A Brief History Of Cashmere
With Christmas coming, you may be thinking hard about what presents to buy, but have little difficulty deciding to get someone cashmere gloves or a jumper.
The beautiful, comfortable, stylish and warm wool items that you can gift to a loved one will be a sure winner, not least because their reputation is based on a long history of production that began on the subcontinent and has spread around the world, not least to the UK where our fine products are made.
Made from the wool of the Capra Hircus goats, otherwise known as the Pashmina goat, the material originates where these animals dwell in the Himalayas, around Tibet and Ladakh. The first mention of it goes back just over 2,000 years.
The name, of course, comes from Kashmir itself, an area formally split between India and Pakistan and the subject of much instability and conflicting territorial claims. But there is no argument about the quality of the wonderful soft wool.
Pashmina goats have also been farmed elsewhere, in neighbouring parts of Asia like Mongolia, where much of the material is sourced today. The high steppes are an ideal climate, as temperatures plummet as low as -40 degrees C and thus encourage the growth of the thick wool.
While the wool and its properties have been known about for millennia, it was in medieval times that the textile industry began popularising the material in garments, with trade routes taking them further and further from the Himalayas. By the 18th century it had become popular in European countries like Britain and France as a luxury clothing item for the wealthy.
The use of cashmere declined as sheep’s wool emerged as a cheaper alternative, but in recent decades cashmere has enjoyed a revival as a high-quality material for the discerning consumer who wants to wear something with more quality and wonderful thermal properties.
After many centuries of use, cashmere has clearly stood the test of time.