Best Cashmere Sweaters 2023

The best cashmere sweaters are soft to the touch; comfortable, with just enough stretch to retain their shape; and stylish to wear year-round. In the yarn family, cashmere reigns supreme as one of the highest-quality fibers. With proper care, in fact, a well-made cashmere sweater can last decades, if not an entire lifetime. The fiber is versatile and can be spun into either fine or thick yarns. Like wool, cashmere has a high moisture content that allows its insulating properties to change relative to the humidity in the air. Weight for weight, cashmere is warmer than wool, according to Clive Hallett and Amanda Johnston, coauthors of Fabric for Fashion: A Comprehensive Guide To Natural Fibers.

As any shopper knows, though, it’s hard to size up cashmere sweaters online. Quality varies greatly among brands, as do prices—you can pay anywhere from $50 to more than $2,000 for a simple crew neck. The global production of genuine cashmere is limited, representing only about 2.5{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} of the total textile market, making this a uniquely luxurious fiber. For the purposes of this guide, I wanted to find the best cashmere sweaters for everyday wear—the ones that become wardrobe staples, with a timeless style and attainable price point for different budgets.

After speaking to fashion designers and textile experts and evaluating more than two dozen sweaters, I determined the White + Warren Essential Cashmere Crewneck to be the best cashmere sweater overall for its high-quality, 100{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} traceable Mongolian cashmere and comfortable fit. For an affordable option, I recommend the Quince Mongolian Cashmere Crewneck Sweater as the best value choice; it might not have the same longevity as more expensive sweaters but is still plenty soft and washable.

The following is a list of all the winners from my testing process:

My Expertise

I’ve been a fashion journalist for two decades. I served as the fashion features director for Harper’s Bazaar, and my editorial work has appeared in publications like Vogue, Grazia, The Guardian Life and Style and Forbes. Throughout my career, I’ve interviewed fashion designers, including Michael Kors, Stella McCartney and Diane von Furstenberg; I’ve also spent time with textile experts and clothing manufacturers to learn how garments are made from start to finish. As part of my job, I regularly sit in the front rows during fashion weeks in New York, London, Milan and Paris, and I’ve reviewed hundreds of collections by emerging and established fashion designers.

For this article, I interviewed four industry experts: Michelle Diamond, a design consultant specializing in knitwear who holds a degree in textiles and apparel design from Cornell University; Lisa Joseph, a knitwear designer who has been producing cashmere sweaters for a decade; Jeffrey Silberman, a retired professor and the former chairperson of the department of textile development and marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City; and Deirdre Bushnell, co-owner of the Still River Fiber Mill, a family-run sheep farm and fiber mill in Eastford, Connecticut that specializes in luxury fibers, including cashmere, mohair and Angora.

How I Tested The Best Cashmere Sweaters

When selecting which sweaters to test, I took certain factors into consideration that indicate the quality and longevity of the cashmere. These included price, where the raw material comes from, the reputation of the mill that spun the yarn, the grade of the cashmere and the brand’s sustainability commitment. Much of this information is known only in the trade and not readily available to consumers, though, which means you’ll have to trust the brands you buy from. For example, in order for goat fiber to be considered the highest quality cashmere, it must be under 18.5 microns in diameter. The fiber should be at least 1.25 inches long, and the ratio of fine down to coarse outer guard hairs must be above 30{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d}, since garments made with long, silky cashmere fibers hold their shape over time and are less likely to pill or form holes.

