Q and Answer: What to Pack for Traveling to Cold Climates?
Erieking writes us to ask: I’m looking to travel to Europe next year, and will be in many different climates. I have my summer wardrobe covered, but am curious what you’d recommend for winter travel in Scandinavia? I have a budget of about $500-1,000. 
I used to travel a lot to Russia in the fall and winter months, so I can relate to how difficult it can be to pack light, but also have everything you need. The good news is that above 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you can rely on smart layering. Doing so will allow you to be a bit more adaptable as the weather changes, whereas if you pack a big, warm coat, you might be too warm on days that are only chilly. I recommend the following:
Baselayers: Baselayers will be your best friend. Layer them underneath everything and you’ll be surprised by how little else you need. I like Smartwool, which you can often find on sale at Campmor and Sierra Trading Post. The second has options by other companies as well. Just make sure you get the heavyweight stuff. 
Outerwear: If you mostly wear tailored clothing (suits, sport coats, and the like), then you’ll need a traditional coat (some stores call these dress coats). Brooks Brothers and O’Connell’s are good places to start, but for something more affordable, check your local thrift stores. For anything more causal, pick whatever suits your taste. Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren often have nice looking designs, and they regularly discount stuff by 25% during their mid-season sales. J. Crew is a more affordable option, but their constructions often feel lighter and thinner. 
Sweaters: Cashmere is warmer than regular wool, but nice cashmere is expensive, unless you hunt for something vintage. For practicality and price, I recommend thick wool sweaters (ideally in turtleneck form, so you get some extra protection). Inis Meain’s merinos and O’Connell’s Shetlands are some of my favorite sweaters, but they’re a bit expensive. For more affordable options, I like Club Monaco. Just make sure to avoid the cashmere stuff, as it’ll be too thin for your needs. 
Tailored jacket: Get a heavy brown tweed, ideally with some kind of pattern, such as a herringbone or check. Any place that sells suits should also have sport coats. You can check out these stores to start. 
Pants: For casualwear, I like raw denim. It’s typically heavier than your run-of-the-mill jeans from Levis, so it feels warmer to me (even if the effect is just psychological). I wear 3sixteen’s SL-100x model, and really like them, but you can find more affordable options from our advertiser Gustin. For something dressier, get a pair of mid-grey wool flannels. Again, you can check out these stores to start.
Shirts: Bushed cotton flannels, chambrays, and wool-cotton blends all make for great cold-weather shirtings, but when I travel, I like to pack light, so I bring my favorite shirts of all: oxford cloth button downs. The upside is that they work equally well with sport coats and casualwear. 
Thick, wool socks: Feet can be hard to keep warm, so get thick wool socks (they’re warmer than cotton, and help wick sweat away). Just make sure your feet still fit comfortably into your shoes. An overly tight fit can restrict circulation, which will make your feet feel cold. Again, I like Smartwool. 
Gloves: I find that leather gloves lined in cashmere or rabbit hair feel warmer than wool gloves alone. You can get them from Dents or Merola, or have them custom made through Chester Jefferies (I had them make me this design, which you can order if you show them those pictures). For something more affordable, browse Nordstrom. They have some great options and an unbeatable return policy to boot.
Scarves: I love Drake’s scarves, but they’re expensive. Luckily, cheaper options will keep you just as warm. Just make sure to get something made from cashmere or merino, and in a long enough length so you can wrap your scarf around your neck twice. You can get Johnston’s of Elgin scarves for about $40-50 from Sierra Trading Post once you apply one of their DealFlyer coupons. 
Shoes: When it’s cold, it’s likely wet. Shoes made with what’s known as a storm or fudge welt will be more waterproof, but truthfully, I’ve been fine with regular Goodyear welt constructions, even in the snow. I just recommend bringing at least two pairs (ideally boots), and rotating between them. Commando or studded Dainite soles will also give you better traction, and they won’t grind down as easily as wet leather. For where to turn, the sky is the limit when it comes to expensive makers, but you can use this list for more affordable buys. I really like Meermin. 
The above should get you through any kind of weather that’s 20 degrees and above. Even in Moscow, things only dip below that for maybe two or three weeks per year. If you find yourself in icier conditions, then you’ll need a down parka, but good ones will cost you dearly (if you care to know, my dream pick is Nigel Cabourn’s Everest parka, which you know is serious business because it has the word Everest in it). I say plan your trips smartly so you don’t have to buy such a thing. 

