Achilles Hope & Possibility, Baaa Code, cycling, Icebreaker, Luke, Merino wool, NYC, performance wool, Rickshaw Bagworks, service dog, TEDActive Palm Springs, The Princess Bride, wool socks
So, okay, I can see from the calendar that it’s the wrong time of year for this kind of question, but I have to ask you anyway, because this simply cannot wait. ICEBREAKER, maker & purveyor of the world’s most wonder-full wooly things a body can desire to don, please, oh, PLEASE, will you be my Valentine?
You may not remember, but we first met at the 2009 TED Conference in Palm Springs. I was lucky enough to receive a scholarship for the tuition in recognition of my poetry in the schools project, WordPlay, which I created in response to Dave Eggers’ TED Prize wish–asking for folks to become involved in their local public schools.
Tucked within my swag bag (a supreme gift in and of itself) – a Rickshaw Bagworks original – was a long-sleeved, collared shirt. In one of my favorite colors, no less: chocolate brown.
First thing I noticed after the fabulous hue was the yummy, buttery softness of the fabric. In fact, I don’t even think “soft” is an adequate descriptor at all. My initial coherent thought while cradling that first piece of Icebreaker clothing in my hands was, “silk.” I was sure that garment was spun from silk, sourced from only the most pampered & joyous silk worms in the most prestigious of silk wormeries. Then I read the tag, which proclaimed “pure Merino wool.” And I laughed. Outloud. Because I didn’t think it could be possible. That material so exquisite and luxurious could be even remotely related to the sweaters and socks of Supreme Itchiness that I knew from my childhood.
The famous line (one of them, anyway) from one my favorite movies, The Princess Bride, was the next thing to sing out of my mouth, “Inconceivable!” (I even gave it the lisp-effect of that character because to do so without would undermine both the authenticity of my reenactment and the veracity of my declaration) Upon further investigation I discovered this wool is organic, renewable & sustainable. I can even look up the “Baa Code” number inside my shirt on the Icebreaker web site and see the very sheep farm from which the wool of my shirt was sourced, and I can read the story of the family of New Zealand farmers who raise these sheep and lovingly harvest their wool.
Crazy, right? that I can follow a link and look at the very faces of the people who supplied the raw product for the shirt I’m holding in my hands? Crazy-good that I’m able to know that with each purchase of Icebreaker I’m helping to sustain the lives of that family, that farm, those sheep! I. Love. That.
The Ted Active conference was indeed in Palm Springs,
but it was also February, which meant the mornings and evenings were chilly. A weather thing not at all unusual for California on the whole, yet something my Texas born and raised brain did not note when packing. Thus, the Icebreaker shirt was the first item from my swag bag to be put to use. And what good use it was! Like wearing a layer of grace & magic next to my skin. I was immediately and completely in love; I knew from the moment the neck of the shirt cleared my face and settled its featherweight form against mine. (Speaking of feathers, I could believe that shirt being made from angel feathers. But obviously it would have to come from only those angels who sing in the highest, most blissed-out realm of heaven.)
I thought as morning grew into afternoon, with the sun spilling over the still snow-capped mountain peaks,
that I would need to part with my new shirt/soulmate. But that didn’t happen. The same Icebreaker shirt – made of WOOL, I remind you & LONG SLEEVED, to boot – that kept the early-morning chill at bay, was now equally cool and whispery. In the heat of the day when I was standing in full sunshine, I noticed that the parts of me not covered by my Icebreaker – my hands and face and parts of my neck, my blue jeans-clad lower body – were all warmer, and even a bit heat-sticky, compared to the parts of my torso lucky enough to be within the SciFi-esque force field of that simple-but-miraculous shirt. How can an arm covered in material feel cooler and fresher than a bare arm actually exposed to air?
I wore that root beer brown Icebreaker shirt so much that week of the 2009 TED conference that when someone needed to find me they began scanning the crowd for the shirt, rather than looking out for the fluffy golden 80lbs of wag who is my trusty service dog. Now that’s really saying something, to be known as the Girl With The Brown Icebreaker Shirt instead of the Girl With The Dog. Seriously, folks, consider the import of that fact!
Since my first “date” with Icebreaker, I’ve gone on to acquire a lovely jewel-necked rose long-sleeved shirt of lighter performance weight that I use as my go-to first layer when dressing in cooler weather, and most especially when riding my recumbent trike. I have a tomato-red half-zip long-sleeved top that I wear over that when extra warmth is needed. The zip reflects light for extra safety and allows me to ventilate a little more or less as desired; the collar stays upright and keeps my bare neck snuggly warm, no need for a scarf. The whole of these shirts, each cell of fabric – like every single article of Icebreaker – breathes & wicks as if wool were the very inventor of breathing & wicking.
Because – wait a minute, that’s right! – wool is, in fact, the original, the oldest and best, when it comes to breathing & wicking, keeping a body cool in the heat and warm in the cold. Just ask any sheep!