I tested only 100{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} cashmere crew neck sweaters, a claim that requires the cashmere be legally certified by textile trade organizations. There isn’t one certifying body, but qualified laboratories follow the protocols of ISO (International Organization for Standardization); ASTM International (American Society for Testing Materials), for physical testing; and AATCC (American Association of Textile Chemists and Colorists), for chemical testing. While the certificate of authenticity comes from the fiber-producing country, the responsibility for accuracy (protecting the consumer), lies with the consuming country. In the U.S., the governing body is the FTC (Federal Trade Commission); in Europe, it’s the European Commission; and in China, it’s the Certification and Accreditation Administration (other Asian countries have their own local government bodies). Beyond the composition, I also evaluated each sweater based on the following criteria:

Quality: While there are many technical metrics used within the trade (as noted above), I focused on tests a consumer could repeat at home. I started by examining each sweater, fresh out of the shipping box or bag, holding it up in sharp sunlight and checking for thin or uneven patches, since you can’t see through a high-quality, long-fiber cashmere sweater. At eye level, I scrutinized its texture: A small amount of fluffiness (1 to 2mm) is a good sign of quality. If the sweater is fluffier, chances are that short fibers were used and it will pill faster. I also looked for fully fashioned marks, which are small rows of marks near the shoulder seam, created by transferring loops or stitches to needles for extra reinforcement. It’s more time-consuming than the “cut and sew” method that involves running fabric through sewing machines.

Sourcing: Many different goat breeds can produce cashmere, but the Himalayan mountain goat is primarily known as the “cashmere goat,” according to Clive Hallett and Amanda Johnston, coauthors of Fabric for Fashion. Cashmere from Outer Mongolia and Inner Mongolia within China is the best quality, Hallett and Johnston say, noting that the extreme climate seems to allow the goats to grow finer, denser underhair. With that in mind, I researched where each brand sources its cashmere and whether the production process is transparent and environmentally conscious.

Hand Feel: High-quality cashmere should feel soft and luxurious to the touch. I rubbed the sleeves, neck and middle part of the body of each sweater between my thumb and fingers. If I detected any slickness or residue left on my fingers, chemicals may have been added to the cashmere, which dilutes its quality and can make a sweater wear out faster. I also assessed if the sweater felt itchy or scratchy on my bare skin and arms, or when worn with just a t-shirt underneath.

Performance: I gently and repeatedly stretched each sweater to see if it sprang back into shape. Additionally, I wore each cashmere sweater for 4 to 8 hours a day, looking to see if the sweater retained its structure or showed signs of thinning. To mimic the wear and tear that accumulates over time, I put the sweaters through simple friction tests: I wore each under a tightly fitted coat that caused rubbing at the neck, arms and body when taking it on and off. I leaned on my elbows and arms in a plank position on my living room floor and on my yoga mat to put stress on these areas. I also cuddled with Faith, my 5-year-old, 15-pound Cavapoo who (gladly) jumped on me, and then checked for signs of pilling, snags or holes afterward.

Style And Care: I ordered each crew neck sweater in a size small (or the equivalent) and wore them alone against my bare skin, with a t-shirt and button-down shirt underneath and under a wool coat and puffer jacket during October in New York City, when the temperatures ranged from 47 to 65 degrees. I assessed how well the sweater hung on my body and paired it with a few different outfits—from casual to formal—to determine if the sweater lived up to its style description and fit well. Finally, I cleaned each sweater after two wears according to the care label instructions, using either gentle machine washing or dry cleaning, to see if it looked as good as new afterward.

Sizes: XS to L | Colors: Deep Navy, Charcoal Heather, Misty Grey Heather, Stonewood Heather, Chianti, Electric Fuschia, Moss Green, Lazuli Blue, Amethyst, Seafoam Heather | Materials: 100{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} cashmere | Source: Mongolia

The White + Warren Essential Cashmere Crewneck is a simple, elegant crew neck with a straight fit that looked beautiful on—and felt incredibly soft. It passed the quality and wear tests I put it through with ease, which made this my best overall pick. White + Warren also has an excellent reputation within the cashmere world: Since its founding in 1997, the New York–based, female-run brand has specialized in cashmere pieces made from traceable fiber sourced directly from Mongolian herders. This sweater came highly recommended by a number of the experts I spoke with and has a flattering slim fit and medium weight that makes it great for fall and winter.