Q and Answer: What to Pack for Traveling to Cold Climates?

 writes us to ask: I’m looking to travel to Europe next year, and will be in many different climates. I have my summer wardrobe covered, but am curious what you’d recommend for winter travel in Scandinavia? I have a budget of about $500-1,000. 

I used to travel a lot to Russia in the fall and winter months, so I can relate to how difficult it can be to pack light, but also have everything you need. The good news is that above 20 degrees Fahrenheit, you can rely on smart layering. Doing so will allow you to be a bit more adaptable as the weather changes, whereas if you pack a big, warm coat, you might be too warm on days that are only chilly. I recommend the following:

  • Baselayers: Baselayers will be your best friend. Layer them underneath everything and you’ll be surprised by how little else you need. I like Smartwool, which you can often find on sale at Campmor and Sierra Trading Post. The second has options by other companies as well. Just make sure you get the heavyweight stuff. 
  • Outerwear: If you mostly wear tailored clothing (suits, sport coats, and the like), then you’ll need a traditional coat (some stores call these dress coats). Brooks Brothers and O’Connell’s are good places to start, but for something more affordable, check your local thrift stores. For anything more causal, pick whatever suits your taste. Brooks Brothers and Ralph Lauren often have nice looking designs, and they regularly discount stuff by 25% during their mid-season sales. J. Crew is a more affordable option, but their constructions often feel lighter and thinner. 
  • Sweaters: Cashmere is warmer than regular wool, but nice cashmere is expensive, unless you hunt for something vintage. For practicality and price, I recommend thick wool sweaters (ideally in turtleneck form, so you get some extra protection). Inis Meain’s merinos and O’Connell’s Shetlands are some of my favorite sweaters, but they’re a bit expensive. For more affordable options, I like Club Monaco. Just make sure to avoid the cashmere stuff, as it’ll be too thin for your needs. 
  • Tailored jacket: Get a heavy brown tweed, ideally with some kind of pattern, such as a herringbone or check. Any place that sells suits should also have sport coats. You can check out these stores to start
  • Pants: For casualwear, I like raw denim. It’s typically heavier than your run-of-the-mill jeans from Levis, so it feels warmer to me (even if the effect is just psychological). I wear 3sixteen’s SL-100x model, and really like them, but you can find more affordable options from our advertiser Gustin. For something dressier, get a pair of mid-grey wool flannels. Again, you can check out these stores to start.
  • Shirts: Bushed cotton flannels, chambrays, and wool-cotton blends all make for great cold-weather shirtings, but when I travel, I like to pack light, so I bring my favorite shirts of all: oxford cloth button downs. The upside is that they work equally well with sport coats and casualwear. 
  • Thick, wool socks: Feet can be hard to keep warm, so get thick wool socks (they’re warmer than cotton, and help wick sweat away). Just make sure your feet still fit comfortably into your shoes. An overly tight fit can restrict circulation, which will make your feet feel cold. Again, I like Smartwool
  • Gloves: I find that leather gloves lined in cashmere or rabbit hair feel warmer than wool gloves alone. You can get them from Dents or Merola, or have them custom made through Chester Jefferies (I had them make me this design, which you can order if you show them those pictures). For something more affordable, browse Nordstrom. They have some great options and an unbeatable return policy to boot.
  • Scarves: I love Drake’s scarves, but they’re expensive. Luckily, cheaper options will keep you just as warm. Just make sure to get something made from cashmere or merino, and in a long enough length so you can wrap your scarf around your neck twice. You can get Johnston’s of Elgin scarves for about $40-50 from Sierra Trading Post once you apply one of their DealFlyer coupons. 
  • Shoes: When it’s cold, it’s likely wet. Shoes made with what’s known as a storm or fudge welt will be more waterproof, but truthfully, I’ve been fine with regular Goodyear welt constructions, even in the snow. I just recommend bringing at least two pairs (ideally boots), and rotating between them. Commando or studded Dainite soles will also give you better traction, and they won’t grind down as easily as wet leather. For where to turn, the sky is the limit when it comes to expensive makers, but you can use this list for more affordable buys. I really like Meermin

The above should get you through any kind of weather that’s 20 degrees and above. Even in Moscow, things only dip below that for maybe two or three weeks per year. If you find yourself in icier conditions, then you’ll need a down parka, but good ones will cost you dearly (if you care to know, my dream pick is Nigel Cabourn’s Everest parka, which you know is serious business because it has the word Everest in it). I say plan your trips smartly so you don’t have to buy such a thing. 

