Are Austrian sweaters always made from boiled wool?
No. Americans often mistakenly call a sweater the garment Austrians refer to as a ‘walkjacke’ which they differentiate from a sweater. In German a sweater is called a ‘pulli’ or ‘pullover’. Americans often lump the two together in the sweater category or sometimes call it a cardigan. However the proper translation for a ‘walkjacke’ is a boiled wool jacket because it’s not worn quite the same as a sweater. While a sweater or a boiled wool jacket can be worn as a final layer in cool weather, you can put a sport jacket or blazer over a sweater – but you would not put a blazer over a boiled wool jacket. However you could put a Loden overcoat over a boiled wool jacket, and therein lies the difference.
How to wear a Boiled Wool Jacket
A sweater can be worn underneath a sport coat or a blazer, but a boiled wool jacket would be too thick and since it’s a button up, it would look silly. However they can be worn underneath a traditional Austrian overcoat, like the ‘Shiver No More’, 'Tirol' or the ‘Silvia’.
The obvious reason is that a sweater is made from a very loose stretchy fabric (typically wool) that has not undergone the ‘boiling’ process. If you actually boiled a wool sweater it would be very very difficult to put on, because it would be half its original size and not stretch at all! – good luck putting that one on! If you’ve ever accidentally thrown a wool sock in a hot wash you will understand :)
Now it should be clear why boiled wool jackets are button ups, because you wouldn’t be able to pull them over your head like you can a sweater. And that is exactly why Austrians call a sweater a ‘pullover’ or 'pulli'. Austrians have a tradition of beautiful knit wool sweaters and they deserve to be given their own category and not lumped in with the also beautiful category of ‘walk’ (boiled wool). And just to correct one more misnomer, the water temperature used to ‘boil’ a jacket is only 86 degrees Fahrenheit so it’s never boiling! Using warm water for many hours is much more effective.