During testing, I didn’t detect any thin or uneven patches when I examined the sweater in bright light, and the hand feel was luxuriously smooth and soft to the touch. When worn against my bare skin, it felt much softer than the others and just overall more luxurious, almost as silky soft as baby hair. Similarly, when I rubbed the sweater between my fingers, I didn’t detect any residue, though there was a little transfer of fibers when I wore it with my fitted coat and performed the planks. It has fully fashioned marks where the sweater was joined (not sewn) together, at the arms, neckline and band, which is a laborious and time-consuming process and an indication of a higher-quality sweater. After 14 days, I did notice subtle but honestly barely-there signs of fluff, which were definitely less than 2mm. Throughout my testing, the sweater didn’t pill anywhere and immediately bounced back into shape when stretched and worn. It also laundered beautifully; I hand washed it in a gentle cashmere wash on the advice of the experts I spoke with and dried it flat. This sweater came out looking the same as it did prewash.

The Essential crewneck comes in 10 versatile shades, including both solid and heathered (I tried the Stonewood Heather, a blush-toned neutral). I dressed it up with leather pants, boots and a wool coat, and I dressed it down with jeans and sneakers, and a pleated maxi skirt when the weather was warmer. The finely ribbed trim on the band and cuffs was a stylish, thoughtful touch, too. It fits true to size and has a flattering slim fit without feeling clingy, so it looks great alone or as a layering piece under blazers and coats. If you prefer a more fitted style, White + Warren makes this sweater in a Shrunken version as well as a V Neck option.

This sweater is spun from two-ply cashmere with a fine micron count of 15 to 16, but one downside is the size range isn’t very inclusive; it is offered only in XS through L. White + Warren does emphasize sustainability; the brand sources traceable yarns, some of which are made from recycled bottles, and the factory works with the Sustainable Fibre Alliance, which ensures low environmental impact, herder well-being and animal welfare. White + Warren is also a member of Textile Exchange, whose mission is to accelerate sustainable practices in the textile supply chain.

Sizes: XS to XL | Colors: Black, Minimal Pink, Oatmeal, Heather Grey, Red Apple, Wisteria, Everglade Green, Navy, Burgundy, Spicy Mustard, Camel, Ivory, Fjord Blue, Light Blue, Magenta | Materials: 100{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} cashmere | Source: Mongolia

Price is generally a good indicator of quality when it comes to cashmere. Everything from yarn size to fiber length and diameter can impact the cost of the raw material. Most of the experts I spoke to said that they personally wouldn’t buy a cashmere sweater for less than $200, since that would mean it was likely made with short fibers that would pill faster and not withstand the test of time. That said, for $50, the Quince Mongolian Cashmere Crewneck Sweater is made from 100{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} cashmere that is ethically sourced from goats in Inner Mongolia, and it held up quite well during testing.

The Quince sweater has a very similar style and fit as the White + Warren, a classic slim style with a ribbed neckline, sleeves and hem. The Quince looked slightly thinner under the light, but the difference wasn’t dramatic. I didn’t feel any residue when I rubbed the sleeves between my thumb and fingers, and I was surprised to find very little evidence of fraying or fluffing. Given my skepticism, I rubbed over and over in the same spot, and still nothing. I didn’t notice pilling either, even after I did planks on my elbows and cozied up with my dog on the sofa. This sweater also retained its shape well when stretched, and after hand washing, it still looks great without any signs of wearing out faster than any of the other sweaters I tested.

The cashmere is on the lightweight side, with a looser knit, though it feels soft—I rubbed it against my face, and I’d say it’s comparable to the White + Warren in terms of silkiness. For an everyday staple at a great price, it’s pretty hard to beat this Quince pick. It also comes in 15 different colorways, and the sizing goes up to an XL.

