Some good labels to help you stay warm this winter.
Since winter seems to be so suddenly upon us, and since the energy companies are screwing everyone over by putting up their prices, I thought I’d recommend some clothing to keep out the chills.
I favour two types of thermals – thin silk or merino ones for chill spring and autumn days and serious base layers for winter. The former I buy from Winter Silks, which does a wide range of different styles and weights. Take notice of their snowflake rating and buy according to your lifestyle – for going out and about, activity or sleeping, you need the thin type, but for sitting around on your bum in cold temperatures, you need the three-snowflake rating. M&S also used to do good merinos – I’ve had a set from here that have lasted 20 years – but they seem to have discontinued the practice and the specialist providers are expensive.
For serious base layers, I recommend the Superwoman set from Five Seasons, available from many sporting outlets. You can get many other types of thermal, but for cost/performance, I don’t think these can be beaten. Made from Climate Control wicking fabric, they feel silky and smooth against the skin and for warmth, they knock Thermolactyl and other such fabrics into a cocked hat. I have six sets of these thermals and live in them all winter.
On absolutely bitter days, I wear Regatta base layers over the Superwomans – these are thin fleece and are a bit tight in the knees, but they do have the advantage of being very, very cheap. Again, they are available from numerous sportswear outlets
Fleece-lined tights are a godsend if you have to wear skirts, and they go neatly inside boots. I got mine on Ebay, from Japan.
A new discovery for me here is Corrymoor. They were recommended in Men’s Health magazine, in the trekking section, and I’ve just placed my second order. Corrymoor is a small independent British company and they breed their own mohair goats. The socks, in a wide range of styles and colours, are mohair with some added nylon for strength, and they are brilliant. Wearing these, I can walk around at home in sandals instead of needing my Uggs. The only types I’ve tried are the Explorer – the firm’s warmest sock with a thick terry-towelling style knit, and the Companion, which is shorter and less thick and which, on me, wears best as an ankle sock. I was going to order the Eventer and the Sportsman, which are spring/autumn weight, but I’ve decided the time is now past for that and it will keep for next spring. I have, however, ordered Woodlanders, which are like Companions but much longer. All the socks come in a wide range of colours and also have the useful attribute of being antibacterial, so you can wear them (in my experience) for about six days without them getting whiffy, which means you only need a couple of pairs that you can alternate.
It has to be Uggs, of course. The best sole I’ve ever found is from the Celtic Sheepskin Company, but they have stopped doing the coloured Uggs I liked so much and now only sell in shades of brown, black and grey. So this year, I’ll be ordered Harmony
Uggs from Australian Ugg Boots, which look far less industrial.
For winter wellies, I wear the Parcours Iso walking wellie with neoprene lining from Aigle. These are a serious investment at around £160 a pair but mine are about 17 years old and still going strong, and you could stand all day in ice water in them and never get cold feet. Shock-absorbing and perfect for dog-walking. They have just updated the design to incorporate some new features.
For lightweight warmth, you can’t beat fleece, in my opinion, and the best I’ve found is the stretch fleece from US firm Land’s End. I now own vast quantities of these fleeces, mainly polonecks, which I tend to buy a size bigger and in ‘long’, to wear like a tunic. They come in a wide range of colours and look very smart, and you can choose from v-necks, round necks, cardigan styles, gilets, hoodies etc. If you find them too bulky, try the microfleeces from Craghoppers or Berghaus, though the style is usually limited to a zip-neck top as these items are really designed for hiking.
IMHO, wool does not come close to the warmth of fleece, but if you prefer wool, the best for warmth are alpaca, cashmere and Shetland, best bought from a specialist supplier such as Braemar (with price tag to match). I own a lot of cashmere, mainly vintage, and all the best ones are by Braemar, Pringle and Italian manufacturers. Needless to say, at £600 or so a pop, I do not buy these new.
For at-home wear I very much like stretch fleece pants from Land’s End, with a drawstring waist, and pockets, but they do pill and aren’t really suitable for outdoor use. Outside I wear Kiwi winter trousers with a built-in fleece lining from Craghoppers. They’re not what you’d call stylish trousers, as they’re designed for hiking and therefore have a narrow calf to avoid flapping about as you walk, but they’re comfortable, practical and damn-near indestructible. For more stylish wear, I love my tweed trousers from Boden, which are much warmer than wearing cotton trousers such as jeans, but this year the firm only seems to be doing crops, which is a disappointment.
Generally, I sleep in a cashmere poloneck and bamboo wicking pj trousers from Cool Sleepwear, but I have just bought a pair of fleece pyjamas from M and Co, in order to give them a try. My big sis bought me a fleece onesie from the market a couple of years ago and I am also quite tempted to wear that as a sleepsuit – certainly no chance of draughts! Trouble is, it’s really the kind of thing you’d rather wear when no-one can see you…
For casual wear, I wear a range of coats from Lands’ End, including a Marinac jacket and the Squall Parka with fleece lining, all of which can be machine-washed at home. This year, I am very tempted by the Squall Stadium coat from the same firm, which is a lot longer. I bought my short parka in bright canary yellow to be visible when walking the dog, and for town, red would stray dangerously close to Don’t Look Now territory, so I’ll probably end up opting for navy or black.