Natural vs. Synthetic Fabrics for Cold Weather

Posted by Ellie B. on 11/30/2019
Natural vs. Synthetic Fabrics for Cold Weather
When it comes to cold weather, it might seem obvious that natural fabrics like wool are the preferable option in terms of keeping warm, but that's not always the case. Various synthetic materials offer comfort from the cold, and can oftentimes even be more effective. 

Advantages of fleece

In the late fall and winter, many people opt for fleece items, like jackets and blankets. Fleece is a synthetic fabric made of polyester or some kind of blend. There is the version that's made out of sheep's wool, but in recent years, man-made fleece is much more common. 

It's warm and dries quickly, making it a good option if you happen to get caught in the rain or snow. Fleece is not great in wind though, so it's a good idea to wear it layered under a windbreaker. Because of its warmth, softeness, and insulating properties, fleece is also often a lining inside winter coats.

Drawbacks of cotton

Cotton is another popular fabric material, mostly for things like long-sleeve shirts and sweatshirts. Many people like cotton because it's natural, but it's not great in cold weather. For a slightly chilly fall day, a cotton hoodie might do the trick, but wind often goes right through the woven fabric. 

Cotton also absorbs a huge amount of water. If you try to wear your favorite sweatshirt out to go sledding, you'll quickly end up wet and freezing cold because the fabric will soak up any moisture. For this reason, fleece is often the better option.


Leather is another option that's interesting in a few ways. First, it can be natural or man-made, and both types have their own advantages. Second, it's very effective at protecting against the elements. Leather will keep you warm, even in wet or windy conditions. 

One downside of natural leather is that it can be damaged in water. This makes pleather slightly better in a winter setting because you won't have to worry about getting soaked or taking care of damage to the material. Pleather is also usually cheaper than real leather, so it can be more cost-friendly for people not looking to drop a paycheck on a leather jacket. 

Other synthetics

Polyester is another product has recently become more available for winter clothing. Some companies have figured out how to crimp individual fibers together to create pockets of air inside the fabric. This results in a material that can trap warm air against your body, keeping you toasty. Polyester is also great at retaining its shape and not creasing, so you can pack it up nice and small without worrying about damaging anything.

Synthetic fabrics sometimes get a bad rap because they are viewed as inferior to natural materials. Recent advances in synthetic technology have shown otherwise though. Natural wool is the warmest of all fabrics, but things like polyester and fleece have proven to be much warmer and better at keeping out moisture than cotton. While there are still benefits to buying clothing that comes from plants and animals, investing in a synthetic jacket or a coat is probably the move for this winter.