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Beyond the Bale : Jun - July 08
By Rebecca Thyer F rom autumn’s chilly mornings to the warmth and humidity of spring, Australia’s shearers work in variable climates while they shear up to 200 sheep a day. It is a physically demanding job that requires strength and fitness. It is also work that needs durable, yet comfortable, clothing – and these are the prerequisites that have led two Western Australian-based shearing clothing companies – the Top Gun Shearing Clothing Company and 2020 Clothing – to the use of Sportwool™. Developed by CSIRO and The Woolmark Company, Sportwool™ brings two fibres together – an inside layer of extra-fine Merino wool, which provides qualities such as body- moisture ‘wicking’, and an outer synthetic layer, which can accommodate modern sublimated dying and printing, and adds durability. Used by sports teams, golfers and cyclists, as well as in mountain and outdoor wear, Sportwool™ is constantly evolving as The Woolmark Company works with elite athletes to continue expanding the technology’s applications. It is these technical credentials that Top Gun Shearing Clothing Company’s Noel Lawrence says make Sportwool™ an ideal product for his company’s range of shearing singlets. Mr Lawrence, who shore in the late 1960s before joining the police force – a role he left when Top Gun Shearing became so successful he joined wife Debbie to help out – says Sportwool™ is light, draws moisture away from the skin and, importantly for shearers, who often travel from farm to farm during the season, is easy to wash and quick to dry. He says the fabric’s “soft against-the-skin feel” is also essential for shearing clothing: “A lot of shearers now wear back aids, which can rub. You wouldn’t want to be wearing something that was aggravating against a back aid.” Top Gun Shearing has been using Sportwool™ for about six years. Mr Lawrence says the incentive to look at Sportwool™ was provided by Australia’s 2000 Olympic team: “I mean, if it’s good enough for elite athletes, it should meet the demands of shearing.” Mr Lawrence says that although the Sportwool™ singlets are more expensive than polycotton alternatives, they last longer. “They are more durable than polycotton and, on a wears-per-wash basis, they work out to be cheaper,” he says. After searching for a woollen fabric that would meet the demands of the job, Mr Lawrence contacted Woolmark’s Glenn Renshaw about Sportwool™. “There was so much polycotton about and not much else. So I sent Glenn a shearing singlet and he helped us with Sportwool™ and from then on we’ve been using it for some of our singlets.” Top Gun makes and sells Sportwool™ singlets and other shearing clothing. Sportwool™ singlets make up about five per cent of the company’s sales. “Shearers like wearing Sportwool™. They often feel more connected to the product because they work with wool every day and they also feel they are putting something back into the industry.” It is a sentiment that 2020 Clothing’s Rhonda Wybrow has also picked up on. With business partner David Kidd, she started 2020 Clothing six months ago to make woollen clothing more accessible to those responsible for it in the first place – shearers and woolgrowers. Both Rhonda and David have considerable industry experience. David is a shearer and shearer trainer, while Rhonda is a registered woolclasser who classed for 15 years. Both have also been shearing contractors. Ms Wybrow says this industry experience gave them the impetus to start their business: “Wool and Sportwool™ are a natural fit for the industry – most people have pride in what they grow and shear, and now they can wear it. It’s practical, but it also gives people the chance to wear what they help produce.” She says there are few places for woolgrowers and shearers to source these types of products, giving companies that do use Sportwool™ a market advantage. Using Sportwool™, 2020 Clothing produces the Willpower range of shearing singlets. “People in the industry want quality clothing that is hard wearing – Sportwool™ singlets fit that market.” Its easy-wash and quick-dry characteristics not only make it good for those who travel throughout the season, but also at ‘smoko’. “They can take it off, have a break and when they’re ready to start again put it back on and it’ll be dry.” Ms Wybrow concedes that when she heard that Sportwool™ was a mixed fabric, she was not convinced. “I thought ‘Oh no, not a synthetic–wool mix’. “But I’ve completely changed my mind. The positive aspects of its construction, with extra-fine Merino against the skin and polyester on the outer face, add to its wearability and durability. And importantly, the outer facing means that lanolin is not absorbed as much as it is with polycotton clothing.” 2020 Clothing is so impressed with Sportwool™ that they are trialling Sportwool™ shearing pants. “So far the feedback has been positive, with shearers saying the pants – a cross between a tracksuit pant and a jodhpur – are comfortable to wear. The wide waistband means shearers don’t need to wear a belt, and there are no movement restrictions from the fabric.” Mr Lawrence is so enamoured of the benefits of Sportwool™ that he also wears it. “When I travel overseas I usually run off a few Sportwool™ polos for myself – they are great. I’m going to the US this year and will wear and travel with some Sportwool™ polos. They are just so easy to wash and wear. There’s no itch and they are very comfortable.” 2020’s Willpower retail range is available from Ace Shearing Supplies. The shearing trousers will be available from July. ú More information: Top Gun Shearing, 08 9249 5020; Ace Shearing Supplies, 08 9071 4649; www.2020clothingco.com Wool gives shearers a sporting chance Shearing is an endurance occupation in which some are gaining a competitive edge by wearing Sportwool ™ woollen clothing designed for elite athletes 14 AppArel Beyond The BAle SheARinG SinGleTS To give wearers the freedom to move, shearing singlets are a bit different to the traditional, Bonds ‘Chesty’ variety. They usually have long armholes (for ease of movement) and a longer tail (to tuck into trousers, helping to keep the wearer’s back warm). pho To: e vA n Colli S Shearers and part-time models Gary Wilson (left) and Wade neil.
Jun - Jul 08 Supplement
Aug - Sep 08