What is the Difference between Shearling and Sheepskin?

What is the Difference between Shearling and Sheepskin?

     Natana Nikola
     Fur Industry Technology Consultant





In fashion and outerwear, shearling and sheepskin are terms often used interchangeably, yet they refer to two distinct materials derived from sheep's hides. Recognizing the differences between these materials is crucial for those who value style, comfort, and long-lasting wear in their clothing. This article is dedicated to an in-depth examination of shearling and sheepskin, discussing their origins, production processes, and defining characteristics. By the end of this article, readers will gain a comprehensive understanding of why choosing between shearling and sheepskin matters, enabling them to make an informed decision that aligns with their specific needs and style preferences. The choice between shearling and sheepskin goes beyond mere preference; it plays a significant role in the textile and fashion industry, influencing factors such as thermal properties, aesthetic value, and functional application.

Difference between Shearling and Sheepskin

Defining Shearling and Sheepskin

Shearling Explained:

Shearling refers to a special kind of sheepskin, typically obtained from lambs or young sheep. It undergoes a minimal shearing process, ensuring one side retains its natural wool while the other is processed to create a smooth, refined texture. This material is predominantly sourced from the skins of younger sheep.

Origin of Shearling:

The use of shearling traces back to traditional practices involving the hides of young sheep, often those less than a year old. In creating shearling, the wool is carefully trimmed on one side of the hide while maintaining a rich, insulating layer of wool on the other side.

Characteristics of Shearling:

Shearling is distinguished by its dual-textured nature: one side features soft, warm wool, while the other boasts a sleek, leather-like finish. This unique combination of textures renders shearling a highly desirable material in fashion and outerwear, prized for its aesthetic appeal and comfort.


Understanding Sheepskin:

Sheepskin encompasses the entire skin of a sheep, including the wool. This material stands apart from shearling due to the variety of treatments it can undergo, such as tanning and finishing, which allow for diverse textures and appearances.

Origin of Sheepskin:

Sheepskin's characteristics are shaped by the various processing methods it undergoes derived from the hides of sheep at different stages of their lives. This results in a spectrum of sheepskin types, each boasting its own set of unique attributes.

Features of Sheepskin:

Sheepskin is celebrated for its fusion of natural wool and leather, offering a blend of warmth, softness, and resilience. The length and texture of the wool on sheepskin vary greatly, enhancing its versatility in various products from apparel and accessories to home décor. The leather side of sheepskin is also adaptable, undergoing specific treatments to create diverse finishes and functionalities.

Understanding the nuances, origins, and distinct qualities of shearling and sheepskin is essential for discerning their differences. This insight is invaluable in making informed choices that align with personal preferences and specific needs.


Manufacturing Process

Production of Shearling

Creating shearling involves a meticulous process that starts with selecting young sheepskins, often sourced from lambs. These skins undergo a careful shearing procedure, where the wool is evenly cut to a consistent length, typically around one inch. This crucial step is performed to preserve the wool's softness and insulating ability. Following the shearing, the next vital stage is tanning. Tanning is pivotal in stabilizing the hide, ensuring its longevity, and preventing deterioration. Once tanned, the skins may be dyed to achieve the desired color, depending on the design requirements. The final stage in the production of shearling is the finishing process. It involves refining the leather side of the skin and smoothing it out to create a uniform, soft texture. Throughout the process, great attention is paid to retaining the natural qualities of the wool and the hide, ensuring the final product maintains its authentic characteristics.

Production of Sheepskin

The process of producing sheepskin differs notably from that of shearling, encompassing the entire hide of sheep of various ages. Initially, the hides undergo cleaning and tanning, similar to shearling. However, a key difference lies in the wool treatment: in sheepskin production, the wool is not cut to a uniform length but is left as is, showcasing its natural variation in length and texture. The tanning methods applied to sheepskin are more diverse, offering a spectrum of textures and levels of durability in the finished product. Post-tanning, the sheepskins might be subjected to further dyeing, softening, and occasionally embossing to enhance their visual appeal and tactile qualities.

Production of Sheepskin

Comparison of Processes and Their Impact on Material Properties

The pivotal distinction in the production of shearling and sheepskin lies in how the wool is treated. Shearling is known for its evenly trimmed, short wool resulting from precise shearing. It creates a consistently soft and plush material on the woolen side, complemented by a smooth leather surface on the reverse. Conversely, sheepskin preserves the wool's natural length and texture, introducing a greater variety in texture and visual appeal.

These variations in processing markedly impact the final characteristics of the materials. Shearling, with its uniform wool and meticulously finished leather, is often softer and perceived as more luxurious, which can also reflect in a higher price point. Additionally, shearling is typically lighter and more supple, making it a preferred choice for luxury fashion items. Sheepskin, in contrast, offers greater versatility due to its wool's diverse lengths and textures. This quality often renders sheepskin more robust and enduring, making it suitable for various uses, from home furnishings to everyday clothing.

