Winter’s finally here, and a cool breeze is blowing away all that hot dust in the northern plains. But in the colder northern part of the country, it can get really cold. So what are you supposed to do, apart from pulling on your grandma’s “woolens and mittens”?
As the legendary British explorer Sir Rannulph Fiennes once said, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”. There are many clothing options today, which are lightweight, very warm, and windproof. Whether you live in Delhi or Drass, it’s time to get your winter look on! Here is how:
1. Dress in layers
The most important thing to remember during the cold season is to dress in layers. Winter temps in India can range from a balmy 30 degrees, to a bone-chilling – 25 degrees in the mountains!
In northern cities like Delhi, “generally it’s hot during the day and cold at night, so layering is a good idea,” says Akaaro‘s designer Gaurav Jai Gupta. For a laid-back option, “I’d go for a T-shirt and jumper, to be comfortable for the whole day”.
For younger, collegiate types, a T-shirt and hoody is one option, says Gupta. On the other hand, a more classic look would be layering a shirt with a sweater and/or a blazer, depending on the temperature.
2. Dress for your activity
If you’re going to be active, make sure you wear technical fabrics, says Mohit Oberoi, outdoor athlete and owner of Adventure 18, an outdoor clothing and equipment retail chain. “Technical fabrics — made from man-made fibres — wick away the sweat from your body, which makes sure you don’t get damp and cold”. So if you’re playing tennis out, wear a tech T-shirt, not a cotton one. Cotton absorbs sweat and becomes damp and heavy. This is fine for summers, when you need to be constantly wet to cool down. But in winters it’s uncomfortable at best, and unhealthy to deadly at worst.
On the other hand, if you’re going to just be sitting around or hanging out with friends, anything warm works — from fleece pullovers to wool blazers.
3. Fleece or wool? Twenty-first century fabrics
Remember your old and itchy woollen sweaters? There’s a reason you were cold and uncomfortable in them. Today’s fabrics include super-warm and lightweight polar fleeces, which mimic the softness and warmth of good quality wool, but weigh much, much less. Brands like Patagonia use recycled PET bottles to make their fleeces, making it the fabric of choice for eco-friendly and vegan users.
But is wool dead? Not at all. “Wool is very a classic fabric”, says Gupta. “In India, we have local weavers in Kullu and Manali, creating great fabrics in muted colours, in mohair and yak wool”. In particular, Gupta thinks yak wool is a great alternative, because it is more resistant to water. Also, Australian and New Zealand brands are also promoting Merino wool, a much softer and finer fabric than old-school wool.
The bottom line is, both polar fleeces and wool will keep you warm — but you have to be choosier about the kind of wool you get.
4. Don’t forget a jacket
If you’re stepping out for the day, make sure you carry some kind of jacket. More than the ambient temperature, it’s the cold wind that really bites. So you need a wind-blocking garment — be it a bomber leather jacket, or a nylon windcheater, or a lined blazer.
One new type of garment that filtering into everyday life from the mountaineering and trekking world is the softshell. “A softshell is basically a windproof, water-resistant fleece, that allows your body to breathe well, but blocks wind and light rain easily”, says Oberoi. And if you’re heading into the mountains for a winter vacation, you might want something even more high-tech — such as waterproof/breatheable hardshell jackets. These completely block all outside moisture and wind, while still allowing your body to breathe — a critical factor in mountain sports. Many brands now use the same high-tech materials for everyday clothing.
So there you have it — appropriate clothing to beat the winter, no matter how bad the weather!
Apoorva Prasad is the managing editor of Men’s Life Today India, and has written for Maxim, Men’s Health, Gizmodo, Outlook Traveller among various other publications. He’s also spent a long time staying warm in cold places.