Sometimes, endlessly singing the praises of your favorite fictional universes can pay off. Such was the case with Brandon Sanderson’s Cosmere, when a friend who doesn’t read a whole lot finally picked up one of the books. It took some coaxing—in the form of a suggested reading order, a Please Adapt column, and this Stormlight primer (spoiler-free)—but my buddy finally made the leap into Sanderson’s interconnected world.
Still very new to the whole Cosmere thing but enjoying The Way of Kings, he called me and opened with this gem of a line: “Dude…you’re right. The Cashmere is sweet.”
Ding! The invisible light bulb above my head flickered on, and I emailed my editor: “How about a piece exploring which Cosmere planets would be most/least friendly to a cashmere sweater?”
What did my editor say? Well, you’re reading this piece right now, aren’t you?
Cashmere Cosmere Criteria
I considered three things when evaluating how cashmere would function in Cosmere worlds:
- Climate: does the daily temperature and humidity make for ideal cashmere conditions?
- Magic: would the world’s magic make cashmere a workable fabric?
- Culture: how would cashmere clothing be received if worn in public?
I did not worry about whether any of these planets would have goats or similar animals from which to obtain cashmere wool, and just assumed the existence of cashmere clothing for the purposes of this scenario. With these things in mind, let’s become worldhoppers and see how cashmere fares in the primary planets of the Cosmere!
Oh, and very quickly, some mild spoilers (think planet names and magic system details) follow.
Let’s kick things off with a big win: Nalthis tops the list. It’s the best place in the Cosmere for a cashmere sweater, scarf, what-have-you.
Climate represents the only real hurdle. Nalthis has a jungle-esque climate in many of its regions, even though we know little about wide swathes of the planet. For a fabric that famously keeps things warm, Nalthis might not seem like a perfect fit. Still, seaside breezes in T’Telir (the capital of Hallandren) could make for sweater weather from time to time.
Nalthis’ Awakening allows its users to endow objects with capital-B Breath and command said object to do basic things. So, should you have a laundry accident, the magic system of Nalthis makes un-shrinking your clothing a breeze! Simply Awaken the sweater and command it to stretch back out. Bada-bing, bada boom, you’re back in (fashionable) action.
Speaking of fashion, the city of T’Telir oozes gorgeous colors and quirky styles. A cashmere sweater would be all the rage in Hallandren’s capital, pined after by all of the city’s trendiest wearers.
Nalthis Cashmere Rating: 8/10
Roshar (The Stormlight Archive)
Oof, tough one.
Roshar’s ecology makes cashmere a hard sell unless you live in the mostly temperate Shinovar. Otherwise, you run into the planet’s ultimate cashmere killer: highstorms. Massive storms ravage Roshar’s supercontinent regularly, bringing rain and devastation with them. Wet, soggy cashmere means a huge point reduction for Roshar’s overall score.
Surgebinding offsets the effect of highstorms somewhat. Cohesion allows certain surgebinders—Willshapers and Stonewardens—to manipulate matter on a molecular level. Similar to Nalthis’ Awakening above, there’s a case to be made for this magic’s use in unshrinking cashmere, or possibly cleaning in a world that isn’t kind to delicate fabrics in general. Problem is, there are so few Radiants in the current era of Roshar. The Willshapers or Stonewardens who are available have other things to worry about. The magic might technically be great for cashmere, but on a practical level it’s not very feasible.
As for culture, Adolin might be the most likely to seize on a new fabric and flaunt his finery in front of the other Brightlords. But overall, in a world built to function around regular storms, wars, and class distinctions, cashmere just doesn’t seem like it’d break through in a meaningful way.
Roshar Cashmere Rating: 3/10
Here’s an interesting case. Mistborn Era 1 and the Wax & Wayne series show us two very different versions of Scadrial. (If you wish to avoid minor setup spoilers for the latter, skip this section and pick up with the discussion of Sel below!)
In Mistborn and its two sequels, the world is covered in ash and mist. See the issue? Water vapor constantly bombarding cashmere is a recipe for disaster.
Allomancy and Scadrial’s other magic systems do next to nothing to help us here. Everything on Scadrial revolves around using metals to achieve specific effects, or to store and transfer power. Again, I could see cashmere garments being a hit with high society, maybe as a fashionable new material for the shawls of the ladies attending various balls, but beyond the most elite levels, the culture and climate of Scadrial makes caring for cashmere a virtual non-starter.
Shift forward in time, then, to the Wax and Wayne series, and some of these problems go away. The climate is better, but mists still exist. The magic evolves, though not in any way that’d improve the longevity of cashmere. Only cultural improvements—industrialization, including the advent of widespread electricity—make cashmere any more viable in the second Mistborn series. Even then, there isn’t much of a case to be made for the gentle fabric in a cruel world.
Scadrial Cashmere Rating: 1/10
Sel (Elantris, The Emperor’s Soul)
We don’t know a ton about Sel’s climate, though it’s reasonable to assume it varies by region, much like our world.
The magic holds interesting cashmere implications. Forgery could be useful, here: Stamp the fabric so it becomes more durable, less prone to shrinking, that sort of thing. An economical use of the magic? Heck, no, but we’re here to describe whether we could do something, not whether we should. Meanwhile, Elantrians could use the AonDor to amplify the efficacy of Cashmere…at least, I think they could? The magic of Sel is not as clear as other types of Investiture.
Sel’s culture makes cashmere a shoo-in. The royals we meet in Elantris love to flaunt their wealth ostentatiously. No better way than to enjoy soft, warm, luxurious cashmere. Comfort and style are among its advantages, but when there’s money to be made, the nobles will be all over it.
Sel Cashmere Rating: 8/10
Taldain (White Sand)
HA! A desert world baked by the sun? Who needs cashmere clothing here?
But wait, Taldain’s Darkside is captured in an endless night. It’s not quite cold enough to be outright wintry on Darkside, but it is cold enough to make cashmere a useful fabric. Half the planet has a climate-related use for cashmere’s lightweight warmth.
Taldain’s main magic is Sand Mastery, and while it’s really cool, there’s no application to cashmere. I do think there’s a cultural case for cashmere on Darkside, where temperatures are low and warmth could be a commodity. However, we know comparatively little about Darkside because White Sand focuses on Dayside, so I’m not going to give this too much weight.
Taldain Cashmere Rating: 4/10
And the Rest!
Before we finish up, I’ll cover a few other Cosmere worlds very briefly:
- Lumar (Tress of the Emerald Sea): Neutral ground for cashmere. No big magic uses, but acceptable in the world’s culture for sure. 5/10.
- First of the Sun (Sixth of the Dusk): Wet, jungle-ridden, and Aviars seem likely to pick at loose threads. 1/10.
- Threnody (Shadows for Silence in the Forests of Hell): Heavily wooded, trees could pull and damage threads. Also home to terrifying shades; warmth and comfort are must-haves. Meet in the middle. 5/10.