In essence, although shearling and sheepskin are derived from sheep hides, the distinct methods employed in their production profoundly affect their texture, appearance, and practical applications. This understanding is crucial for consumers and designers in selecting the most appropriate material for their specific requirements.

Characteristics and Properties

Physical and Aesthetic Characteristics of Shearling

Shearling stands out with its remarkable dual-texture composition: one side features soft, thick wool, while the other boasts a sleek, suede-like leather finish. The woolen aspect of shearling is usually of a uniform length, resulting from the shearing technique, offering a consistently plush and cozy texture. This wool possesses inherent insulating properties, making shearling a superb option for warmth. From an aesthetic standpoint, shearling exudes luxury and is frequently found in high-end fashion circles. The leather side undergoes a unique treatment process to attain a smooth, velvety feel and can be tinted in various hues, further enhancing its visual allure.

Physical and Aesthetic Characteristics of Sheepskin

In comparison, sheepskin displays a broader spectrum of natural attributes. The length and texture of the wool on sheepskin can differ significantly, from short to long, and vary in density and texture, influenced by the sheep's breed and the processing methods applied. This inherent diversity lends sheepskin a rustic, more authentic appearance. The leather aspect of sheepskin also exhibits more significant variation, typically presenting a thicker and more robust texture compared to shearling. This side of the sheepskin can undergo various treatments, resulting in many finishes, from sleek to textured, providing an extensive array of visual and tactile choices.

Comparative Analysis: Durability, Longevity, Care, and Comfort

Both shearling and sheepskin boast impressive durability and longevity, yet sheepskin typically surpasses in robustness due to its thicker, more resilient nature. It is ideal for products that endure substantial wear, such as rugs and car seat covers. Shearling, while also hard-wearing, tends to be more refined in texture, making it a preferred choice for clothing and fashion accessories.

In terms of maintenance, both types of material necessitate attentive care to retain their quality. With its more delicate texture, shearling requires gentle cleaning and conditioning to preserve its softness and prevent it from drying. Sheepskin is less demanding and needs proper cleaning and careful storage to avoid damage.

Regarding comfort, shearling is notable for its light, soft texture, contributing to its high comfort level.

Its breathability further enhances this comfort, making it adaptable to various temperatures. Sheepskin, with its varying wool lengths and densities, offers a distinct comfort experience, often feeling sturdier and providing excellent insulation.

In conclusion, both shearling and sheepskin are synonymous with luxury and durability. However, their distinct textures, appearances, and care needs render them suitable for different uses. Shearling is frequently chosen for high-end fashion due to its softness and refined elegance. In contrast, sheepskin's versatility and robustness make it well-suited for more practical applications.

Applications in Fashion and Industry

Uses of Shearling in Fashion

Shearling has established a significant presence in fashion and is celebrated for its sumptuous texture and visual allure. It's a popular choice for premium outerwear, including stylish coats, jackets, and vests, admired for its perfect blend of warmth and fashion-forward appeal. Additionally, shearling is a go-to material for elegant fashion accessories such as boots, gloves, and hats, known for their comfort and chic appearance. Beyond apparel, shearling reaches into high-end fashion, gracing designer handbags and luxury furniture with plushness and aesthetic charm. Its adaptability makes it suitable for timeless and modern designs, earning it a favored status among designers seeking to infuse their work with luxury and tactile richness.

Uses of Shearling in Fashion

Uses of Sheepskin in Various Industries

With its more rugged and versatile nature, sheepskin has a broader range of applications beyond the fashion world. In the clothing industry, it is used for making durable and warm outerwear, including traditional shearling coats, pilot jackets, and boots. Its natural insulation properties make it ideal for cold-weather gear. Beyond fashion, sheepskin is widely used in home decor, such as rugs, throws, and cushion covers, adding warmth and texture to interiors.

In addition, sheepskin has practical applications in various industries. It is used in the automotive industry for seat and steering wheel covers, providing comfort and a luxurious feel. Sheepskin products are known for their therapeutic qualities in the medical field, especially in providing pressure relief for patients confined to beds or wheelchairs—sheepskin's natural softness and breathability help prevent pressure sores and enhance patient comfort.

Moreover, sheepskin is also used in producing musical instruments, particularly in making drum heads and other percussion instruments, where its unique texture and durability are beneficial.

Sheepskin in Various

In summary, while shearling is predominantly used in the fashion industry for its elegance and luxury appeal, sheepskin's robust and adaptable nature makes it suitable for various applications, ranging from fashion and home decor to automotive, medical, and musical instrument manufacturing. This versatility underscores the significant role of sheepskin in multiple sectors, highlighting its importance beyond just material for clothing.

Ecological and Ethical Aspects

Ecological Impact of Production

The production of shearling and sheepskin can have environmental implications, but these are significantly mitigated when proper, sustainable practices are employed. Traditionally, the tanning process is a critical area of concern, essential for transforming raw hides into durable leather. If not conducted responsibly, this process can involve chemicals harmful to the environment, such as chromium and other heavy metals, potentially leading to soil and water pollution. However, it's important to emphasize that these negative impacts are mainly avoidable with the adoption of eco-friendly tanning methods or advanced waste treatment methods. Modern practices like vegetable tanning or chrome-free tanning have been increasingly adopted, significantly reducing the environmental footprint of leather production.

