Winter Wear Basics?


Senior Member
Hello everyone, as I have lived in a relatively warm climate all my life, I consider my "winter wear" skills to be quite lacking. A typical casual outfit for me outside of winter might consist of some chino pants, a sport shirt, and some boat shoes / driving shoes / loafers / suede anythings. Then in the winter, I just wear the same thing and toss on a jacket over it, and that basically makes up my entire collection of casual winter outfits. (sometimes I might rotate in some cords instead of chinos, but the basic idea is still the same, regular outfit + jacket and thats it).

My jacket collection consists of 1 down jacket and 1 leather hooded jacket.

I was wondering if this is basically what most of you do in the winter, just wear a regular outfit that you might wear any other time of the year and then put a jacket over it and call it a day, or if there are some better or more interesting things I could be trying - especially in regards to shoes, jackets, tops, etc.

Secondly, I am planning a 3-week trip to London the first week of January, and I understand it will be much colder than here. Should I buy some leather gloves or something? Wear 2 jackets at the same time? As you can see I really have no idea what to wear in cold weather. Plus, here we drive everywhere anyway, so even if it's extremely cold it really doesn't matter because you'll only be outside for a minute at the most, whereas when I'm on vacation I spend most of my time outside walking around.

So basically my 2 questions are:
1) Should I do anything to improve my standard winter outfits?
2) What should I do/get in preparation of an even colder climate (assuming I still want to dress nice and fashionably).


A lifelong California resident, I have had a number of cold weather travel and residential aventures.

The link <> is to O'Connell's winter overcoat catalog entries. You can get an idea of what sort of outer layer you might need, depending on your style preferences and budget.

Whatever else you acquire for winter wear, you ought to get a pair of winter gloves. You can probably buy a pair when you arrive in London. You would probabaly find a wool scarf useful. If you are lucky, you may be there for post-xmas sales.

Years ago, while living in the NY metropolitan region I had an Eddie Bauer "Jet Commuter" trenchcoat with a zip-out down liner. It was quite useful. I have subsequently resisted the temptation to buy a heavy dress topcoat. But I do have heavy winter coats long enough to wear over a suit or sportcoat.

It would be worthwhile to look into the weather in London.

I'm sure our UK and other European forum members will be able to provide much more specific advice than this.

Hope this is helpful.

Have a good trip,


Active Member with Corp. Privileges
In answer to your first question, no, I don't put on a coat over my summerweight clothes when it's winter. Then again, although I currently live in a warm area, I'm from a cold area originally.

I wear a down jacket when I go skiing. I don't wear one around town because I am not a professional rapper.

A good topcoat will serve you well. It's an extremely useful garment to own. Camel hair is nice. Wool will do. If you don't anticipate needing one often, check thrift stores and Jos A. Bank (great quality? Certainly not. Good deals? Occasionally). A heavy tweed is another useful winter material.

Should you buy gloves? Probably, because buttoning shirt buttons and tying a tie is immensely difficult after you get frostbite and your fingers fall off.

Your "normal" wardrobe makes no mention of a jacket of any sort. A wool blazer seems as necessary in any man's wardrobe as a black belt. Bring one or more for your trip to London, not just because of the warmth but because there are many things to do in London which necessitate a coat and tie (such as the theatre). You will feel underdressed without one.

You mention your "preparation [for] an even colder climate." Are you moving? Or are you just preparing for your London trip? London is very cold in winter, and it's the sort of humid cold that chills you to the bone. Use common sense. It's better to be fashion-backward than to catch pneumonia.

If it is financially feasible for you, you'll (obviously) have an astonishing array of fine menswear available for purchase in London. Go to Jermyn Street and have fun! (I went to London in 10th grade, skipped the London Eye and went straight to Ben Silver/Benson and Clegg to buy shirts).

Buy turtlenecks in muted, solid colors. Hard to go wrong with grey or black or even plum. You can wear them with or without a jacket; they go with almost everything; they will keep you warm.

Leave your suede shoes at home. They'll get filthy, especially if it rains (a constant in London) or snows (distinctly possible in the winter). If you have any heavily-polished black shoes, wear those...the polish makes them easy to dry and to clean when they get wet and winter-y.


Senior Member
Thanks for the replies. I'm not sure if a heavy trenchcoat like that is really my style. I prefer the topcoat as Devinmilesmurphy suggested - is a topcoat basically "the standard coat" that people will wear? What is the difference between a topcoat vs a peacoat?

Regarding leaving suede shoes at home so they aren't damaged in the rain/snow, that sounds like a good idea. Can you give me a few examples/links to shoes that you think are better suited to the cold weather?


