Subzero Style and Safety Tips

Over the next few days, Chicago  may experience the coldest temperatures in over 30 years!   We're talking 40-50 below-zero wind chill--that's COLD!!  But, there's no reason to panic, hibernate or flee to a beach in the Bahamas (besides, the flights have been cancelled).  If you must go out, here's advice  from  someone who has spent  a few winters in this world.  Be prepared, and dress accordingly. In the deep freeze, this means dressing to avoid frostbite and hypothermia. Here are some  style and safety tips for  extreme subzero weather---

1. Wear light layers---Yes, layer up!  Start with  a base--for example, wool socks, long underwear, wool tights, and/or leggings, and a fitted top. Mid layers should be lightweight knits, avoid anything too heavy or bulky sweaters. Top with a cardigan or hoodie.  Bottoms can be wool pants, corduroys, jeans, even sweatpants. Over these,  add a light  outer layer. It should be waterproof  and  wind-resistant. Snowpants are ideal.

2. Wear a hat--- Please, please, wear a hat!  Better yet, wear two hats. Have fun and be creative  with winter hats.  Whatever you wear, cover  your ears. Cover as much exposed skin as possible--Don't worry about hat hair.  If you love earrings, don't wear them outside!  That goes for other piercings, too. Take the jewelry with you.  You can fix your look when you get where you are going.

3. Gloves and mittens---It is very important to keep extremities protected. Frostbite can happen within minutes in extreme cold and wind.  Gloves offer flexibility, but mittens are  more protective. Why not combine both?  If they are waterproof, that's even better. There are even gloves that are touchscreen sensitive, so there's no need to remove your hand coverings, if you must use your mobile devices.

4. Don't forget a big scarf  or two--I know, so many accessories to coordinate! Don't worry about matching things. The scarf not only ties your look together, it seals in the heat. Wrap it around your face, cover as much skin as you can.

It's good to have  a spare hat, scarf or pair of gloves, anyway. You never know when you'll meet someone who really needs that spare thing.

5Boots---Think warmth and agility. Leave the fancy boots at home. If you have to wait for a bus or walk on  unshoveled sidewalks, you want your footwear to stand up to the conditions.  With all this snow, knee-high boots are looking really good to me. Treaded soles offer traction and stability. Walk slowly and carefully.  Pay attention.  Falls can be  especially dangerous on icy streets, stairways and sidewalks.

6. Serious winter coat---  When it gets this cold, the furs come out. Yes, they're  beautiful on the minks and foxes. Fur offers insulation and wind resistance, which is why  these small furry animals have these beautiful coats. But you don't  need to wear their coats to stay warm. The wonders of  performance fabrics can offer warmth and wind-resistance without added weight. New designs  also eliminate that bulky Michelin Man look, offering a more  streamlined  appearance. These coats  can come in different lengths--I think knee length or just below the knee is best. Anything longer could  become a hazard in the snow drifts and piles on the street corners. Again, warmth and agility are important, here. Think Mars explorer, not grizzly bear.

7. Alternative winter coat--A more artistic alternative might be oversized vintage coats, which would accomodate  those underlayers. You know they have survived many winters, too. Some of these old overcoats even have zip-in liners. But, they can be quite heavy!  Army surplus coats are warm, though. Think Siberian Chic. That was our look 30 years ago  when we were young in Rogers Park, walking in 40-below. Harry had a big  Army surplus coat, and I had a black 40's style that looked like Anna Karenina (at least I thought so.) Maybe we weren't  Omar Sharif and Julie Christie in Dr. Zhivago, but  the old guys smiled  as we passed  on Morse Avenue. They made me smile, too.

8. Positive attitude---We are all in this together. Look out for each other. Look out for your pets and kids. Remember your neighbors, too. So gear up, layer up, keep warm and  be kind. Be careful out there.



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  • I already did most of that, and it was 30 degrees this afternoon. I've basically decided to hibernate until Weds. afternoon. Traction on the roads really deteriorated about 5 p.m.

    On the coats front, I think the only place to get a warn enough one is at a sporting goods store. I'm still sort of interested in the one with the reflective inside.

    On the hat front, I had stocked up on sheepskin ones when crafters who had kiosks in a mall were selling them. I don't remember when or what mall, but I still have 2.

    Are the fur protesters still on Mich. Ave., or have they given up?

    BTW, on Thursday most of the weathermen said the snow was going to stay south. It did not.

  • Hi, Jack, thanks for stopping by. This latest snow seems to be heavier. And more on the way... No plows or shoveling yet, here (it's 11:00 PM). It's kind of eerie, silent and beautiful.

    Those reflective coats are nice. A snowmobile suit would also be good to have. I'm glad you are wearing a hat--so many people simply refuse to wear them. I didn't even mention the ones who go out with wet hair--this is not smart, or stylish!

    The furs will be out, for sure (many also feel compelled to explain they're vintage, now.) The protesters? That's a good question.

  • Hello, all. I have been on Michigan Avenue for a while in the cold weather and have yet to see a fur protester. Not everybody can handle the weight of fur, but I think weather like we've endured recently is teaching people why it was so important for so long.
    As for me, I don't care for the weight of fur -- I prefer adjustable layers!

  • In reply to MargaretSerious:

    Yes, this place started as a fur-trading post. Did you happen to see any fur coats out???

    Layering is almost an art form, now. Someday, I want an environmental suit...

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