Ethical Considerations in Animal Use

Regarding ethical considerations, it's crucial to address the use of animal products in the production of shearling and sheepskin. It's a common misconception that sheep are raised primarily for their skins. In reality, sheepskins and shearling are by-products of the meat industry. The sheep are not raised specifically for their hides; instead, the hides are a secondary product utilized post-meat production. This approach helps minimize waste and uses all parts of the animal.

Eco-friendly and Ethical Practices at MerinoMood

At MerinoMood, we are deeply committed to ensuring that our shearling and sheepskin products are ecologically and ethically sound. We adhere strictly to eco-friendly practices in all stages of production, particularly in the tanning process, to ensure minimal environmental impact. Our commitment extends to ethical practices in sourcing, providing that the materials we use are by-products of the meat industry, thereby adhering to principles of sustainability and ethical use of animal products.

By choosing MerinoMood, customers receive a product of exceptional quality and support a brand deeply committed to environmental sustainability and ethical responsibility. Our practices demonstrate a conscientious approach to production, reflecting our dedication to caring for nature and upholding high ethical standards.

Selection and Care Tips

When selecting high-quality shearling or sheepskin, paying attention to the texture and appearance of the wool and leather sides is essential. For shearling, look for an even wool length, softness to the touch, and a smooth, well-finished leather side. In sheepskin, seek a natural, plush wool appearance and a supple, durable leather surface. The uniformity of color and the absence of visible defects also indicate good quality.

Caring for shearling and sheepskin items requires a gentle approach. Avoid washing these materials in a machine; opt for professional cleaning or spot cleaning with a damp cloth for minor stains. Regular brushing of the wool can help maintain its fluffiness and prevent matting. A suitable leather conditioner is vital to keeping it soft and preventing cracks on the leather side. It's also crucial to store these items in a cool, dry place, away from direct sunlight or heat sources, to prevent the leather from drying out and the wool from fading. By following these care guidelines, shearling and sheepskin products can maintain their beauty and durability for years.

MerinoMood sheepskin wear


In conclusion, understanding the differences between shearling and sheepskin is essential for appreciating their unique qualities and making informed choices. Shearling, known for its uniform wool length and luxurious feel, is often associated with high-end fashion items. With its natural and varied wool texture, sheepskin offers robustness and versatility, making it ideal for various uses, from clothing to home decor.

Both materials hold significant value in the modern world for their aesthetic and functional qualities and natural origin. At MerinoMood, we take pride in offering ecologically pure sheepskin products from the highlands of Central Asia, ensuring that our customers receive items of the highest quality and ethical standards.

We invite you to explore our collection of shearling and sheepskin clothing and accessories. Experience the warmth, comfort, and style that only genuine sheepskin can provide. Visit MerinoMood to discover the perfect blend of nature's best with contemporary design and find a piece that resonates with your style and values.


1. Can shearling and sheepskin be sourced sustainably?

Yes, sustainable sourcing of shearling and sheepskin is achievable. MerinoMood ensures this through ethical farming practices, eco-friendly tanning processes, and responsible resource management. We prioritize transparency in our sourcing methods, demonstrating our commitment to ecological and ethical standards.

2. Are there any hypoallergenic properties in shearling or sheepskin?

Both shearling and sheepskin are considered hypoallergenic due to their natural fibers. They are less likely to cause allergic reactions, making them suitable for sensitive skin. However, individual responses can vary.

3. How does the weight of shearling and sheepskin garments compare?

Generally, shearling garments tend to be lighter than sheepskin due to the shearing process, which makes the wool layer thinner. Sheepskin garments, with their full, natural wool, can be heavier.

4. Can I find both Shearling and Sheepskin products on MerinoMood's online store?

Yes, MerinoMood offers a curated selection of both Shearling and Sheepskin products. Explore our online store to discover the finest quality in natural sheepskin fashion.

5. Do Shearling and Sheepskin products at MerinoMood come in various styles and colors?

Yes, our collection features a variety of styles and colors for Shearling and Sheepskin products. Explore our catalog to find the perfect piece that suits your individual preferences.

6. What Shearling products does MerinoMood offer?

At MerinoMood, our collection includes various Shearling products, from jackets and vests to accessories like hats and gloves. Each piece is crafted to showcase the unique combination of sheep's hide and wool for optimal comfort and style.

7. What sets MerinoMood's Shearling and Sheepskin products apart from other brands?

MerinoMood stands out from other brands through our commitment to authenticity and quality. Our Shearling and Sheepskin products are crafted from ecologically pure sheepskin sourced from the highlands of Central Asia, ensuring a unique blend of comfort, luxury, and sustainable fashion.

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