Australia’s in a pretty hectic drought (again) and we all need to start thinking critically about our water usage. Merino apparel brand Icebreaker reckons their wool-blend tees don’t need to be washed as often, so we made our Editor wear one for a week straight.
I’m not perfect. I’ve come into work in the shirt I woke up in. I’ve dug a particularly well-loved tee out of the washing basket, given it the sniff test and thrown it back on. But unless I’m out in the wilderness, I wouldn’t consider wearing a shirt again after juicing it up with my musk.
The challenge that Icebreaker and the We Are Explorers team set for me was pretty simple. Wear this T-shirt for a week straight, go on lots of adventures, and don’t wash it.
Here’s exactly how that went.
7 Days, 1 Tee, 0 WashesPLAY VIDEO
Why am I doing this?
Icebreaker merino has a few major strengths over synthetic materials and cotton, and some of the biggest are environmental. Every time you wash your clothes you use heaps of water and energy, chuck detergents down the drain and, if it’s a synthetic material, release heaps of plastic microfibres into the environment. No bueno.
And while there are undeniable greenhouse impacts of farming sheep, on the balance of things, wool takes far less water than cotton to make, doesn’t require pesticides and minimises the microplastics in the environment, so it’s a good call.
Alice has the lowdown on how you can reduce your footprint even further.
Day 1 – Feeling Fresh
Alright I’ve got the T-shirt. It’s a Men’s Merino Cool-Lite™ Sphere Short Sleeve Crew. Woah. The colour is ‘Midnight Navy Heather’, mmm, sexy. I’ve gone with a pretty chill colour that’ll ‘go with everything’, and hopefully not alert people to the fact that I haven’t washed this thing in a week.
First impressions: it’s comfy. The fit is just very slightly trimmer than your bog-standard cotton tee and there’s a nice bit of stretch. There’s the tiniest ‘Icebreaker’ tag on the side but it’s basically incognito. I’m a big fan of the heather look too, the little flecks of grey and light blue give it a bit of class that might distract people from the smell.
But to be fair. I’m quietly confident that I might get away with this. I’ve whipped off Icebreaker thermals after 48 hours of wear down at the snow and taken a big whiff. Nothing. Merino’s ability to resist stank is pretty phenomenal. But I’ve never owned a wool-blend tee and I’ve never played around in Icebreaker in warm environments. This is a much bigger challenge.
Time To Climb
It’s Wednesday night so I’m heading off to the climbing gym. I usually wear a lightweight synthetic for climbing or an old cotton tee in winter. You don’t just sweat when you’re climbing, you get it covered in chalk, rub it on ropes and spill burrito down your front on the way home; so the Icebreaker Cool-Lite™ had better be tough.
Verdict: it’s soft right off the rack, but the material coped with everything I threw at it. It breathed nicely too, if you hold it up to the light you can juuust see through it.
Day 2 – Meeting Time
I don’t have many meetings in the city, so it’s usually a good chance to dress up, chuck on my crispest flanno and break out the Casio G-Shock. Adventure chic baby.
Instead, I’m wearing a blue T-shirt and black jeans, I look like Mark Zuckerberg. Luckily, the shirt doesn’t smell or have any visible stains, so I’m flying under the radar in a tee that’s racked up over 24 hours of constant wear.
Back at the office now and to be honest, it’s only day two; I’ve done this before without making a fuss about it. That being said, I’m going to jog home from work today and the mercury’s cracked 30 big ones. Time to join the steam team.
Day 3 – Pedal Pumpin’ to Paper Pushin’
Hello colleagues! It’s me Timbo, the guy in the T-shirt!
Amy (Assistant Editor) and Jono (Social Media Manager) know that I’m doing this challenge, so I’ve asked them to let me know if they smell my BO. Apparently they can’t smell a thing, but I thought I caught a whiff of sweat while at my desk this morning.
Maybe it was Jono.
I rode my bike in today and it’s another warm one. In fact, we’re tipping 34 degrees. I’m not gonna harp on too much about the climate crisis but I haven’t used a washing machine in three days #justsaying.
