Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore the potentially conflicting positive and negative ethical aspects of wool apparel and the relative importance of these ethical attributes when consumers in the USA make wool apparel purchase decisions. Design/methodology/approach: A two-stage mixed-method approach was used to explore the positive and negative ethical aspects of wool apparel and the relative importance of these ethical attributes in wool apparel purchase decisions. First, focus groups were used to identify ethical attributes that were important to wool apparel consumers in the USA. In the second stage, a conjoint survey was used to estimate the relative importance of the ethical and product attributes that were identified in the focus groups and the trade-offs made within this attribute set. Findings: Seven themes of ethical issues related to wool apparel consumption emerged during the focus groups: animal welfare, workers' rights, environmental impact, extrinsic attributes, natural wool, country of origin (COO) and fair trade. In the conjoint analysis respondents identified COO as having the highest relative importance, followed by price, brand, ethical attributes and style. A cluster analysis of survey responses suggested there were two clusters that differed in the importance they attached to ethical labelling issues in wool apparel. The first cluster, did not place a great deal of importance on the ethical labelling issues included in the study, however, the second smaller cluster, ethical issues, specifically the humane treatment of sheep, were considered most important. Originality/value: The study identified wool apparel attributes that were valued by American consumers. That product attributes were more important than ethical attributes suggests a focus on ethical credentials alone may not be effective in wool marketing. Wool apparel was more likely to be purchased by American consumers if they were made in the USA, reasonably priced, made by an independent brand, from humanely produced wool and in a comfortable style. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.