Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What We Wear In Winter: A Guide

grey worsteds
The Sales have begun. Actually, many of them began before Christmas this year. We can pick up a few essentials at excellent prices. Here's a simple guide, especially for young men starting a wardrobe.

Our advice is to get in the habit of buying fewer things and paying a little more for quality and classic style. That said, especially for the young, don't be afraid of great stylish values, like a coat from Uniglo, once in a while. Finally, you will need some "annuals:" even good socks wear out at the heels, and you will lose that glove.

Wear wool trousers, not cotton in winter. Wearing cotton khakis in winter (or any other time at the office) is a sure sign of someone who is not paying attention. Ditto corduroy at more formal offices. We should wear worsted wool, preferably grey in a comfortable weave. Flannel trousers may work for you in January & February (see note below on suits).

Get and wear merino wool knee-length socks; Brooks Brothers is expert at this (and, sadly, not much else these days, except boxers). Remember to get the ones with the elastic at the top, unless you expect Jeeves to lay-out your braces in the dressing room each morning.

merino knee-length
We can still wear mid-to-heavy weave dark blue-wash denim to an office in winter , when appropriate, and for social engagements. Just be sure to wear those merino knee-lengths to keep your legs warm and a mid-length coat.

Flannel suits? Maybe you saw them on Mad Men but,  remember, you saw a lot of stuff there that either never happened in real, real life or shouldn't have. Contemporary homes, stores and offices are too warm for flannel suits. If you must do it, make sure that you've been exercising. Flannel favors those who are trim.

Barbour in winter? We think Barbour coats were and are a brilliant idea, but we also think their liners make for a bulky fit over suit-coats or blazers. Try a Lands End Commuter Coat, which keeps you very warm and, at $179, is a great value: also the Squall Parka.

Uniglo thermal coat 
Overcoats: That longish herringbone overcoat or, even worse, that velvet-collared chesterfield that Santa (mom) brought you one Christmas? No, not if you're wearing proper clothing underneath (you can actually wear this with dark denim) . Who wants to do business or fall in love with Holden Caufield IV? Nobody, that's who. Uniglo makes a remarkably affordable mid-length overcoat in navy.

Gloves, hat, scarf? Yes, yes, and yes. But, why pay $125 for a pair of black leather gloves, when you know you'll lose a left or right again*? Orvis makes a very good pair in black and brown (about $60). Hat? The new-style fedoras are nice in late fall and early spring, but, unless yours has ear-flaps, forget them. As you may know, we are true believers in Saint James Watch Caps from France. Scarf? You only need one: Patagonia fleece in black ($30), an indispensable great value.

Thinking about leaving the house without a hat in real winter, or worse, wearing that ball-cap? Do yourself a favor: don't.

SJ Cap/Fleece Scarf
Long-johns? Okay, if you're skiing or skating outdoors, or chasing that caribou through the north woods for that very special stew recipe from gramps before he went away to the home. Basically, if you really had to wear longs to work or a party, you should grab Tolstoy from the shelf, light the fire, settle in with your loved one, and don't even think about going out.

You're welcome.

One last note: Twice each year, we recommend that you look in the closet and drawers with an honest eye to those items you simply do not wear and probably never will. Give them away. Pruning after winter and summer will train you to have less, but to invest in things you will wear proudly for a long time. Tomas Maier, the German designer, says that we can be very well dressed having only two suits, or even one which we replace now and then. True.

* If you can afford it, buy two pair of the same gloves once you know they are good ones. Or, buy one dark brown and one black, since you can easily mix and match. You know you will lose one glove each winter, and so you will still of have a left and a right. If you lose two lefts or rights, please return your RareBurghers membership card and put your hands in your pockets.

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