The Battle Between Sherpa and Fleece – A Complete Guide on the Differences and Similarities Between Them

Sherpa has been a popular garment fabric for some time now. In the modern world, we can see coats, jackets, and scarves made out of this fluffy material.

Fleece is another soft fabric that is used for outerwear. However, sherpa and fleece are often confused with each other. 

These fabrics are both great at keeping you warm, but they have a few differences between them. Spotting these differences can be tricky, and leaves many of us feeling overwhelmed and unsure of what to do.

The Battle Between Sherpa and Fleece – A Complete Guide on the Differences and Similarities Between Them (3)

But no more! Keep reading to find out why sherpa and fleece are different, including their origin, texture, and appearance.

Main Differences Between Fleece And Sherpa

Both fleece and sherpa are affordable substitutes for wool. These fabrics mimic wool fibers well and keep you warm in the cold winter months. This is one similarity between the two materials, but they do have a few significant differences.

One of the main different features is that sherpa fabric is synthetic, also known as artificial fabric. Fleece can be made from cotton, which is made from natural fibers.

Despite this, fleece comes in various types which all have differences between them. Sherpa does count as a member of the fleece family, but it has a few features that set it apart from fleece.

What Is Fleece Fabric?

It can be difficult to define what fleece is. Most people don’t research what manufacturing methods are used to make their clothing.

Fleece is a relatively recent fabric. It was first made by the business Malden Mills in 1981. From the very beginning, fleece had to be made from artificial fabrics as raw materials weren’t used as much at the time.

The brand eventually improved its fabric until it resembled what we think of fleece today. Fleece is now comfortable, soft, insulating, and easily maintained. It’s much more insulating than cotton and even wool, making it an ideal fabric to wear in colder months.

Fleece has evolved into a comfy insulating fabric. It traps heat well, keeping people warm without the need to pile on layers of clothes.

Types Of Fleece

Fleece is available in 9 main types. These include:

Cotton Fleece

This is made from blended or cotton fibers. Cotton fleece is soft on the inside with a smooth exterior finish. You’ll often see it used in athletic clothing.

Polyester Fleece

This fleece is great for repelling moisture. You can identify polyester fleece easily from its distinct shine.

Lycra-Spandex Fiber

This type of fleece uses lots of lycra fibers along with cotton ones. The lycra helps the fleece stretch easily, making this a soft and comfy fabric.

Microfleece

Microfleece is thinner, but it retains heat well. It’s loved by athletes and performers as it’s lightweight but keeps them warm and dry.

Polar

As the name suggests, this fleece is often used during cold outdoor expeditions. It helps keep people warm without wearing lots of layers, so you can move around easily.

French Terry

French terry is soft, but it isn’t as fluffy as other types. Its plush texture resembles jersey, making this a comfortable light fabric to wear.

Slub Fleece

Slub fleece is made by knitting two different sized yarns together. This fine fabric imitates the look of wool and is usually added to make clothes warmer to wear.

Sherpa

Lastly, we have sherpa. Sherpa is fluffy and mimics wool’s texture, but it remains breathable. It will keep you warm without trapping moisture, keeping you comfortable as you carry out your day.

What Is Sherpa Fabric?

As mentioned above, sherpa is part of the fleece fabric family. Sherpa is different from fleece, as sherpa is always made from artificial fibers. Sherpa is often designed to resemble sheepskin, so it’s often used to line blankets and clothing.

Sherpa fleece is fast-drying and great at wicking moisture away. The material is fluffy and has a curly pile texture. This will be made from artificial fabrics, like polyester or acrylic.

Sherpa fleece is knitted so its pile side resembles wool. It will be soft and comforting to wear, which is why sherpa blankets are so popular.

What Does Sherpa Fleece Consist Of?

Sherpa fleece is often made from pure polyester. This material can sometimes feel like plastic on the surface, but this doesn’t take away from its fluffy quality.

Pure polyester can be nice to wear inside and outside as it is soft and delivers excellent warmth.

Differences Between Microfleece And Premium Sherpa

The main difference between microfleece and premium sherpa is their weight. Microfleece weighs much less and is very light. It generally weighs less than 200 grams per square meter. If the material is heavy, it won’t be microfleece. Sherpa, especially premium sherpa, will be heavier.

Microfleece is more flexible than sherpa. Its stretchy quality makes it easier to fit into suitcases, so it’s a better choice to take when traveling.

Microfleece also has a few advantages over sherpa. It doesn’t pill, leave sweat stains, or emit bad odors.

Despite this, microfleece isn’t as warm as a premium sherpa. Microfleece is a lightweight option, but if you’re wearing it in a particularly cold climate, it may be better to wear it in layers.

Premium sherpa is insulating, while its fluffy consistency makes it comforting to wear in icy locations. As it’s so soft, premium sherpa is also used to make bathrobes.

Which Fabric Is Warmer, Fleece Or Sherpa?

Warmth is an important factor during colder months. Wearing too many layers can trap heat, but it can get uncomfortable. The ideal fabric will let you wear little layers but remain comfy and warm.