Spring’s Blues

Charcoal grays, deep navys, and dark browns work well in the fall and winter months, but spring and summer provide an excellent opportunity to wear lighter colors. My favorites include the various shades of mid-blues you see above. These include French blue (which used to be common in men’s dress shirts), slate blue (a powdery color), and Air Force blue (a pure blue that’s similar to the color of the sky on a clear day). With a tailored jacket in one of these colors, you can have a great sport coat to wear with cream or tan trousers. With a suit, you have something smart for social occasions. 

The only trick here is to wear the right shirt. With certain shades, you can wear a light blue shirt, but once the jacket’s color is light enough, you’ll want to use a white or ecru shirt in order to ensure there’s enough contrast. 

Unfortunately, sport coats and suits in these colors aren’t easy to find. The most affordable ones might be at J. Crew and Suit Supply. The styling on Suit Supply’s website is really fashion forward, but the garments themselves are often much more classic looking than their site suggests. There’s also this really nice Camoshita suit at No Man Walks Alone. The price is expensive, but the store is having a sale this week on all their Japanese brands (which includes Camoshita). You can take 20% off with the code BLOSSOM and see how Camoshita’s jackets fit here, as they’re modeled on Kyle (a No Man Walks Alone employee).

Of course, the color works just as well in non-tailored clothing. If you’d like something more casual, try knitwear. Inis Meain has a fantastic (albeit expensive) one made from linen. Their linen yarns are unique in that they have a subtle “bounce back” quality to them. Like wool, this helps their sweaters retain their original shapes, and makes the fabrics feel like they have a bit more “life” to them (as they’re not just hanging limply on your body). More affordably, Brooks Brothers has a Saxxon wool sweater in deep teal, while Howard Yount has some lambswool sweaters in brighter blues.  

(Photos via Milstil, The Sartorialist, and Tommy Ton)

Wearing Boring Outerwear

Next to tailored clothing and shoes, most of my clothing budget is spent on outerwear. In my closet are some field jackets – the kind with two pockets at the chest and two at the hips. Then I have some coats with various belted riggings, which are used to help cinch in the waist, as well as some “designer” pieces with unusual pocket placements. It’s said that these sorts of jackets are often inspired by hunting coats, but I can’t imagine anyone who has bought these sorts of things (including me) has ever hunted for anything but their keys and an open bar. 

Some of my coats, however, are quite simple. Boring, even. There’s a waxed cotton Barbour Bedale, which I bought in the standard dark green colorway. It has a corduroy collar, but the overall look is so generic at this point that the jacket has become almost nondescript. I also have a heavy Melton wool pea coat from Buzz Rickson, a green barn coat from LL Bean Signature, and a brown, waxed field coat from last season’s Barbour x Norton & Sons line. The brown field coat actually looks something like this vintage piece I found on eBay over the weekend.

Each of these lack the kind of bells and whistles that can make an outfit interesting, so to balance things out, I sometimes layer in some heavy, textured knitwear. Above are some examples. Underneath the pea coat is a very subtly textured, black Shetland, which is also from last season’s Barbour x Norton & Sons range. Underneath the LL Bean Signature barn coat and waxed cotton Bedale are some heavy, cream-colored sweaters, which are from Inis Meain. The first is a basket weave sweater that’s been made with an open interlocking lacing on the front body. The second is your standard cable knit Aran, although done to Inis Meain’s design. Finally, underneath the brown field coat is also an Aran from Inis Meain, but this time, in navy. The pairing of blue jeans and a navy sweater can sometimes look off, but the jeans here, I think, are light enough that there’s enough contrast.

The chunkiness of these sweaters and their texturally interesting designs help make boring outerwear pieces look slightly less boring. If you wanted to wear a scarf with these, it would be better to stick to something that’s also solid-colored, but textured - such as a grey cabled knit. That way, no element sticks out too much on its own. By relying on complementary colors and playing with textures, you can make outfits look interesting without needing to turn to the brashness of patterns or unusual design details. It’s a quieter, arguably more sophisticated, way of making a statement. 

