How to (and How Not To) Layer Up: A Polar-tech Polemic.
Do you want to be this guy? Go right ahead.
I know it’s cold out, so I’m going to be gentle, here. Very gentle, and yet quite firm.
I say, gently-but-firmly: no fleece indoors.
I know, I know. Fleece is a perfectly rational material to wear in the chilly months: it’s cold outside, it’s drafty in the office, and fleece! Fleece is the miracle cloth that keeps hikers and kayakers and volunteers at the State Park visitor’s center warm. It’s light! It’s durable! So… wear it inside!
You can. But you really shouldn’t.
Let me put on my teacher hat and explain why.
Menswear borrows from about 100 years worth of cultural context. Browse the racks in any store, and you will see items nodding towards their roots: classic Americana. Preppie. Glam Rock and Roll. Vintage rock. Outdoorsman. College professor. Worker/trucker. Urban/Streetwear. In every case, the material and the style have a story to tell, and also an aesthetic: the clean simplicity of a white t-shirt and jeans. The trim, jaunty design of a cardigan. The dignified structure of a tweed blazer. The trim sportiness of a well-fitting polo shirt. In every case, there was once a cultural context that gave it rise, but its inherent aesthetic gave it enduring life.
Fleece: performance clothing for hiking. And not for…well, anything else.
Fleece, however, was synthesized as a technical fabric. It doesn’t drape like cotton or wool, and it pills about two days after you buy it. Perhaps as a result (excepting a brief period in the late 90s when companies were hawking it as a “performance” item) it remains, to this day, a technical garment. It’s the uniform of a wooded or rocky trail, but it lacks the aesthetic of a well-made flannel.
If you could ask it: “Hey, fleece, do you WANT to be worn to the office? To a party? To a pub?”
It would say, “No, kind owner. Thank you for asking, but kindly wear me only when you’re hiking and then leave me in the bin along with my buddies, the Vasque boots and the L.L. Bean Trail Pants.”
If I have any friends left after my anti-fleece polemic, I’d like to share my tips on layering up for the chilly winter months.
When it’s a bit chilly out, layer on a denim jacket.
Denim stands up to a cold breeze it but won’t crimp your style, and you can pair it with pretty much anything.
And over that, a tweed or corduroy blazer.
For non-stop compliments, pair the whole thing with a knit tie.
3. Look for a sweater that looks like a jacket. Or a jacket that feels like a sweater.
4. Try a baseball-jacket.
But keep it grey, black, or navy.
5. Find a blazer made of jersey (“sweatshirt”) material.
Now you have five alternatives to your fuzzy vest. Choose one, and wear it all winter long.
As for your beloved polar-tech gear, by all means. Wear it wherever you want. But be aware: it starts with “No one’s around the office, I’m just gonna slip this on for a few minutes.” Then, it’s a slippery slope down the hiking trail of dorkdom. Next thing you know, you’ll be watching Perfect Strangers reruns while wearing a Spider-man Snuggie.
“What!?! It’s warm!”