Frances Austen The Classic Crew Neck

Sizes: XS to XL | Colors: Black, Cafe, Cosmos, Berry, Graphite Gray | Materials: 100{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} cashmere | Source: Italy

Frances Austen is a cashmere-focused brand. Founder Margaret Coblentz spent years working in corporate fashion before growing tired of the toll it was taking on the planet. She set out to create beautiful, sustainable pieces that last. To that end, she works with Johnstons of Elgin—one of the oldest and most venerable cashmere manufacturers in Scotland—to produce her pieces, and her yarn is spun in Italy by Cariaggi, a premier eco-conscious mill that uses 38 to 42mm fibers, the longest available. Coblentz’s signature cashmere sweaters are inspired by the heirloom pieces she inherited from her stylish grandmother, and she claims that by cutting out the middleman with a direct-to-consumer business model, she can offer high-end sweaters for significantly less than they would typically cost—$1,000 or more. This Classic Crew Neck sells for $395, making it the most expensive of those I tested, but it is designed to be an investment piece that lasts forever and gets better with wear, in that intentionally lived-in kind of way.

The Classic Crew Neck is soft, although not as soft as White + Warren’s. In comparison to others I tested, it has a more masculine silhouette, with an oversized collar and fit, so it feels roomy and slouchy—but there’s structure, thanks to the ribbed cuffs and band. It’s also warmer than the other sweaters I tested and has a fluffier texture, so it’s a better choice for winter, plus it looks great dressed up or down with jeans. Under the bright light, the cashmere was more transparent than some of the others, but that could be a result of its looser-weave style. The crew neck did have subtle pilling, and I noticed some raised fibers, especially after trying it on with coats and a handbag and when doing planks. I’d advise dry cleaning instead of hand washing to maintain this sweater’s shape (Frances Austen recommends either option in the care instructions), and you may need to use a defluffer to reduce pilling occasionally.

The quality of this crew neck is very apparent, however, in the details—there are fully fashioned marks on the interior of the neckline, sleeves and band. The Classic Crew Neck is a cozy, enduring staple that you will hold on to for years. The brand will also repair any holes (according to its own criteria) and is deeply committed to sustainability. The cashmere yarn is ISO 14001 Certified—this is an internationally agreed-upon standard that requires efficient use of resources and the reduction of waste—and 100{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} traceable to the source. I also appreciated that the factory in Italy is powered entirely by renewable energy and that the water is cleaned and reused after the dyeing process, and any leftover fiber waste is made into new yarn.

Sizes: XXS to 3X | Colors: Black Combo, Green Combo | Materials: 100{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} cashmere | Source: Mongolia

Similar to Frances Austen, Naadam is a cashmere-focused fashion brand. It was founded by two designers—former college friends—intent on creating affordable, high-quality cashmere sweaters, cardigans and turtlenecks that are ethically and sustainably produced. The duo works directly with local goatherds in the Gobi Desert in Mongolia, and Naadam’s entry-level Essential $75 Cashmere Sweater is, yes, just $75. It’s a bestseller, garnering more than 50,000 five-star reviews to date. The brand also has Recycled and Luxe Cashmere collections, with prices ranging from $75 to upward of $500, so there is definitely something for everyone here.

I, however, chose to test the more directional Striped Crewneck Sweater, which costs $175 and has a relaxed, oversized fit. It was seriously soft to the touch when I rubbed it on my face and wore it against my skin. It has a thicker, heavier texture than the brand’s Essential sweater, making it a better option for winter months. I received more than my share of compliments when I wore the Striped Crewneck Sweater. After hand washing, it had a slightly well-worn look. Yet the style is meant to be relaxed and slouchy, so it still works.

After huffing my way through some planks and layering this sweater under a coat, the crew neck did show signs of pilling and raised fibers. I noticed some excess fluff, especially after my dog jumped on me and snuggled, and this sweater doesn’t have the more expensive touches, such as fully fashioned marks. Still, the Striped Crewneck Sweater retained its shape well when stretched and scored a lot of style points as a sophisticated sweater that I could pair with many different outfits.

