Last week’s polar vortex (a phrase now forever in the American vocabulary) taught us athing or two about dressing for the cold. The real cold. The first thing it taught us was that there is actually no way to dress for the subzero, even subarctic cold. The second thing it taught us was that if we do have to venture outside——as our ancestors must’ve done regularly and survived—-is that we need to layer much more than fashion dictates. There are ways, however, to still be stylish on the brutally cold days and remain somewhat warm. For a few minutes, anyway.
Wool is terrifically warm, and washed wool even warmer. Washing sweaters makes them thicker, but also shrinks them, so a thick washed wool sweater——this one by the Swedish company Our Legacy, and the Swedes know cold——is a great way to keep the upper body warm without resorting to a puffy vest, which only makes one look, well, puffy (save the puff for outerwear or skiing, if at all). In the next Polar Vortex——and another one is sure to come——I break my rule about tucking any sweater thicker than single ply cashmere into the pants. It keeps the waist terrifically warm, and if your pants aren’t too tight or low-waisted, can be a retro-nerd look that isn’t as unflattering as it sounds.
A parka is essential for any day below 20 degrees, preferably a military quality one (this one an old made in the USA one by Spiewak), and thick wool, not denim, pants. A fluorescent wool watch cap, although not essential, could help to identify one if one is lost, delirious from the cold, or if you just want to draw attention to yourself on a day when no one is actually looking up from the sidewalk.