My favorite piece of Icebreaker is probably a heavier weight top, also made for outdoor activity, that has thumbholes in the sleeves. Anybody who’s ever layered knows that as your body moves back and forth in your chosen active pursuit, layers just naturally tend to ride against one another a bit, one pulling up a little, one being pushed down a bit. With the thumbholes, my top layer stays securely in place from the beginning of my ride to the end of my ride. Or at least until I peel off that top-most layer. But the great thing about Icebreaker and their layering system is this, before I leave the house I dress for the weather outside, and because of the aforementioned breathing & wicking properties of that superfine pure Merino wool and the design of various weights – with zips in exactly the right places & well-designed super-ventilating panels in the uber-performance wear – I very rarely need to shed layers as my core temp heats up with exercise.
With other clothes, those made of chemically-based “technical” performance fabrics, I’d definitely be peeling off layers. I’d also smell like a pro football team’s locker room after practice in the middle of a Texas August, because those chemically-based tech fabrics are usually made of petroleum products. To say they STINK is perhaps the greatest of all understatements. (If you’ve worn them, I know you know what I’m talking about – *gag*)
In cycling, the feet really matter. If they aren’t comfortable, you’re not riding your best, because you’re not pedaling your best. You simply cannot ride well when you’re thinking about your feet – that they’re too cold or too hot or too sticky-feeling because of moisture. Of course Icebreaker knows that wether you’re walking through the parking lot of a mall, running a marathon or a black-diamond trail, or riding on human-powered wheels, you’re feet have to be happy. Hence, my favorite socks. And hence-hence, this missive about my love of Icebreaker.
See, at the Achilles Hope & Possibility race last weekend, my friend Mandi, AKA The Other I Cream Man (seen loving-up on Luke just prior to the start of the race)
and I came across a sheep. A big-horned Icebreaker sheep, to be precise. As well as said sheep’s keepers/friends. They were good and kind shepherds, and more than that, they were GENEROUS. They gave Mandi and me a free pair of Icebreaker socks. Now, the only thing this girl loves more than complimentary products and services, is any product with the name Icebreaker on it!
At the end of that debacle of a race – please see previous post-of-despair – my friend reminded me of our pocketed swag, the free socks, which we both put on after showering off the awfulness of the morning. At first Mandi thought her pair of socks were defective. “Hey, mine aren’t made very well, the seams are all wonky, that’s so sad – I love how they feel on my feet!” Then she added, “Unless . . . wait . . . are these right & left foot specific?” She noticed the “R” & “L” emblazoned on the toe of each sock, which, in her post-race exhaustion, she had initially missed. “They are!” she said, “Wow,” she exclaimed, “How totally cool, is that!?!”
And it is cool, because each sock being tailored for the right or left foot ensures the absolute best fit, right up against your toesies. No bunching, no extra room at the end of the sock for even the slightest slippage. How genious are those Icebreaker designers? They must really love us.
My trip to New York was of the in-and-out variety, just enough time for a couple shows and quick visits with my NYC buds before the race, and then back to TX, because my hubby and I had a very important event to attend the next day. I packed small and light, which means I’d actually packed a pair of socks short and would have to put on a previous day’s pair had we not happened upon the Icebreaker folks with their sock-generosity. What luck! I thought to myself. And, then, while scrunching my toes back & forth in the yummy cushion of those socks, I also noted, Hmm, these are probably too thick to be very cool, my feet are going to get hot. But, I reasoned, the warmth of the socks would feel good in the air conditioned plane on the ride home.
I was both wrong and right about the thickness of those socks. I was absolutely right in that they kept my feet warm in the icy cabin of the plane, but I was wronger-than-wrong about them being likely to cause my feet to overheat while walking the streets of NYC in late June.
Why didn’t I know better? Why hadn’t I learned my lesson? I mean, all the previous evidence had proven irrefutably that Icebreaker knows better than anybody what they’re doing with wool and clothing and comfort in regard to any kind of weather. How could I doubt them? The thickness of those socks provided premium cushion to my race-weary, road-sore feet. Cushion is something I’ve always accepted foregoing in summer, when only the slightest of socks would I consent to wear because of the heat and humidity. I honestly don’t know how they do it, but Icebreaker socks afford the ultimate cushion AND are as light and airy as any sock ever promoted for being ideal in the most miserable of hot climates. My Icebreaker socks stayed dry because my feet didn’t sweat, and, when I took those suckers off hours later, they did NOT smell like Eau de Summer In NYC Feet. Crazy-amazing.
In conclusion, Icebreaker, you are divine. You are my clothing-beloved. I will be devoted to you and abide you till the end-of-days. Everything you design & craft seems created just for me; I am beyond-grateful; I celebrate the art that is every single thing you make!
OK, everybody else, go give Icebreaker some love – which, in turn, means giving your body some luscious-wool-wear love :0) Then you’ll be writing your own letters to Icebreaker, I have no doubt.
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I only have till November 21st to reach my fundraising goal and I really, really need your help!
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