Sizes: XXS to XXXL | Colors: Lapis Blue, Kambaba, Golden Palm | Materials: 100{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} cashmere | Source: Mongolia

Everlane is known for its sustainability commitment, fair pricing, simple classic staples and inclusive sizing. To that end, the Cashmere Crew is available in XXS to XXXL and was the most size-inclusive among the sweaters I tested. It’s also made from cashmere sourced from Inner Mongolia, and for the $145 price point, it’s a great go-to piece for everyday wear. The fit is described as relaxed, but despite what some reviews say, I found the fit was slimmer than expected, so you may want to size up for a looser effect. The fiber wasn’t as soft as some of the other cashmere sweaters I tried, and I also detected a little slickness after rubbing the sleeves between my fingers, which could indicate a lower-quality yarn. But I loved the colors this crew neck comes in—all three shades are versatile and chic. The Kambaba color I tested felt fresh for fall and winter as a stylish alternative to black.

Do I expect this sweater to last a lifetime? Most likely not—for example, after 14 days of testing, I noticed the crew neck wrinkled after hand washing and started to pill in certain spots, but overall, this sweater still looks beautiful and not worn out. I consider this cashmere a solid, mid-priced option available in a wide size range that you’ll definitely get a lot of wear out of.

Other Cashmere Sweaters I Considered

Narrowing down the list of cashmere sweater contenders to test wasn’t an easy task, as there are many well-established cashmere brands and ready-to-wear fashion brands making good-quality sweaters at varying price points. Here are a few that didn’t make the cut but that are definitely worth considering.

C by Bloomingdale’s Crewneck Cashmere Sweater: This sweater was the runner-up for the best value option. It’s part of Bloomingdale’s in-house cashmere line, which has been in production for 20 years and is made from yarn sourced from vendors in Inner Mongolia who hand brush their goats. Knitwear designer Lisa Joseph worked for Bloomingdale’s and attests to the brand’s use of long, thin, high-quality fibers. This crew neck is soft to the touch, comes in an extensive range of colors and sizes and is often on sale.

Jenni Kayne Cashmere Fisherman Sweater: Jenni Kayne is a fan favorite among the fashion set, and her signature Fisherman Sweater has something of a cult-like status. It’s made from 100{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} Mongolian cashmere and has a tight ribbed texture and a classic fit. At $395, it’s an investment piece, but it’s available in extended sizing (XS to 3X) and 11 colorways (all neutral earthy shades).

J.Crew Cashmere Classic-Fit Crewneck Sweater: A J.Crew bestseller, this affordably priced pick has been upgraded with softer, longer fibers to give it a roomy, relaxed fit. It’s 100{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} cashmere, 30{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} of which is recycled cashmere in line with the brand’s sustainability focus—the brand partners with Aid by Trade Foundation (AbTF), which promotes agricultural development by protecting the welfare of cashmere goats, natural resources and working conditions of farmworkers in Inner Mongolia. It’s also offered in extended sizing (XX-Small to 3X) and available in 22 shades, from core colors to rainbow brights.

Madewell (Re)sponsible Cashmere Relaxed Sweater: If you prefer more of a relaxed fit and vintage vibe, this Madewell sweater ticks that box at a good price point. It’s from the brand’s (Re)sponsible line, which uses 100{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} cashmere, certified by AbTF. Inspired by secondhand sweaters, it has a worn look and boxy shape and is available only in three shades (Coastal Blue, Heather Thistle and Heather Mink). Size-wise, it runs from XX Small to XX Large.

La Ligne Toujours Sweater: La Ligne is a knitwear-focused brand, founded by two former Vogue editors and a Rag & Bone alum. Its signature sweater is a striped merino wool, but it also offers a loose-gauge crew neck ribbed sweater that is a 30{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} cashmere, 70{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} wool mix. This is a luxurious staple for those who like a relaxed, oversized style, and it comes in 14 colors and sizes up to 3X.

