In praise of cashmere

December 12, 2010 § Leave a comment

Sometimes shared passions come from expected corners, sometimes out of blue… like last week.

On Tuesday evening I met my friend D. for a drink and some mutual advice. As we both needed a proper chat about our convulsing contradictory careers, we decided to avoid our regular haunts near the office and head down to La Cremerie in the sixth. We talked through our angst and frustration about trying to carve out a reputation in finance law as well as our doubts about whether, despite our seniority, this was really for us over a couple of glasses of red wine and a platter of cured meats and French cheese. After encouraging ourselves to ignore the embarrassment of greater the self‑promotion that comes naturally to our male colleagues – whether within or “with‑out” the law – we stepped out into the bitterly cold night.

Whilst shivering our way to the Odéon metro, my friend admitted with a naughty smile to wearing spotted leggings under her suit trousers and I in turn admitted that as much as I had enjoyed our evening, I was longing to get back to my flat and an early Christmas present from my husband: cashmere bed socks. After praising Mr M’s insight into a woman’s need for cosiness, we extolled the virtues of cashmere and mused on how the world feels a nicer place if the toes are toasty.

The next day I came across another cashmere fan, from a most unexpected quarter. After lunch I was sitting on the terrace of a little coffee shop around the corner from work with my colleague S. We had no problem finding a seat under the arches the cold kept most Parisians indoors. The waiter popped by with our regulars: an espresso and a noisette (or macchiato), and our conversation turned quickly turned to the slim chances of us joining the upper echelons of the firm even if this were part of our game plan.

I shared with this gentle giant from Melbourne that another colleague had commented that I was too frumpy to be a partner. I was seen as a mad English woman in cashmere cardigans. S. kindly dismissed that comment and admitted that on that basis his chances of professional progress were also zero before waxing lyrical about the warmth and softness of cashmere knitwear. He is a most unexpected enthusiast of this yarn; after all, he takes delight in regaling people with tales of how the corporate lawyers regularly mistake him for an IT guy and one of the partners actually thought he was a clochard who had walked in off the streets to keep warm.

Just like my colleague S, my love of this goat yarn lies in its warmth. For somebody who feels the cold, popping a cashmere cardigan on is perfectly acceptable in a meeting, the way clutching a hot water bottle is not – although I have been known to do that in the back office, probably further scuppering my professional advancement!

Cashmere, like a tweed jacket or a farmhouse table, also improves with age, and wear and tear. Moths seem to have an uncanny habit of sniffing it out in the wardrobe. They will give merino and lambs wool a wide berth and head straight to the cashmere as a cosy home for their eggs!

Holes, however, do not banish a cashmere cardigan or jumper to the bin. That would be a criminal waste! And it is this attitude that turns a sweater made of this wool from luxury item into a sensible sustainable choice. In view of the cost, warmth and softness of cashmere, when the moths do their worst, we live with the imperfection or some of us even delve into our sewing boxes for darning wool to give a trusty cardigan and jumper a new lease of life.

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