Super Member
I live in a city where it's very hot and humid in the summer and can be brutally cold and snowy in the winter (maybe I'm just sensitive). Therefore, I do have a clear spring/summer vs fall/winter wardrobe.

While I will wear mostly cotton, cotton/linen, summer weight wool trousers in the warmer weather, I swap those out for wool flannel, tweed and heavier cotton twill in the colder months (moleskin is another option you'll hear around here, but I've yet to acquire a pair). Corduroy is another good idea when it gets colder.

For very casual wear, I do have some flannel shirts, but for work when I wear a tie I begin to add v-neck wool sweaters and cardigans to my outfits for an extra layer. Also, any summery ties are put away and I pull out the wool (as I work in a sufficiently casual environment where no one would bat an eye - sportcoats and odd trousers in my office, as opposed to full suits).

I would also suggest a pair of dressier boots, perhaps nice chukkas in suede or calf. Also consider merino wool over-the-calf socks. Cheers.


First off, there's nothing wrong with a down jacket. Not sure of the association with rappers, but hey, even a rapper has to stay warm.

As someone who is exposed to the elements quite a bit during my daily commute, and especially after our infamous "polar vortex" of last winter, I've learned a few tricks.

Try to have a few options as far as coats go. Particularly in weight and warmth factor. Not all cold days are created equal and humidity and wind, as well as sun or the lack thereof, will make a huge difference in how cold you will actually feel. Have a couple of items that can be worn as standalone as well as layered.

Avoid the urge of going out and buying the biggest, warmest coat possible (Canada Goose Down) as you'll likely not use it as much unless of course you're engaged in a polar expedition.


It will depend on what you will be doing in London. If it's purely a casual vacation as opposed to business. A few sweaters (don't fear the crew neck), a pair of silk thermal underwear (at least the bottom half), a couple of pairs of cords, or flannel or moleskin pants, etc. and a woolen or tweed car coat should suffice. Layering is the key. I would save the overcoat only if your going to be wearing a suit for business, as the car coat will otherwise suffice. A peacoat might be too short for a brutally cold day and cannot be worn with a jacket underneath. Down is the ultimate for warmth, but bulky, if you are to be out for good periods of time, Thinsulate, will add warmth without the bulk.

Pick up a couple of warm sweaters, thermals, a scarf, maybe a turtleneck, a car coat, and 2 pairs of cords/moleskins (see if LE has any on sale, otherwise PC has top notch reasonably priced moleskins), and leave space in your luggage. Make sure to arrive with gloves, or our fingers will be frozen by the time you reach your hotel, as well as one scarf. You will definitely need a very, very warm coat if you will be out touring around. The wind and cold will rip thru any pants (even jeans) save moleskins, so I cannot over-emphasize thermal underwear enough if outside touring. When you get to London take advantage of the shops and fill in with a few more items, especially if you want tweed. The offerings will certainly be greater than what you will find in California, and you will get to enjoy the shopping experience. Since you have three weeks, I'm sure you can get one or two items altered quickly, and the rest by the end of your first weeks stay.

As for shoes, just make sure they are comfortable, and appropriate for the situations your in, i.e. dinner, theater, walking, climbing, touring, etc. Any reputable ski store or most athletic stores will carry Mylar or silk under socks to wear. They are thin, and go under your regular socks and provide the extra insulation without bulk. Buy 2 pair and wash them in your hotel room each night. This is cheaper than buying an array of wool socks you will never wear again, and you can use these on the slopes the next time you go skiing.

Don't go overboard, mix and match, as you may not have a need for these items again.
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Connoisseur - Moderator
I also don't get the down jacket/rapper thing. Plenty of people wear down jackets as outer wear for business casual jobs in Michigan.

I wear a trench coat if I'm wearing a sport jacket or suit; otherwise, I wear a leather jacket or down jacket depending on the situation. If you don't wear hats most of the time, you may want one for winter; it's an outdoor garment to me. I usually wear flat caps; if it's really cold, I don't worry about fashion and I have a warm hat that covers the ear.

I don't know if you would need a parka in London. I have one for the colder days in Michigan (if I'm not wearing sport coat or suit)
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Active Member with Corp. Privileges
In answer to one of your first questions, a!!!!1, a topcoat extends to middle thigh or knee and a peacoat extends just below the waist. Just google image search "topcoat" and "peacoat" and you'll see what I mean. A peacoat would be useful for your purposes.

As for rappers and down coats, big "poofy" down jackets have been a staple of rappers since the early 90s. Case in point:


Haha yes. Generally try to avoid any garment that makes one look like the Michelin Man.

You, obviously, do not live in the Midwest, or anyplace else where the temperature can hover around zero and stay there awhile.