(Pictured above: sweaters and coats as described; straight legged 14.5oz selvedge denim jeans from 3sixteen; undyed thick harness leather belt from Don’t Mourn Organize, made with a buckle bought at Slash Clothing; and shell cordovan boots from Brooks Brothers)

Flecked Sweaters for Fall

I don’t know if it’s too early to talk about knitwear, but I’ve been thinking about flecked sweaters a lot lately. Sometimes these are called speckled sweaters, sometimes Donegal sweaters, and sometimes even tweed sweaters. Not because they’re actually from Donegal (a county in Ireland), but because the irregular flecks of color on these yarns are reminiscent of the region’s hallmark tweeds.

The nice thing about flecked sweaters is that they can add a bit of visual interest where a solid knit might be too boring. I find this useful when wearing a sweater alone (over a shirt, but without a jacket). There’s just something about a very smooth, plain-colored merino, worn with wool or cotton trousers, that can sometimes feel a bit too uninspired (though, they do work well underneath tailored sport coats).

There are a number of brands with flecked sweaters this fall. At the top of the price pyramid end is Inis Meain, who makes them in a pure cashmere and wool-cashmere blend. Those are available at A Suitable Wardrobe, Barneys New York, Manufactum, and Frans Boone. Inis Meain makes some of my favorite knitwear in the world, and I find their quality to be unsurpassed, but their popularity in Japan and Europe has made them very expensive. If you’re not deterred by the price, Barney’s also has a few half zip sweaters by Fioroni worth considering.

For something a bit more affordable, check out these options by Drumohr, Billy Reid, Saturdays Surf NYC, APC, and Orvis. J Crew also has something on sale through their Wallace & Barnes line, and an extra 25% can be taken off at the moment with the checkout code FALLSTYLE. Perhaps most promising are these Howlin’ by Morrison Shetlands, which come in light grey, charcoal, and red (I really dig the light grey, personally). 

There’s also a range of Irish makers, none of whom I have any direct experience with. If you’re open to giving them a try, a quick Google search will reveal a number of retailers. Maybe start with Aran Sweater Market, Aran Sweater Shop, and Magee. This seller on eBay also has a range of intriguing options starting at $70.

Most affordable of all is J Crew’s mainline. They’ve done a number of these sweaters in the past and you can still find many of them floating around on eBay. J Crew’s knits, from my experience, stretch out pretty easily, but if the price is right, they can be a good buy. This one, for example, is available for $30 (the cut looks pretty boxy though). Mr. Porter also has this blue version brand new for $90. That’ll probably make it to their end-of-season sale, where it’ll be discounted by 50-70%. 

Barney’s Warehouse Sale

Barney’s Warehouse has been continuing to do price drops. Jackets from Tokihito Yoshida’s last collection with Barbour are now on sale for about $200, which is the lowest I’ve ever seen them go. There are also some Battistoni shoes at $175, Guy Rover shirts at $79, and Inis Meain sweaters at $79.

You can see the full list of brands here. Note, all sales are final. 

Thoughts on Buying Good Sweaters
The best time to purchase sweaters is at the end of the season, when the fall/ winter stock gets discounted by fifty percent or more. The best time to shop for sweaters, however, is now, so that you can give yourself a few months time to figure out what you want and not be rushed into impulse buys come January. So, if you’re out browsing for sweaters, I’d suggest the following:
Low- to mid-tier purchases: If your budget is limited, I recommend aiming for sweaters made out of lambswool, Shetland, or merino wools. The first two, all things being equal, are harder-wearing. I also think they can often have more visual depth in their texture and color than most, lower-end merinos, which can be useful if you want to wear the sweater without a jacket. The sweater pictured above really shows off the nice lofty nap on lambswool, I think. 
High-end purchases: If your budget is over $350 or so, consider cashmere. The problem with cashmere below this mark – at least at full retail prices – is that they’re often poorly made. Cashmere is expensive, so when a company is selling a cashmere sweater for under $350 or so, it means they’ve likely skimped on the construction. That can mean shorter fibers used for the yarns, which will result in more breakages and pilling, or thin, loosely knitted fabrics, which will lose their shape over time. Better, I think, to stick to lambswool, Shetlands, and merinos, rather than be tricked into the allure of “cheap” cashmere.
Checking for quality: It’s difficult to determine a sweater’s true quality without having actually owned it for a few years. Nothing can substitute for experience. There are a few things, however, that you can do to make an educated guess. On cashmere, try rubbing the fabric between your fingers for a bit, and see if a light, oily residue has been left on your hands. If there is, that means the fabric was treated with a kind of emulsion, and is probably of low quality. On everything else, see if the sweater has been knitted densely, and check the elasticity of the collars and cuffs. It’s difficult to convey online exactly what level of quality to look for – which is why I think you should browse the inventory at a high-end store – but generally, if you think the sweater might lose its shape easily, it probably will.
Altering knits: Ideally, you should buy something that fits perfectly off-the-rack, but some knits can be altered if you have a good alterationist. On sweaters with side seams, I’ve found it’s easy to take in the body without too much trouble. You can read my post on knit alterations here.
Getting rid of pills: Every sweater, no matter what the quality, will pill to some degree. The question is just how much and how quickly. To take care of pills, I recommend using a sweater shaver. I use this one and it works decently well, though there are probably better ones on the market.
Where to buy: I can’t give a full list of every place that stocks good sweaters, but I can make a few suggestions based off of my experiences. On the high end, I really like Inis Meain, Drumohr, Drake’s, John Smedley, and William Lockie (the last of which you can buy through Heather Wallace). For more affordable purchases, I’ve had good experiences with Brooks Brothers, Club Monaco, and Howard Yount. The first two often do significant mark-downs throughout the season, which is when I think you should buy. Club Monaco also gives students an extra 20% off if they can show a student ID in-store or give a university email address online. I’ve picked up their basic v-neck sweaters before for about $45, and find them to be of a good value. 

