Sunday, January 22, 2012

Wool Tight Fail

Last year I bought two pairs of "Smart Wool"  wool tights- one in black and one in coffee-brown.

I've worn the heck out of them, and have been very pleased with their performance and durability.  They're noticeably warmer than regular opaque tights, and much more durable.  The few snags I've had with them could be simply darned with needle and thread.  Like most wool products, they have the benefit of being stink free, even after a couple of wearings.  I think they're even "machine wash"  although I always hand wash them just in case.
SmartWool Tights - Women\'s
not my actual legs :)

So this year when I saw them on sale in a couple of places, I bought a couple of extra pairs.  My pairs from last year were mediums,  so I ordered a "heather gray" pair in medium.   When they arrived they were shockingly tight- it was almost impossible to pull them up all the way,  and I walked around all day feeling that the crotch was a couple of inches lower than it should be.   I double checked the fit chart, and I was on the "edge' of the med/ large curve,  but it didn't seem like they should be that far off.

So when I ordered two more pair in black, I ordered a large.  Imagine my disappointment when even the larges turned out to be too small.  I'm the same weight as I was last year,  and I'm confident that I haven't gotten any taller,  so what gives?   I'm guessing that Smartwool changed either the pattern or the composition of the fabric.   What's strange, is that the large ones fit almost exactly the same as the mediums.

 In any case, I'm really disappointed,  and am going to see if they will accept them back.  I know REI will take the grey ones back, but I ordered the black ones from EMS, and I'm not sure how good they are about returns of worn stuff.  After wearing the first pair all day in hopes that it would stretch out,  I tried on the 2nd pair to see if somehow the first pair were defective.    I wear a size 8 in most clothes, so I can't imagine what you would do if you needed a size 12, as there doesn't appear to be an XL available.

I've heard good things about the B.ella Merino ones, will have to give them a try.


  1. that is what is awesome about REI.

  2. Do you think the larges would fit a 6?

  3. I've returned and exchanged stuff at the local EMS, but don't know whether it's the same online.

    Not sure whether this was the older or newer version, but I did not like the Smartwool tights I bought last winter. I did not find them that warm, the texture was somewhat bulky, and I wore a hole through a toe after wearing them only 3 times.

  4. EMS and REI both have the same return-for-the-rest-of-your-life policy.

    I bought my wife some of the Smartwool tights from Orvis on your recommendation, and she continually thinks they aren't dressy enough, until on a cold day she wore them again, and swallowed her words! thanks again. however, she's noticing that the elastic around the waist is loosing strength and the tights are starting sag or fall down. how are yours holding up?

  5. I got a pair of Hue brand Fleece tights. I love them. They are soft like a sweathsirt and warm and cozy. I have not biked with them on yet- but have walked around Boston twice in them and have been warm and happy when my legs are alwasy cold. They were super pricy at the local store I got them in $50!!! but I am pleased with them so far.

  6. @Velouria- I got mine at the same time as you did- so I'm sure they're the same. Interesting that we've had such different experiences. Do you have a preferred brand?

    @ JP twins- my original two pairs are a bit saggy. I suspect that others had the same problem, and so they "tightened them up" which is why this year's model doesn't fit me at all.

    @ Anon- I _think_ the larges would fit a 6, but I think it would depend on how tall you are. I wear a 6 sometimes in some stores, although I tend to bump up a size for more comfort.

    Anyone else have recommendations? I heard raves about a brand of dance tights, but they've discontinued the wool version. I'm thinking the b.ella from sock dreams are what I'm going to try next.

  7. I have not found actual wool tights that I like, except for an obscure Austrian brand that I still have from 4 years ago but forgot the name of. So I wear Icebreaker leggings with socks, and as long as I am wearing boots tall enough to cover the ankles no one can tell they are not tights. The knit is very dense, and they do not sag. Pricey, but discount sites such as have them on clearance once in a while; I got mine last winter at $30 each.

  8. Welcome to the world of product skimping in the name of profit seeking...

    I am outside most standard sizing charts due to long arms and legs. When I find a product that fits, and I am happy with the quality, I IMMEDIATELY go and purchase more. I have a small clothing store in my closet, comprised of unopened products that will get worn eventually. If not they get donated to a deserving charity.

    I have fought this issue for over 30 years, I just wish manufacturers were wake up and realize that by changing a product they may risk losing long term customers. I have stopped buying from a variety of them over the years. My most recent disappointment was from Duofold, they carried Large Tall for many years, however when the company was sold to Champion Sportswear that size went away...


  9. Aaron,
    The Scientist is 6'5, so he definitely feels your pain. He gets most of his dress shirts custom made now, which isn't actually that expensive- less than the cost of dress shirts from Banana Republic.
    Pants are trickier. Most stores don't carry 36" inseam pants except online, and then only limited choices. To buy a suit, we finally found a place that sells suit separates that would sell him a 44 coat, with 36x pants, instead of selling him a 44 suit, and trying to take 10" out of the waist of the pants.

  10. Need to find a good tailor...let me know if you do.

    The last one I had retired shortly after making a great coat and two suits for me. I typically wear sports coats rather than suits so fitting isn't as much of an issue there. I quite often buy dress shirts that fit in the collar and sleeves, then have a seamstress taper the body for a better fit. Unfortunately it doesn't always work out.


  11. Just as a note, EMS did take the tights back with a minimum of fuss, still need to get over to REI to return the others.
    When I was looking at the sizes more closely, I should have been able to fit in the mediums, which makes the fail more dramatic.

  12. hey, as a fellow 6'5" guy, can you send me the Scientist's tailor? I'd love to get some tailored shirts for the few times that i actually get dressed up. and I still have my 44 kenneth cole suit from my wedding that needed only minor alterations. it was pretty spectacular!

    (not to hijack your wool tights thread!)

  13. The Scientist gets his shirts online through Giorgenti (www-bestcustomshirt-com) Pro tip- start an order and save it. within a couple of days or weeks you'll start to get buy one, get one free offers as an enticement to complete the order. They are constantly having "sales" and 2 for 1 offers, so I don't think he's ever paid full price ($49 to $150 is full price depending on fabric etc.)

    JP, just out of curiosity, what's your inseam? Does KC make 36 length pants/ suits? That would be great. The best we've found for suits is Eastern Clothing in Watertown, but they're not exactly fashion forward.

  14. @cycler, my inseam hovers between 34 and 36 and the KC pants came extra long and just needed to be hemmed. I got this suit 8+ years ago, so I'm not sure if kennethCole still makes 'em, but it was/is a great deal of a suit.

    i'll try the custom shirt pro tip. awesome!

  15. I'm sad to find this. I bought the same tights from REI - medium heather gray. They are so frustrating to wear. Always sagging in the crotch and very difficult to pull up all the way. I am so disappointed in them. Wish I had saved my $50.

  16. @ Naomi Jane,
    I've been wearing B.ella wool tights which I like a lot. I got them from Sock Dreams, but they're now carried by Cambridge Clogs if you're local here. They do tend to shrink when washed, but then they stretch back out. They're 85% wool which is the highest % wool I've ever seen.
    Falke also make nice tights, but they're a bit more expensive and only 55% wool.