Loro Piana Monginevro Cashmere Sweater: If money is no object and you want the absolute finest Italian cashmere, our knitwear experts all recommended luxury fashion brand Loro Piana as the holy grail of high-end cashmere sweaters. Knitted from ultra soft and sumptuous Coarsehair cashmere—the thicker, coarser fibers separated from the down of the goat—this sweater is designed to last forever, with raglan sleeves and a chunky ribbed trim. Still, at $1,625, the price felt too high to recommend for the everyday buyer.

Guest in Residence True Crew: Model Gigi Hadid’s new cashmere-focused brand is inspired by the cashmere sweaters handed down to her mother’s parents. The unisex True Crew is made from 100{5e37bb13eee9fcae577c356a6edbd948fa817adb745f8ff03ff00bd2962a045d} Mongolian cashmere, retails for $275, and is available in five shades, from sizes XS to XXL. This pick is lightweight and makes a more modern statement than traditional sweaters.

Alex Mill Jordan Sweater in Cashmere: Alex Mill’s mission is to create a stylish fashion uniform built on quality—not trendy—basics. The brand has a popular cashmere line, and if you’re a fan of a masculine look, the signature unisex cashmere crewneck is warm, weighty and slightly fuzzy.

The Elder Statesman Simple Crew: Again, if you are looking for an investment sweater or to make a bold statement, Joseph is a huge fan of the Elder Statesman and swears by the brand’s quality and longevity. Hand loomed in Los Angeles from high-grade Italian cashmere, the sweaters are known for their fun, fashion-forward brights and prints. The solid Simple Crew is a heavyweight knit that comes in colorful shades, retails for $600.

Pringle of Scotland Crew-Neck Cashmere Jumper: Pringle of Scotland is a heritage knitwear brand from the U.K.—fun fact, it actually coined the term knitwear—with a 200-year-old reputation for luxury and quality. The Scottish cashmere and signature argyle diamond prints (first made famous by the Duke of Windsor) are the stuff of fashion and royal legend—Grace Kelly put the brand’s iconic twin-sets on the map, and Queen Elizabeth II was given a sweater every year since 1947, granting the brand the Royal Warrant of Appointment in 1956. The Cashmere Jumper is a beautiful basic, but at $905, it’s an investment piece, and sizes run from S to L only.

Autumn Cashmere Fairisle Yoke Crew: Founded in 1995, Autumn Cashmere uses cashmere yarn consciously sourced in Alashan, the western Inner Mongolia region of China. The brand’s sweaters are in the mid-price range, and its focus is on combining the highest-quality cashmere with timeless fashion styles—think bold patterns and colors, interesting prints and detailing like fringing and distressed hems. The classic Fairisle Yoke Crew is chic, with a chunky weave and ribbed details.

How To Pick The Best Cashmere Sweater

While price is one of the best indicators of quality cashmere, there are a few easy ways to determine if a sweater is worth the investment: Examine the length and fineness of the fiber. Notice how soft it feels to the touch. Rub it to see if it pills or leaves a filmy residue on your hands. And stretch it to see if it bounces back into shape. Beyond that, here’s more intel you can use to find the very best cashmere sweater for your budget.

Fiber Quality

Cashmere comes from the soft underbelly of the goat, and some goats have longer fibers than others. Any goat, except for the Angora goat, can produce cashmere, although the term “cashmere goats” applies to those selectively bred to produce it in significant amounts. “The raw material is sold by farmers to mills, who then spin and weave the yarn,” says knitwear designer Lisa Joseph. The yarn is sold in different lengths and widths, and long, fine fibers are considered the highest quality, as they weave together better and thus last longer, she says. Shorter, thicker yarns tend to pill, fluff, form holes and wear out faster. Joseph believes the highest-quality cashmere comes from Mongolia, Scotland and Italy. Jeffrey Silberman, a retired professor and textile expert who lived in Ulaanbaatar as part of a USAID project team tasked with developing a vision for Mongolian cashmere, believes the best cashmere comes from China, which has an advanced breeding program, along with Mongolia, northern India (the Kashmir region), Turkey and Iran. He adds, however, “The quality of the product is also directly related to the reputation of the designer or manufacturer.”