Sherpa lining is a lot warmer than fleece. When considering all fleece materials, sherpa is one of the warmest kinds within the fleece family. The other contender is polar fleece, as it is designed to wear during cold outdoor activities.

Pure fleece can keep you warm, but not as much as a sherpa. However, if a fleece is all you have available, it will still retain heat reasonably well, but you may need to wear another layer of clothing.

Should I Choose A Fleece Blanket Or A Sherpa Blanket?

An ideal blanket is lightweight, soft, comfy, and most importantly, warm. Sherpa and fleece both possess these qualities, so it can be tough to choose between the two fabrics when choosing a blanket.

The choice will depend on how warm you want the blanket to be. If you prefer a light, slightly warm blanket, standard fleece would suit you better.

However, if you want a blanket that keeps you as toasty as possible, go for sherpa instead. Sherpa blankets also have a pleasant fluffy lining that’s comforting in winter.

Sherpa fibers can be blended with other materials to make warmer fabric. If you’re not a fan of pure sherpa blankets, consider a sherpa blend instead.

For instance, a fleece-sherpa blanket is a blend with amazing insulating properties. This is ideal when drinking hot drinks in bed as fleece is easy to clean, protecting the blanket from spills and stains.

What Fabric Is Softer, Fleece Or Sherpa?

Sherpa fabric is one of the softest winter fabrics. Some even claim that it feels softer than the shearling it looks like.

Sherpa is often described as luxurious, or cozy. This softness varies with fleece fabrics. Some can feel scratchy on the surface, but some, like polar fleece, feel much softer.

All types of fleece will have a soft pile on one of its sides, but this pile can sometimes feel felt instead of like velvet.

You may find fleeces that have an anti-pilling ability. This helps prevent any scratchy pieces that can form on some materials later on.

When it comes to softness, everyone has different preferences. Sherpa can be fluffy, but some may find its wool-like pile to be scratchy.

As sherpa is so soft, it’s often used for baby items, like blankets and soft toys. Its wooly, thick texture on one side can be comforting to hold.

Terry fleece and cotton fleece are known for their softness, but they may not be as comforting as thicker fabrics.

If you’re struggling to choose a fabric based on its softness, think about your skin’s sensitivity level and your likes and dislikes. If wool is too scratchy for you, French terry may be a better choice. If you prefer fluffy textures, you might get on better with sherpa.

What Fabric Is Thicker, Fleece Or Sherpa?

Sherpa fabric thickness lies between the thickness of genuine sheepskin and thin cotton. Sherpa is quite flexible and thin, but it’s knit layer retains most of its thickness.

Fleece fabric comes in several different thicknesses. This thickness is usually described in gsm, grams per square meter. If there is more weight within each square meter, the fabric will be thicker.

For instance, a square meter of microfleece vs polar fleece will have different thicknesses. Microfleece may weigh around 100 gsm, while polar fleece weighs 300 gsm. Polar fleece will be the thicker material.

Microfleece has specific regulations. Fabric can only qualify as microfleece if it weighs less than 200 grams per square meter, which is a very light fabric.

Thermal and polar fleeces can be up to half an inch in thickness, so these will weigh more and deliver more warmth as a result.

Sherpa isn’t that thick, but it will have a lighter knitted side attached to a fluffy pile layer. This pile layer will be thicker than the knit side, but as a whole, the fabric won’t be that thick.

Which Fabric Shrinks More, Fleece Or Sherpa?

Since the invention of shrink-resistant fabrics, shrinking garments have become less of an issue. Nevertheless, it’s always a good idea to be aware of any fabrics that may shrink, as you’ll need to clean these differently.

Sherpa can shrink, but it depends on what material its fibers are made of. If the sherpa has polyester or cotton fibers, they can shrink when they are placed under heat in the dryer.

Sherpa with wool fibers won’t shrink as much, but it can still exhibit minor shrinkage when cleaned. This is easily fixed by laying the garment out flat after laundering. The fibers will eventually react and return to their original size.

Never dry wool sherpa in a dryer! Drying the sherpa in this way will shrink the fibers a lot. The garment may turn into a smaller new size, but it won’t be returned to its original one.

Sherpa fleece acts differently. Fleece may be shrink resistant, but a sherpa fleece blend may not do the same. It is hard to predict how much the fabric will shrink. If you are deliberately trying to make it smaller, do little by little in case it becomes too small.

Fleece isn’t usually prone to shrinkage, but this will still depend on the fabric used and whether it’s of good quality.

Some types of fleece made from 100% natural fibers are known to shrink in a hot wash or the dryer. This may also occur if the fleece is made of artificial fibers or a natural-synthetic mix.

Overall, sherpa is more prone to shrinkage than fleece, as it can shrink quite dramatically. Fleece items may shrink, but not as much as a sherpa. It’s less likely for a fleece garment to change size after being laundered.

Health Issues With Fleece And Sherpa Fabrics

People can get concerned over how safe their fabric is. As a lot of fabrics on the market are made with synthetic materials, the same concerns arise when it comes to fleece and sherpa.

