Leading article: Material world

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Wool is the latest commodity that has shot through the roof. Thanks to tropical storms in Australia (which have disrupted production) and rising demand in China, the global price of the material, harvested from the backs of sheep, has doubled. This is expected to lead to a 10 per cent increase in the typical price of a man's suit. So expect a jump in popularity for linen ensembles. And other cheaper materials will get a boost too as the laws of supply and demand do their work.

But we suspect that nothing will ever take the place of wool. One only needs to look how many metaphors we derive from the soft stuff to see how central it is in human life. When we're deceived we have the "wool pulled over our eyes". Those who are deeply associated with a cause or an ideology are said to be "dyed-in-the-wool". The Psalms have a God who "giveth snow like wool: he scattereth the hoar-frost like ashes".

It is hard to imagine God giving the snow like polyester. Will we ever have the nylon pulled over our eyes? There will surely never be myths written about the quest for the golden Gore-Tex jacket.

No matter what happens to the price, wool will always be there. Or is that just woolly thinking?

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