Usually Christmas isn’t the best of times for me. While you lot in the UK and US are opening your prezzies I’m in my office, surrounded by miserable co-workers who you could quite easily associate with the words “face”, “badger” and “arse”. This last Christmas, however, I was able to go back to the motherland. Excellent! But it presented me with a little-encountered problem: what to pack for a cold-weather holiday.
When I go on holiday it’s usually to somewhere warm, and packing for warm weather is a straightforward affair: a few polo shirts, a pair of chinos, a couple of pairs of shorts, a pair of boat shoes, some short-sleeve shirts, a cotton cardigan and a lightweight cotton jacket usually suffices. Cold-weather holidays, on the other hand, demand cold-weather clothing, and because of the extra bulk involved the issue of suitcase space can become quite pressing. Here is a short list of essential items that I suggest taking for a casual, week-long sojourn.
Crew-neck cashmere sweaters (x2)
Warmer and softer than wool, cashmere is the perfect choice of fabric for cold-weather holidays. If you’re going on a city holiday you’re likely to be walking the streets for good stretches of time, so choose a crew neck over a V neck: it provides more warmth across the collar bones.
Wool shawl-collar cardigan (x1)
The shawl-collar cardigan has undergone something of a renaissance over the past year or two. I’m not entirely sure why – maybe because it was Steve McQueen’s 80th birthday last year and lots of photos of him in shawl-collar cardigans started popping up – but as a long-standing fan I’m glad to welcome it back. They’re comfy and cosy, and can be worn as an outer layer on warmer days (as demonstrated here).
Oxford shirts (x3)
You can’t go wrong with Oxford shirts. They work equally well in both smart and casual environments. You won’t feel underdressed should you decide to dine in a fancy restaurant, nor will you look overdressed when popping into a cafe. Pack three – two white and one light blue – at the minimum.
Plaid flannel shirt (x1)
Though more work-wear than smart-casual, a plaid flannel shirt is much warmer than an Oxford shirt. Fit is the key: pack a flannel shirt that is as well-fitted as your dress shirts.
Thermal t-shirts (x6)
Having a lightweight yet warm base layer is essential for cold-weather holidays. If you’re going to a city you’re likely to be moving from street to shop and back again all the time. A good thermal t-shirt will help keep you warm outside and allow your skin to breathe when you hit those centrally-heated department stores. Uniqlo’s HeatTech range of t-shirts, though expensive, do this job admirably.
Dark blue jeans (x2)
Jeans are every man’s go-to for casual wear. As you may very well find yourself walking through heaps of dirty slush, you don’t want to have to worry about keeping your trouser-bottoms out of the wet. A pair of reasonably slim-fitting indigo jeans that have been taken up (so you don’t have to turn them up) are always correct.
Corduroy trousers (x1)
Like jeans, corduroy trousers have their origins in the Industrial Revolution: while the workmen of America wore denim, the proles of Britain wore cord. These days corduroy has left its industrial roots behind and evokes a more professorial, collegiate air. Corduroy trousers are warmer than most jeans, which makes them ideal for cold weather. Pack a rich chocolate- or tan-coloured pair to increase your outfit options.
Wool pea coat
Having recently bought a good-quality pea coat and worn it for a few weeks, I have to say that they’re a very worthwhile investment. They’re smart enough to wear about town, yet tough enough to endure all but the fiercest of storms; they’re double breasted and taper towards the torso, which produces a flattering silhouette for slimmer men; and they’re one of the few pieces of outerwear that you can “pop” the collar of without feeling terribly self-conscious.
Boots are indispensible for cold-weather holidays. A nice pair of black Chelsea boots, or dark brown brogued ones (eg, Trickers) with good rubber soles will see you through any event. (Personally, I’d love to get my hands on this pair of Alden 405s.) I recommend that you wear your boots to the airport: you may need to negotiate slush-filled taxi ranks and bus stops when you arrive at your destination. A lot of guides to packing for travel suggest that you wear slip-ons to get through airport security quickly, but I don’t think it’s a big deal. A lot of airports don’t require you to take your shoes off anyway, and even if they do, it only takes a few extra seconds to undo your laces.
Lined calf-leather gloves
Depending on how cold it will be, you may not need a pair of gloves, but you might as well put a pair in your suitcase, just in case. A pair of brown calf-leather gloves will do. Make sure that they’re lined (preferably in cashmere), and that they fit your hands as snugly as possible: there’s nothing more annoying than trying to fish change out of your pocket while wearing a pair of too-big gloves.
I’m not a big fan of hats: they make my head itchy and flatten down my hair at peculiar angles. Plus they’re not all that effective when it comes to total body-heat loss (contrary to popular myth, only about 10% of body heat is lost through the head). However, in case of very cold, ear-freezing days, I suggest packing a knitted wool one in a muted colour, like dark green.
Protect your neck and throat with a good merino or cashmere scarf. As most of the items I’ve picked so far are dark or neutral in colour, this is a chance to inject a little colour and pattern into your ensemble. Go for something strong, like dark blue, red or tree green. Alternatively, opt for a simple monochrome scarf with a large pattern, like Drakes’ signature Prince of Wales check.