Ply And Gauge

In addition to fiber length and diameter, cashmere experts also note the gauge (GG) and ply count. The gauge of the knit is determined by measuring the number of stitches per inch in one direction (across) and the number of rows per inch in the other (up or down). Gauge size is also affected by the size of your knitting needles, the thickness of the yarn and the knitting tension (how tightly or loosely a material is knit). “There isn’t necessarily an industry standard for gauge, but the higher the gauge number, the finer the fabric,” says knitwear designer Michelle Diamond. Still, the likelihood of a sweater pilling or wearing out isn’t related to the gauge, but the yarn quality and tension, which you can’t always determine from the label. For reference, though, the gauge for a classic fitted cashmere sweater tends to range from 12GG—a thick option for fall or under a coat in winter—to 16GG, which is a very fine, lightweight option for summer. As for the ply count: Single-ply yarns describe when one fiber is spun into yarn, and these tend to pill more than two-ply yarns, which involve twisting two single yarns together. The latter results in a stronger, more durable and generally longer-lasting garment, explains Silberman.

Cashmere Grade

Different countries and regions all produce different grades of cashmere. To be considered a true cashmere fiber, though, most producers require a micron measurement (diameter) that’s less than 19 microns for grade B, and those that are 14 to 15.5 microns are considered the highest-quality grade A, says Silberman. Fiber that measures 30 microns is a grade C, which is the lowest quality. Unfortunately, you can’t accurately ascertain the grade at a consumer level since there is no single governing body to determine grades. Instead, you have to trust the brand you are buying from and perform your own basic tests, such as those I performed for this story, including holding the garment up to the light to assess for thin or uneven patches, for example.


Overdyeing can also affect the quality of cashmere, according to Silberman, who says that in Ulaanbaatar, quality conversations always included the natural color of the raw material extracted from the goat. Specifically, white is the rarest and most sought-after, followed by red, brown and black. This makes sense from a textile technology standpoint. Most apparel, including sweaters, comes in a range of vibrant colors. If you start with a white or light-color cashmere, less color stripping is needed to achieve different shades, which means less fiber damage will occur in processing and dyeing. The darker the color, the more color stripping is necessary, and just like with human hair, too much stripping leads to stiff and brittle fiber.

Joseph shares that “If a brand has a color that didn’t sell, and they are stuck with, say, kilos and kilos of lime green, they dye over that fiber that’s already been dyed once.” The chemicals involved in dyeing deteriorate the fiber, which results in a sweater that’s likely to wear out faster. Also, factories that purchase low-quality short fiber will often use a softening agent to make the cashmere feel softer than it really is, says Joseph. “This is not great for the fiber, and sadly, the average consumer doesn’t know this,” she points out. The best way to check for this is to rub a cashmere sweater between your fingers and thumb to see if it leaves a filmy residue or has a slickness to it, as this can indicate a chemical treatment was added to the raw material or that it has been overdyed.


The price of raw cashmere fiber is based on weight and quality, and the price can vary depending on the season. “The cost of cashmere can fluctuate based on how harsh the winter was and how much hair the goats grew,” says Joseph. To give you some context, the raw material ranges from $130 to $180 per kilo. On average, a 12GG basic sweater requires approximately 800 to 2,000 yards, or around 0.26kg of yarn. “If a brand is investing in high-quality cashmere, it will buy finer, longer yarn. I would not buy a cashmere sweater for less than $150, as it can’t be good quality based on that price,” Joseph adds. “My guess is some brands buy the cheapest cashmere they can with the short leftover fibers. And there are factories that create cashmere sweaters from the fiber that falls on the ground as it’s being knit, and it gets swept up and respun. I would expect it to pill and get holes quickly.”