Fleece is made from polyester fibers which are often sourced from recycled plastic. Research has shown that after fleece is washed, it can emit lots of tiny plastic particles that can be dangerous.

As they are microscopic, the particles can enter our membranes and damage our bodies. Some of these effects include itching, redness, and skin allergies.

Wearing sherpa also has safety concerns. Sherpa that is made from polyester can have similar effects.

As polyester is created, it’s treated with toxic chemicals. These can remain trapped within the fabric’s fibers and may penetrate the skin later. This can lead to skin conditions like redness and sensitivity.

Both Sherpa and fleece aren’t the safest fabrics to wear, despite being easy to care for. However, it isn’t always possible to only buy natural fabrics, like wool or cotton.

If your fabric is made from polyester fibers, try to limit how often you wear it, particularly if you have sensitive skin.

Which Fabric Is More Moisture Wicking, Fleece Or Sherpa?

The term ‘moisture wicking’ normally brings lighter athletic wear to mind. These fabrics may include spandex or lycra, but not winter ones like fleece or sherpa.

In reality, most fleeces, along with sherpa, repel moisture well. These are good moisture-wicking fabrics as they have synthetic fibers.

Sherpa and fleece work well to line winter coats. As they are so insulating, the wearer is warm while wearing the garment, but this can lead to more sweat forming. Sherpa and fleece repel any moisture, including sweat, so the user feels comfortable while wearing the coat.

Synthetic fabrics repel moisture well as they contain hydrophobic fibers. This means that the fibers resist water, keeping you dry as you go about your day.

Sherpa and fleece may be moisture-wicking fabrics, but they won’t defend you against the rain. Fleece has a looser, fluffy pile that has larger air gaps within the weave. Water can leak through these spaces, so you’ll end up wetter than you would when wearing a rainproof jacket.

Differences In Weave

It’s easy to think that all kinds of fleece have the same weave, but different weaves are necessary as they give various textures.

Regular fleece can have a woven consistency, while sherpa can have a fibrous one. The woven texture may be flatter and softer while the fibrous one feels more wool-like.

Should You Buy Fleece Or Sherpa?

The Battle Between Sherpa and Fleece – A Complete Guide on the Differences and Similarities Between Them (2)

It’s clear that sherpa and fleece have advantages and disadvantages, but this doesn’t make it easier to choose between the two fabrics.

To help you decide, it can be helpful to think about three points:

  • Your preferred style.
  • Desired softness level.
  • Your preferred fabric weight.

The style you like is purely a personal preference. Some like the wool-like look that sherpa gives. Others prefer the cozy, comfortable look of polar fleece.

Keep in mind that as fleece comes in many types, you may have to look at a few types before you come to a decision. For instance, French terry looks a lot lighter than polar fleece.

Desired softness level is also different for each person. Sherpa is fluffy, but its fibers may be too scratchy for sensitive skin.

Similarly, fleece is soft, but it may not be as luxurious as a sherpa. Think about these factors before settling on a fabric.

Lastly, fabric weight can make a huge difference in how comfortable the garment is. Sherpa isn’t necessarily lightweight, but it isn’t as thick as fleece varieties.

If you care about having a softer coat, a sherpa-lined coat will keep you cozy. Those that care more about having thicker outerwear should go for polar fleece.

Frequently Asked Questions

Get your last-minute questions answered here!

What Is Warmer, Fleece Or Sherpa? 

Sherpa is one of the warmest styles of fleece around. Some kinds of fleece, like French Terry, are lighter, so they’re not as warm to wear. However, polar fleece is a fabric that is much warmer than Sherpa.

This material is designed to be worn during winter activities, so it’s designed to keep the wearer as warm as possible. 

Why Is Sherpa Expensive?

Sherpa can be more expensive because of the way it’s produced. Its fibers are shorter and compact, creating a tufty effect on the front. The fibers fix together on the back to create a smooth, soft material. 

Sherpa has an interesting appearance on the front, but a back that’s warm and comfortable against the skin. It also stops the fabric from shedding as much when it’s cut. As a lot goes into Sherpa’s construction, it can cost a lot to purchase. 

What Season Do You Wear Sherpa?

Sherpa and teddy-style clothing are popular in fall and winter. The fabric is comfortable and cozy to wear during the colder months.

Sherpa is also a good alternative to expensive wool outerwear. It looks good among a range of different outfits and helps keep the wearer warm, all while remaining stylish. 

Conclusion

There you have it! These are some of the main differences between sherpa and fleece.

These two fabrics are both soft and comfortable to wear in colder months, but they do have several differences.

You now know that sherpa is made to look like sheepskin, while all types of fleece will have a brushed, velvety nap on their side.

Both Sherpa and fleece are easy to clean, but don’t put these fabrics in the dryer! Heat can make the fibers shrink, particularly if they use artificial fibers.

This applies to ironing too. Don’t iron sherpa or fleece as the heat can burn or even melt the fabric’s fibers.

Amanda Brown

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