As for the OP, I'd skip the top coat. You'll have zero use for it once you return from vacation, and I think it's a bit silly to spend a lot of coin for vacation wear that will be useless once you get home. Nothing wrong with down, at least in my book.

For gloves, I'd get a pair of wool ragg gloves. They are inexpensive, warm and look fine for casual use. Otherwise, you'll be spending $75 or more for a pair of cashmere lined leather gloves that look a bit better but will have no use in LA. A wool scarf is crucial. Even nice ones don't cost much and scarves deliver huge bang for the buck when it comes to keeping warm. Get a pair of lightweight capilene long underwear by Patagonia and return them if you don't end up using them. Capilene is the bomb for truly cold weather--it'll keep you toasty the live-long day even if you're walking outside in freezing weather for hours. You should be fine with level one, anything more is overkill, especially for London, where truly frigid weather is not the rule. Footwear is essential. You should get a pair of Smartwool socks and a pair of lightweight hiking boots, preferably made from GoreTex, that will be comfortable for walking while guarding against the elements. I'm partial to Vasque. I'd rely on layering to ensure comfort. A good shetland sweater that would work for indoor wear and a fleece jacket, plus your down coat, should be sufficient. Get a hat that will cover your ears, a watch cap being perfectly fine. A GoreTex rain parka would also be a good investment.

A fair amount of the above--fleece, GoreTex, SmartWool, capilene--is synthetic, and while traditionalists may scoff, wool and other natural fibers aren't nearly as good, sorry to say, as synthetics when it comes to cold-weather clothing that is also lightweight and comfortable enough to wear all day while walking around and playing tourist, especially if your cold-weather wardrobe is going to be limited.


Senior Member
Thanks for the recommendations. I'll definitely take a look at moleskin trousers. Just how warm are they, and would I burn up in them if I tried to wear them outside of a very cold climate?

Regarding scarves and gloves, are they supposed to match your outfit in terms of the colors/patterns, or are materials supposed to match, are there any types that should be avoided or that are looked down upon, etc? I have literally never bought a hat or a pair of gloves in my life, so I know absolutely nothing about how to wear them correctly.

momsdoc - you said a peacoat cannot be worn over a jacket, is this a rule or just your preference? So a wool topcoat would probably be the most efficient option as it can be worn in casual settings and I could also wear it back home over a suit, is this correct? Or would it appear too dressy to wear with a casual outfit (say, a pair of cords or moleskins, any button down shirt, and some calf or suede boots)?


Honors Member
London, January, average weather This year's weather. Suggestion as to what it is likely to be like and
So, probably likely to be wet during your stay, a bit chilly, but not freezing, probably. You'll need decent shoes for wet weather, warm socks, an umbrella, hat and coat. You won't need to dress for arctic conditions.


follow up

I forgot to mention the need for a hat. IMHO, a wool flat cap would be best. And, do take a wool scarf. Don't worry too much about coordinating with your clothes, Just get something that is long and warm. You might want to buy a scaf when you get there.

As mentioned above, capeline longies, especially bottoms, will make a big, non-bulky, difference in your comfort. Try REI for capeline underwear. I prefer Patagonia to other brands.

If you opt for hiking shoes, REI is a good place to buy them. FIT is the most important attribute of footwear, particularly in walking/hiking shoes. I take hiking/walking shoes on European trips. REI will also have wool gloves/mittens.

Peacoats are not long enough to cover one's sport coat or suit jacket. Moreover, if it's raining, or just cold, you'd be better served by a trench coat or topcoat. Having lived many years in LA, I can't imagine ever needing or wearing a wool topcoat there. Nonetheless, I almost bought one and may still, now that I live where it is a bit cooler.

Have a good time.



London, January, average weather This year's weather. Suggestion as to what it is likely to be like and
So, probably likely to be wet during your stay, a bit chilly, but not freezing, probably. You'll need decent shoes for wet weather, warm socks, an umbrella, hat and coat. You won't need to dress for arctic conditions.

Exactly why you skip the top coat and go with layering and capilene long johns. The latter can be returned if not needed and take up almost no space when packing. It's insurance against Arctic conditions, and while that's unlikely, it can get cold, at least that's my understanding, in London in January.


Super Member
My favourite winter outfits include a dress shirt worn underneath a v-neck (or half-zip) sweater. I can wear that and some wool pants for work or with jeans for most casual social events.

I never required a winter coat in London, but I did start feeling a chill in my bones if I stayed outside in the rain and wind for an extended period of time (i.e. golfing or walking around the city). Sweaters, scarves, hats, and a lightweight coat should get the job done. Any coat with slash pockets eliminates the need for gloves, unless you plan on carrying things.
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