What to Wear in the Winter
There’s a narrative that a lot of Black folks subscribe to which states that we don’t like or aren’t built for the cold. I subscribe to this myself. I thoroughly hate being cold. I grew up in Alaska and hated every bit of being cold. Over the last year or so, I began looking at what are the factors that contribute to my hatred for being cold. The biggest were preparation and effectiveness of gear.
There is a stereotype that boils my blood about us essentially stating that we are either too cheap or poor to participate in cold, outdoor activities. Yes, winter gear can be wildly expensive and certain activities require proper gear, but investing in something expensive isn’t the first step. Buying the good gear is what you do once you’ve already adventured in that activity and decided you want to continue it.
Let’s talk about your actual clothing and outerwear. Layering is essential to staying warm in the winter. This isn’t just putting layers of clothing on and hoping for the best. Trust me. That was my method and I always was uncomfortable. I learned that there is a strategic method to it.
There are 3 basic layers that you need to stay warm:
1. The base layer - Anything that is body-hugging, think leggings and a fitted long sleeve or simple long johns. If you are just getting started and aren’t ready to invest, polyester is a great base layer. It helps wick away moisture and keep in body heat. Basic cotton isn’t necessarily a great base layer. Avoid it for such. If you have it or are ready to buy something good, merino wool is phenomenal.
2. Mid layer - Consider this as the insulation, it can be anything as simple as wool, fleece, or polyester sweats but should be thick and warm. I said thick, not bulky as bulky can get uncomfortable and once you are uncomfortable, fun is hard to find.
3. Top layer - Depending on the weather (windy/ snowing) this layer should be weatherproof (wind/ waterproof). If you get cold easily, make sure this is still a warm layer but if you are often hot, this layer could be more of a weatherproof shell. This being waterproof is important. If you get wet while out in the cold, you won’t be able to stay warm and you’ll end up miserable.
A good pair of gloves and socks are not an option here. I would recommend buying a pair of GOOD socks, something like merino wool that are meant for winter. You should be able to get these for about $20 through REI. Gloves can be tricky. I actually have a pair of convertible mittens with the mitten part that can pull down.
Your momma was always right. You gotta cover your head. However, as we are grown and covering your head may look different depending on how you are rocking your hair. If you can fit a winter hat, a thick, insulated one is your go-to. If your hair is big or doesn’t fit under a hat, get an insulated headband/ ear cover.
Places you can buy winter gear
It was important to me once I decided to begin buying effective gear that I paid attention to the price point as it was also my research for realistically relaying this information to you. Also, none of my suggestions are sponsored… yet.
One of the brands that I have really loved, especially for an affordable base layer is Uniqlo. They have a line called HEATTECH that I often wear as a base layer under all my clothes in the winter and fuck, they’re good. I have layered a base layer in 40-degree weather with jeans and a hoodie and I have layered their HEATTECH ULTRA as a base layer in 10-degree weather in full gear. I am never toasty in the winter outside but baby lemme tell you. I was toasty and impressed. Other brands I would recommend for a base layer include REI or Smartwool.
For my mid-layer, I either wear one of * The Unpopular Black’s* long sleeves or crew necks because they are legit warm or I have a couple of really thick and cute fleeces from Target that are polyester and a couple of Pendleton wool button-ups that I also would wear. I got my Pendleton button-ups from a local consignment store.
Your outer layers look like your typical winter coat and snow pants (should be waterproof though). I have a really warm coat and pair of winter pants from Uniqlo that were pretty inexpensive. You can find some good, waterproof snow pants at Target for cheap if you are just getting started.
Places like *REI* have a big “garage sale” a few times a year that have great discounts. Also checking with your local sports consignment stores. If the idea of used makes you feel weird, don’t let it. Buy your base layers new and build onto your gear with used gear. That way, it doesn’t touch you, technically. You should wash used gear anyways.
ALSO, are there any winter rental shops near you? A lot of equipment rental will also have some clothing gear to rent also.
The best times to buy winter gear are
I kind of went nuts buying winter coats this year. It was the Black Friday deals that got me. Outside of Black Friday, end of season or summer sales for winter gear are FIRE.
This feels obvious. Once you get cold or wet, your ass is gonna be miserable and it will reflect on your whole experience. Trust me, I have done it.
As always, if you have any questions or thoughts, reach out any time.