Day 4 & 5 – Hiking Into The Grose Valley
My mate Tom and I are going for a cheeky overnight hike in the Blue Mountains this weekend. I’m pretty pumped, Tom and I used to live together but nowadays our hangs are few and far between. Trust me on this: take your mates out for dates.
After checking out the lookout above Victoria Falls we descend into the valley in search of waterfalls and a swimspot. The hike totally delivers, with perfectly clear water and ferns that brush my face. It’s not crazy-hot, but it’s warm enough to end my day sitting in a stream a few metres from my tent until the sun sets behind the cliffs.
I slept in the shirt again (does anyone only reserve their comfiest shirts for bedtime?) and woke up feeling pretty replenished. 11 hours sleep baby! Still fanging for a coffee though…
How’s the shirt go on a hike Tim?
Oh yeah, it’s mint! Merino wool’s epic in underwear and hiking socks because it doesn’t rub you the wrong way, even when it’s wet. It regulates temperature really well, soaks up and wicks moisture away from your skin and doesn’t itch like old-school wool did.
I usually hike in some kind of synthetic activewear shirt and this was miles ahead. No rubbing from my backpack, not too warm and tough enough to stand up to a bit of bush-bashing (the same can’t be said for my nylon-based apparel). Big tick.
I had some burgers with my housemates when I got home and I’ve gotta say, the shirt excelled there too. How have I not spilt anything on it yet?!
Day 6 – Trails For Days
I’m running the Bouddi Coastal Run in mid-November. It’s a 21km trail running race with heaps of vert, so I’ve gotta squeeze in trails whenever I can. Luckily there are some good ones along the northern side of Sydney Harbour that roll into a super decent 7.5km training run.
I pump the pace on the way in and arrive totally drenched. ‘No biggie, this shirt doesn’t smell!’ I think smugly. But looking in the mirror I quickly realise that I can’t walk around a co-working space with huge visible sweat patches. Plus, I need to get to the cafe, stat.
I end up covering up the Icebreaker tee with a flanno I found in the office until the Cool-Lite™ has well-and-truly wicked the moisture into the surrounding air. So there’s an unforeseen issue with using the same shirt for work and play.
After a recovery run home I’m thoroughly disgusted with the shirt. There are visible salt stains from dried sweat. The microfibres that usually fall off in the wash are starting to pill up and I’ve spilt toothpaste over my right nipple. For the first time, the shirt feels a little itchy, and I’m pretty sure this is because it’s dirty AF, not because of the merino.*
Thank god it’s day 7 tomorrow.
*It was fine after a wash by the way.
Day 7 – Cheeky Mosh Pit
Phwoaaar, it’s been a bloody big week. From the film you can see that every day’s had some kind of microadventure, from running to riding, climbing to wild swimming, the Icebreaker Cool-Lite™ has been with me all the way. It’s survived meetings, dinners, a date (who wants to see me again, despite the shirt) and countless coffee runs.
But there’s one place that takes no prisoners. An urban environment so sweaty, so raw, dank and foul, that many emerge shirtless.
I’m talking about mosh pits. And I’ve lined up a raucous Pist Idiots gig at Oxford Arts Factory to really give the tee the berries.
Let’s hope I’m not as dusty as the shirt in the morning.
It’s good to be wearing something else…but not that good. And my shirt, for once, feels a hell of a lot fresher than me after significant tinny consumption.
I’m kinda amazed – that was way less gross than I thought it would be. I feel like I need to wear a synthetic tee for a week for comparison, to really hit home how impressive the Icebreaker tee’s performance was (I’m not doing that, by the way, my mates are only just tolerating me as is).
That was simultaneously one of the nicest tees I’ve ever worn, both for sports and for everyday life. It was comfy and breathable, resisted stank like it was getting paid and even copped a few compliments.
You’re looking at about $100 for one of these bad boys, but honestly, if I was just wearing it in the office I reckon I could get away with a five-day-wear no dramas. Sure I might look like a cartoon character wearing the same thing every day, but it’s less to think about in the morning and more importantly, less cycles in the washing machine.
Now I just need a second shirt to run in…