Keeping warm doesn't require bulky long johns

Posted: January 28, 2018 at 2:11 a.m.

Q I've been particularly cold this year, and winter is only starting. Is long underwear appropriate under business clothing? I imagine it is and is hard for others to know, but it does make my trousers tighter and shorter. They also are particularly hot once I'm inside the office. I have also tried corduroys, but they don't seem appropriate or remarkably warm.

A Yes, long underwear is appropriate for layering under business clothing as long as you choose the right garment, one that is made of the right material and the right weight. If you do, you are correct that others will not know.

Often, when men think of long underwear for winter, they're picturing bulky long thermal underpants designed primarily to be worn outdoors for ski wear. Yes, those would indeed affect the fit of your business trousers. But, since you are not the only man seeking winter warmth, manufacturers have come up with many lighter alternatives for your comfort. They are widely available in stores and online. Options include the type of material, the weight of the fabric, and whether the garment is a single-layer or a two-layer product.

Of the material options of silk, synthetic and a wool blend (a mixed blend of cotton, wool, and synthetic), silk is probably your best choice. For strong, lightweight comfort without the bulk, silk is ideal. Thin and lightweight, silk underwear slides smoothly under suit trousers and dress pants, barely adding any bulk.

On the topic of weight, avoid thick "thermal" weights. Look for light and thin weights.

Of the two-layered products, some blended-fabric (such as "Duofold") garments are double layered; the layer that touches the skin is itch-free cotton on the inside and a blend of fibers on the outside.

As to corduroy pants, they can work in a casual-business dress environment, but are not refined enough for a boardroom look. Usually made of all-cotton, corduroy is comfortable and somewhat cozy in attitude, though not as warm as wool. On the other hand, corduroy has a major drawback; it tends to make most people look heavy. If you choose a narrow-wale weave (especially one with some "stretch" to the fabric) rather than a wide-wale, you have helped this problem a lot. But if you are sensitive about your own weight fluctuations, I don't recommend corduroy.

Interestingly, many find that in cold weather, layering with tops is more effective and more comfortable than layering with bottoms. That is, wearing either a silk or cotton undershirt under winter clothes makes more of a discernible difference than adding long underpants. Undershirts can have long sleeves, short sleeves or even be sleeveless; they still keep you warm. A professional look can also include a sweater, which is a layer you can remove if you become too hot -- good for those cost-saving offices that are freezing on winter Monday mornings and then much warmer later in the day. A good-looking cardigan or even a vest can be an easy layer to wear in (or keep in) an office.

Socks, too, make a big difference. Wearing fine wool socks that come up to or near the knees, rather than shorter cotton or nylon socks, is another way to dress professionally and feel warm.

Staying with your legs, you might consider the actual trousers that you are wearing instead of what you are wearing with them. Once again, paying attention to the fabric is wise. In an informal office environment, you might find that fleece-backed styles are comfortable and appropriate. L.L. Bean makes light- and dark-khaki cotton chinos that are cotton flannel-lined for extra warmth. In a dressier/more formal office setting, you can choose handsome wool dress pants. Some year-round weight wool dress pants are even washable. Since wool is always warmer than cotton or blends, you may not need an extra layer of underwear at all. Not only are all-wool trousers more refined, they also have the insulating advantage of remaining both cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than other fabrics. Stay warm!

Please send men's fashion questions to Male Call:

Lois.Fenton@prodigy.net

High Profile on 01/28/2018