me but when I fold them back a seam shows and detracts from the overall good look of the sweater. I figured after the first wash they would shrink back up, but it really didn’t, I am hoping that it holds its shape after repeated washings so that is something I’ll be watching. I am putting this in the more casual shirt category but for day to day wear around the house and out doing casual things it is becoming my go to shirt. As for hiking in it, I will be watching for pack wear and pilling as the miles rack up.
I am certainly glad I found this company and look forward to going back and picking up a couple of more items and look forward to any new offerings (tee shirts I hope) they offer up. Add to the great gear a company ethic that ensures they source only ethical product and care about the environment and the fact they make their product here in the USA, how does one go wrong?
***UPDATE*** January 2023
Having worn this sweater for 4 more months now I can say what I thought might happen did.... the neck keeps stretching out and is now saggy. The sweater has pilled even though I washed it with Eucalan and air dried it. While I still love it it has been placed in the weekend - knockaround category as it is not dressy enough to wear out for me.