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This Spider Silk Hat Keeps You Warm With Biotechnology

But it’ll cost you.

A hat is essential for keeping warm on a cold winter’s night–and your best bet is usually wool. But a new hat from the materials company Bolt Threads is made out of an entirely new kind of this tried-and-true material: manmade spider silk. The hat, a collaboration between Bolt Threads and the clothing company it recently acquired, Best Made, is made of 60% rambouillet wool and 40% bioengineered silk. The silk material has the same molecular structure as real spider silk–but instead it’s made of sugar, water, salts, and yeast.

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Harvesting spider silk is a difficult problem, not only because you need a lot of spiders to make a usable amount, but because it’s challenging to keep spiders in captivity–they tend to eat each other if they’re in close proximity. Yet the material is renowned for its strength, as well as its softness, breathability, and warmth, and making an artificial version that can be mass-produced would be a significant technological advance.

[Photo: Bolt Threads]
The San Francisco-based Bolt Threads has been working on its faux spider silk material for several years, and earlier this year the company launched its first garment at SXSW: a $314 tie made entirely of the synthetic silk, of which there were only 50 available. To bring the company’s “Microsilk” to a wider audience, the company collaborated with the designer Stella McCartney earlier. McCartney created a Microsilk dress for the Museum of Modern Art exhibition Items: Is Fashion Modern?, as well as two other garments for Paris Fashion Week.

For the company’s latest collaboration with Best Made, only 100 caps in different colors and patterns will be sold, which makes these first two limited-run products more akin to proofs of concept than full-fledged consumer products. Each of the caps cost a whopping $198, an indication that the company hasn’t quite figured out how to bring the material to the mainstream just yet. But maybe one day, we’ll all be running around in synthetic spider silk garments like everyday Spidermen and Spiderwomen.

About the author

Katharine Schwab is a contributing writer at Co.Design based in New York who covers technology, design, and culture.

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