In North America and many developed countries, people have taken to following the strange custom of centrally heating up their entire house when it gets cold outside rather than just putting on an extra layer. Why apparently, it only took a generating or two of moving from one heated or airconditioned bubble to the next e.g. house to car to shopping center to completely forget how to dress properly.

If you’re sitting inside or moving around outside and you’re cold, you’re probably doing something wrong. Here’s how to dress right.

Dressing right involves three layers.

  1. An sweat transporting layer.
  2. A heating layer.
  3. A shell layer.

The most cost efficient sweat transporting layer is poly-… anything chemical really. The downside of chemical fibers is that they will eventually stink if not washed (say you’re on a trip). Wool is also useful, but it is harder to wash. If you don’t plan on sweating excessively, cotton is just fine. That’s what I use except if I’m walking or biking all day.

The next layer is the heating layer. Wool is absolutely and utterly superior. If you are used to wearing cotton or polyester, you have no idea. Since the legs contain major muscle groups, they supply their own heat. The arms are so-so, but the torso needs covering. Fleece is the second choice. Fleece also tend to retain smells. Cotton is the third choice.

The third layer is intended either to shield you from the elements (like rain) or look good (like a suit jacket). This layer should preferably not be insulated. In fact stay away from any “combo”-jackets where the shell and the insulation is combined.

Three layers!

What is the key message here? At least three (3!) layers. When dealing with the cold, two layers is acceptable but one layer is downright inadequate — you’re just asking for it.

The composition of the layers above is just a suggestion (but it’s a pretty good suggestion) and it can be modified. For instance, in an office environment, the first layer can be an undershirt or a t-shirt, the second can be a cotton shirt, and the third the woolen suit jacket; or expand to four layers by putting a thin sweater/crewneck under the suit. A neckerchief, a scarf, or its derivative, the tie, which prevents loss from the neck up can make a big difference. The same thing goes for a hat or a cap.

Remember: Three layers!

Most other cultures follow this prescription rather throwing money away to heat their walls. Invest in comfortable and warm clothes: a good sweater will pay itself back in one season or less.

Three layers!

Jacob comments: Three simple checks. Go outside and find some inclement weather. If you feel a draft at the neck, sleeves, zipper, etc or you’re getting wet, you have a problem with the shell. If you’re cold, your heating layer is inadequate. If you’re clammy or damp, it’s your underwear (or your shell not breathing). It is physically possible to feel no draft at all and be perfectly warm and dry in windy freezing rain.

Originally posted 2009-02-24 17:29:04.