Winter at 26 Degrees North: Warm Winter Styling

As a Floridian, I can't complain too much about living in a climate that rarely dips into the 30's; we skip the not-so-pleasant seasons down here. But starting in October, the menswear scope focuses in on winter styling and come December through to mid-February, everyone is clad in their warmest gear. In a place where it can be difficult to even don a sport coat, it's easy to feel a little left out of the loop. But with a little creativity and clever styling, you can play the part of cold-weather warrior without enduring the chill.

Lightweight Alternatives

One misconception that I had with winter styling was the need to be wearing these heavily insulated, incredibly wooly items that are built to keep the frigid air out and your body heat in. Initially, I wasn't far off as most designers relied heavily on the seasonal fashion model, but as fast fashion edged its way into the picture, buyers seemed to discover the need for lighter options for warmer areas of the country. That meant that heavy tweeds lightened up, dense cashmere thinned out, scratchy wool was replaced with corded cotton, and down filling was all but removed from the line up.

This new wave of thinking allowed for some of the classic pieces of winter to be reimagined in ways that would suit a tropical climate. Take for instance the turtleneck sweater. A piece normally thought to be overkill until the weather dipped below 50 was transformed from its woolen roots to an almost t-shirt like weight. I have two such turtlenecks and I still receive my fair share of criticism, but they are no wafer than a long sleeve tee , but with loads more style value.

Implied Texture

A trademark feature of most winter styles is the texture, inherent of most of the traditional fabrics you see during these months. However, these fabrics tend to make things a little steamy in the lower latitudes, and yes, there's a hint of double entendre in there somewhere. Two ways to combat this issue are to use lighter weight fabrics as mentioned above and to also utilize pattern and color to imply texture within an outfit. That means delving into some pattern play and adding in some color differentiation to establish defined boundaries between each piece to build depth and dimension.

Chambray and denim are by far my favorite way to utilize this trick, as it's natural imperfections add the needed dimension to establish texture without the unnecessary weight. In most cases, a lighter wash will mean lighter materials, but designers have started playing with inkier items to make them airy and breathable. With that said, I have rued the night of bowling where I tore my favorite pair of light-wash jeans that were truly a cornerstone to my wardrobe.

Smart Layering

The previous topics set the foundation for this warm winter style trick, utilizing both implied texture and alternative materials to create the facade of layering. It's one thing to be able to wear a lighter sweater or to have contrasting patterns and colors in an outfit, but this takes things a step further in focusing in on the construction of the pieces. That same sweater I just mentioned will be all for not if the jacket you wear over it is fully lined, insulated, shearling, you name it; you'll be sweating before you know it. Instead vie for the minimalist options that take all the stuffing out of your layers, making for winter look without all warmth.

Two of my favorite jackets happen to be unlined, a dark grey herringbone jacket (seen above) and a similarly shaded cotton bomber. Both are lighter than they appear, allowing me to add an extra layer to my look, maintaining a fashionable look, helping me to fake my way through winter down south. Do this with jackets, sweaters, shirts, anything in your fashion arsenal to avoid being left out in the cold (or lack there of).

Winter Whites

For anyone who lives below the bible belt or at least vacationed here during the winter months, you'd know that the conventional style rules really don't apply. Seersucker shorts, linen shirts, and sandals? Yep, those are all fair game 12 months out of the year, rain or shine, hot or cold. This makes things a bit odd when you see someone clad in the traditionally drab colors of winter in the mix of all of these spring and summer vibes. This year has seen a relaxing of even the most strict style stoics, allowing for the incorporation of pieces of a lighter completion into the cold-weather wardrobe. White denim, cream cashmere, and all other forms of milky items that add some much needs air to all that stuffiness have been added to the lineup to lighten the mood.

I like to color block my whites together for the most impact, pairing white leather sneaks and distressed white denim or a white trucker with a creamy turtleneck underneath. With that said, making white the base or top layer of any outfit is a sure fire move, I just tend to avoid the mid-layer options since it's usually not cold enough to warrant one, not to mention that part of my closet is a bit lacking.

Moments in Monochrome

When all else fails, fall back on the menswear trend of the year. Pick a color, vary up the shades and textures, build up your outfit, and relish in your monochromatic success. It is important to not try to match the pieces too closely, that would look deliberate and tacky; texture isn't as important, but in the spirit of winter styling, adding some texture can't hurt the look. Again, being in the south brings with it a certain environment that would make an otherwise on point all black or forest green look seem out of place. I'm all for following the day's trends and fitting in with the rest of the style community, but not at the expense of sticking out like a sore thumb. The only caveats to this are grey and navy, but otherwise, find comfort in the light shades of olive and blue to maximize your monochromatic look.

Winter styling is tough all on its own. The slightest oversight in execution can be disastrous to any outfit, so when you add in a temperature floor of 35 degrees, things can get dicey. When in doubt, start from the ground up and have a base that can be a look all its own, so that when it gets too hot or you realize you've made mistake, the layers can be shed away to save the day. This winter hasn't exactly been kind to our friends to the north, but just follow the light at the end of the tunnel because March is right around the corner, and these same style tricks will be pertinent to you as you start the transition to spring. As for us southern folk, utilize the sparse days after a cold front to take full advantage of your winter style before things become unbearably hot in April. Just always remember, when you look in the mirror before you head out the door,  Be Dapper, Be Different.