Thoughts on Buying Good Sweaters

The best time to purchase sweaters is at the end of the season, when the fall/ winter stock gets discounted by fifty percent or more. The best time to shop for sweaters, however, is now, so that you can give yourself a few months time to figure out what you want and not be rushed into impulse buys come January. So, if you’re out browsing for sweaters, I’d suggest the following:

Low- to mid-tier purchases: If your budget is limited, I recommend aiming for sweaters made out of lambswool, Shetland, or merino wools. The first two, all things being equal, are harder-wearing. I also think they can often have more visual depth in their texture and color than most, lower-end merinos, which can be useful if you want to wear the sweater without a jacket. The sweater pictured above really shows off the nice lofty nap on lambswool, I think. 

High-end purchases: If your budget is over $350 or so, consider cashmere. The problem with cashmere below this mark – at least at full retail prices – is that they’re often poorly made. Cashmere is expensive, so when a company is selling a cashmere sweater for under $350 or so, it means they’ve likely skimped on the construction. That can mean shorter fibers used for the yarns, which will result in more breakages and pilling, or thin, loosely knitted fabrics, which will lose their shape over time. Better, I think, to stick to lambswool, Shetlands, and merinos, rather than be tricked into the allure of “cheap” cashmere.

Checking for quality: It’s difficult to determine a sweater’s true quality without having actually owned it for a few years. Nothing can substitute for experience. There are a few things, however, that you can do to make an educated guess. On cashmere, try rubbing the fabric between your fingers for a bit, and see if a light, oily residue has been left on your hands. If there is, that means the fabric was treated with a kind of emulsion, and is probably of low quality. On everything else, see if the sweater has been knitted densely, and check the elasticity of the collars and cuffs. It’s difficult to convey online exactly what level of quality to look for – which is why I think you should browse the inventory at a high-end store – but generally, if you think the sweater might lose its shape easily, it probably will.

Altering knits: Ideally, you should buy something that fits perfectly off-the-rack, but some knits can be altered if you have a good alterationist. On sweaters with side seams, I’ve found it’s easy to take in the body without too much trouble. You can read my post on knit alterations here.

Getting rid of pills: Every sweater, no matter what the quality, will pill to some degree. The question is just how much and how quickly. To take care of pills, I recommend using a sweater shaver. I use this one and it works decently well, though there are probably better ones on the market.

Where to buy: I can’t give a full list of every place that stocks good sweaters, but I can make a few suggestions based off of my experiences. On the high end, I really like Inis Meain, DrumohrDrake’sJohn Smedley, and William Lockie (the last of which you can buy through Heather Wallace). For more affordable purchases, I’ve had good experiences with Brooks Brothers, Club Monaco, and Howard Yount. The first two often do significant mark-downs throughout the season, which is when I think you should buy. Club Monaco also gives students an extra 20% off if they can show a student ID in-store or give a university email address online. I’ve picked up their basic v-neck sweaters before for about $45, and find them to be of a good value.