Monday, November 23, 2009

Bundle up!

With November's doom settling in, it is time to girdle your loins and prepare for winter. For us Northerners a good strategy is through coats. Yes, you may like your coats just fine down South. But up here, coats aren't just fashion accessories; they are functional as well.

Now I know that many of my fellow Northerners feel experienced on bracing Old Man Winter based on years of living. But I'm here to tell you that even an old dog can learn a few new tricks, and a careful examination of winter coats may be in order.

Are your coat pockets warm and deep? Could you fit a pint of whiskey or brandy comfortably in your coat pockets?

If you answered no to these questions, you might need a new coat.

Does your coat keep you really warm? Is it warm in all sorts of weather? Are you allergic to wool?

If you answered no to all these questions, you might need a wool coat.

In my experience, the best is a big heavy wool overcoat. Christmas is right around the corner (or Hanukkah for my Hebrew friends...though I don't know how you'd divy up a coat over 8 nights). Put in your request now. Or, if you happen to be secular and need to self finance this project, I have just the thing for you: military surplus.

Hopefully no one reads this blog, because I am in the process of procuring a surplus coat myself. I have a long wool coat, and let me tell you it is warm. But it is a bit formal, and though not a bad thing and definitely more appropriate in many situations, I find it easier to pull off the casual look with military surplus.

Again let me tell you: wool coats are the warmest coats I have ever owned. Warmer than down, cotton, or whatever synthetic crap they stuff in there these days. It keeps you warm even when wet. And you won't look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man either.

In my experience, wool is warmer than down, is far superior in wet conditions, and doesn't make you look like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

The basic surplus wool coat is the Navy pea coat. These are good coats, and if you do some web sleuthing you can find some real deals. Even better than the pea coat is the bridge coat. The bridge coat is like the pea coat but longer. Longer is better. Longer is warmer. How many layers do you put on your torso? 2 or three shirts of varying insulation plus a coat? And your legs? Maybe a thin sheet of denim? If you are intrepid a flannel layer under your denim. Is that all? Extend that coat down comrade.

We are getting there

Now we're cooking! Longer, and therefore warmer.

If you happen to get one with epaulets you can remove the bars with a seam ripper. And if the brass buttons are too bling bling for you they can easily be replaced with some plain old buttons from a fabric store for cheap.

Even longer than the bridge coat is the greatcoat. And what a coat it is. There are deals to be had if the googles are your guide. For less than sixty bucks you could have this gem:

Could a coat be any warmer? No it couldn't.

Now don't go buying a military greatcoat until I have my gem. I don't think the US army even issues these anymore, and the Canadian ones are single breasted (yuck!). But through used (vintage, dare I say? No no, used!) channels or old Europe or both I will have one. Not this one pictured above though. Oh, it is sharp alright. Grey is alright. But black is better. Black is always better. So off I go to spend this winter tucked away internet sleuthing for a black greatcoat on the cheap. Wish me luck.

Miscellany: you'll notice that a typical civilian overcoat has many of the same design features as the military coats, but in vestige form. The lapels of the coats are designed to fold over for extra warmth. The collar too is made to fold up to keep your neck extra warm. Modern coats often have these designs but they don't work well or are - especially you'll notice in the case of formal business wear like suit coats - pure functionless vestiges. Lapels that can't fold over and collars that can't be turned up.

Folded and buttoned

Up and over. Can your collar do that? Too James Dean perhaps, but hey - warm is warm!

Some people might think of scarves as fashion accessories. But I have learned that it is best to go through life comfortably, and therefor a good warm scarf is necessary for the winter.

Think warm. Especially when you live in Eternal Winter.

Hey, where is his hat? Hmmm, I think I'll cut this short and leave it a coat and scarf edition. Hats for another time. Just remember, don't go ebaying for that greatcoat until I give the all clear, OK? And don't forget which brandy I told you to avoid.

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