Cashmere is a natural fiber, so by nature, it is sustainable. “A cashmere sweater is a completely sustainable garment without meaning to be sustainable, really,” says Joseph. “If you look at the interior of your sweater, there’s no thread. The only thing you’d have to remove for it to completely break down is the tag.” Still, many brands will mention specific initiatives on their websites: Look to see if they source traceable yarns and if they embrace responsible ways of dyeing with natural pigment or processes that use less water. Recycled cashmere is also gaining in popularity, but Diamond says to tread with caution here. “I haven’t personally worked with it yet, but my guess is it’s harder to get the nice, long fibers if it’s been already through the consumer cycle once.” Again, there are many sustainable certifications out there rather than one governing body, so you have to do your research. Diamond points to GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard), Textile Exchange, the Good Cashmere Standard, the Sustainable Fibre Alliance and Textile Standards as good resources.

Frequently Asked Questions When Buying A Cashmere Sweater

How Can I Check The Quality When Shopping?

In a store, there are easy, immediate indicators to spot poor-quality cashmere, says Diamond. “Good cashmere sweaters should retain their shape, so stretch it gently and it should go straight back into shape,” she says. The yarn should have a nice tension to it, and it should also feel soft, not scratchy. Pay attention to high friction points to see if there are signs of pilling, thinning or holes—under the arms and at the elbows and sides, where it will rub against other clothing or a handbag. You can also look for fully fashioned marks, or “rows of knitting that go around the neck and arm seams and form delicate ripples,” says Diamond. Not only does this give the sweater durability, she says, but “it’s a very pretty visual detail that creates a flat seam.” Other subtle but intentional details also indicate more time and effort went into a sweater’s construction, such as a change in texture in the knitting, or a special rib trim that adds interest while keeping the overall look classic.

What Style Should I Buy, And How Much Should I Spend?

Cashmere is often an investment piece. “You definitely don’t have to spend $1,000, though,” says Diamond, who believes you can find a quality sweater for around $200. If you want to get the most use of your sweater, look for versatile styles, such as crew and V-neck designs that can be dressed up or down easily. “Unless you have a big fashion budget, you probably aren’t shopping for the craziest new silhouette in cashmere, but a great classic sweater,” says Diamond. As for the best color options, Diamond says cashmere looks particularly nice in heathered colors—especially in neutrals. “My pick would be a heather gray, charcoal or oatmeal,” she advises.

How Do I Care For My Cashmere Sweater?

A good-quality cashmere sweater should last for years, according to Joseph and Diamond. First things first: It’s always better to hand wash a cashmere sweater in cold water, as machine washing can damage and stretch the delicate fibers. It’s also never a good idea to put a sweater in a dryer, since cashmere is very prone to shrinking with heat. Instead, Joseph dry-cleans every one of her sweaters at the end of each season. “Moths go toward the sweat that’s on the fiber, not actually the fiber itself,” she says. “So everything goes away to be dry-cleaned and then stored in an airtight container with cedar. I put lots of cedar containers in every drawer where I have cashmere sweaters.” For finer knits, as opposed to chunky textures, Joseph will hand wash her sweaters and lay them flat to dry to help retain the shape. “Take care of your garment, and it’s going to last,” she insists.

Diamond, for her part, hand washes all her cashmere sweaters, regardless of the knit thickness, in the sink with cold water with a cashmere shampoo. “Afterward, I do not wring out my sweater but lay it on a towel and roll it up like a burrito. Then, I gently press on the towel to get the excess water out.” From there, she lays the sweater flat to dry and reshapes it. “You can get away with four or five gentle wears before you wash a cashmere sweater,” says Diamond. “I also like to let my sweaters air out before I fold them and put them away.”

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