Six Secrets To (Really) Dressing Warm This Winter
Mr Matt LeBlanc in “The One Where No One’s Ready”, Friends, Season 3, Episode 2 (1996). Photograph by NBC Universal/Alamy
“Can’t wait until it gets colder so I can really start dressin’” reads a meme that gets tossed about the internet right around this time every year. It’s an optimistic, self-explanatory quip usually accompanied by a picture of cosy-looking character – notable examples include Cowboy BeBop’s Spike Spiegel wearing a plum-coloured puffer jacket, Joey Tribbiani wearing too many clothes and a Canadian goose wrapped in a scarf.
The point is simple: it’s much easier to be stylish in the cold. There’s nowhere to hide gym-phobic limbs or a wobbly mid-section in T-shirts and shorts. But when the mercury drops, you can swaddle yourself in a cashmere rollneck, indulge in the gravitas of a knee-length car coat, or stomp around town in some hiking boots and immediately look… well, like you’ve really started dressing again.
The dilemma, or course, is that keeping out a Baltic breeze isn’t as simple as “wearing more clothes”. To find out what actually works, we’ve enlisted the help of some cold-weather clothing experts who gave us the following indispensable advice for dressing smarter – as in using your brain – this winter.
Make friends with merino
A knitted sweater in winter? Groundbreaking. A knitted sweater crafted from soft, merino wool, however, will make all the difference. “Merino wool is an active fibre that reacts to your body temperature, making it temperature regulating, keeping cool in the summer and trapping heat in the winter,” says Ms Claire French, the design manager of MR PORTER’s private label Mr P. “It has the temperature benefits of regular wool but without the bulk and itchy handle feel, making it extremely comfortable and lightweight to wear. A merino rollneck prevents a draughty back of the neck and is the ideal base layer for wearing under shirts or outerwear.”
Layer like a pro (not a cake)
Layering works by trapping heat in-between clothing, which is great for warmth, but can sacrifice looking good. “Just layer up,” you cheerily tell yourself as the weather turns, piling whatever you can find before you realise that you have the silhouette of a penguin with a Gorpcore habit. The solution? A well-chosen fleece.
“At this time of year when I’m in the city, I love wearing a technical fleece underneath a more casual-looking jacket as it gives a slim, modern silhouette without compromising on heat or style,” says Mr Darren Shooter, the senior design director at The North Face. “If you get your layers right, then you’re always able to stay warm while remaining comfortable and stylish.”
The fleece has enjoyed a stylish renaissance in recent years, and there are now plenty of reliably good-looking options to choose from, but for warmth, look to brands with technical chops. Shooter wears his own North Face fleece under a padded jacket when the weather is particularly chilly, singling out the brand’s Nuptse and the Himalayan Parka for reliable, winter-beating insulation.
Fire up your colour choices
Colour might not be the first thing you consider when dressing for the cold, but according to the way your brain works, it should be. “Long wavelength colours such as reds and orange and yellows have been found to activate the sympathetic nervous system, that increases things like blood pressure, arousal, and makes you feel more alert,” says Ms Shakaila Forbes-Bell, a fashion psychologist and author of the best-selling Big Dress Energy.
“There’s a lot of research that says people are generally more active when they’re engaged with these colours,” she continues. “When you feel more amped up, you’re obviously going to feel warmer, so those colours should be a go-to.” Orange you glad to know that?
Read up on down
When it comes to serious protection from the cold, no other fabric beats down. “It’s considered the best material [for keeping warm] as it’s great for trapping heat while still allowing the wearer’s body to breathe naturally,” Shooter says. “Plus, it’s light, so the garments always feel great when you put them on as they move so easily.”
Shooter worked with The North Face to create Thermoball Eco and Ventrix, two types of synthetic insulation that he recommends for slightly damper conditions. And resistance to dampness matters, as pro-skier Mr Colter Hinchcliffe explains: “Goose down fill is lighter, comfier, and warm but it clumps when it’s wet. A synthetic fabric such as Polartec, which is fibre rather than feather, maintains its loft very well when it’s wet.”
Hinchcliffe prefers synthetic over down because, unlike a down sleeping bag or jacket that will occasionally spit feathers, synthetic fibres do not require a tight knit face fabric to keep the fibres inside. “This gives the jacket a much better chance to breathe so when you are hiking with it on,” he says. “You don’t feel stuffy and hot.” A light down jacket is his ideal mid layer when on the slopes, he adds.
“High-quality down works well for cold conditions,” says Mr Taka Kasuga, senior director of design at Arc’teryx, citing the brand’s own Cerium range. “It’s lightweight and packable, great to travel. If you’re in wet conditions, it’s a good idea to layer up with a Gore-Tex shell.”
Feel the warmth of nostalgia
Another of Forbes-Bell’s psychological hacks involves taking a sartorial trip down memory lane. One study she cites from the University of Southampton put people in a cold environment where some of the participants were told to keep nostalgia journals. The results showed clearly that the group that engaged in nostalgic thinking felt physically warmer and didn’t feel as much of the negative side effects of the cold.
“Harkening back to the past can actually have the effect of not feeling the harshness of the environment that you’re in,” she says, noting that anything that reminds you of something positive that happened before – be it an old trend or something you used to wear – “can trick your brain into feeling warmer”. In other words, if thinking of the duffle coat you wore as a five-year-old makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, now might be the perfect time to reintroduce one to your wardrobe.
Change your socks – and often
It’s not uncommon to feel the cold first in your feet – and there’s a reason to this, beyond them being extremities on the end of your legs. “Your feet produce more moisture than any spot on your body,” outdoor expert Mr Drew Hansen recently told The Guardian. He suggested switching out cotton socks for woollen ones, which are better at wicking away sweat. “But even hikers who use wool socks, we change them out a couple times a day, and definitely before bed.”