Weathering winter fashion: Tammy Thorne on why wool wins

Tammy Thorne: Wooly winter wonderland

Item: Icebreaker base layer

Winter 2014 homepage: read all nine here.  

Photos by Yvonne Bambrick

I like fashion - and that is reflected in the pages of dandyhorse, of course - but I also like winter. As street style maven, Bill Cunningham says, that first blast of cold air "boy, does it change fashion overnight."

As soon as the weather changes, fashion choices change. Winter and fashion are two words that, for many, don't go together… and many people feel they must have special gear for winter riding. Not so (for short distances) but some of the special items you might want to have are covered by other dandies in this winter issue (studded tires, goggles, fleece-lined pants) but mostly you need good lights, a great hat and gloves (as you would anyway in winter), wool socks and you must layer up! Really, it doesn't have to be complicated.

My item is this Icebreaker undershirt. I’m a HUGE fan of merino wool (and plaid, but plaid doesn’t keep you warm). And IceBreaker has three weights of material: one for all season, one for cool conditions and one for cold conditions. My long sleeve, blue “bodyfit” undershirt is perfect under a cashmere sweater and a leather jacket when the weather is hovering around zero (as it was in this photo above and the puddle splash below) – but it’s also great for when you’re riding in -20 C weather and have two wool sweaters over your base layer, along with your jacket, two scarves, gloves and mittens and a hat with furry ear flaps (as I am, in the photo at bottom.) You’ll also notice that I’ve got my heeled camper boots on with the colder-day outfit. Winter riding is not that hard – if I can do it with heeled boots on, chances are you can too!

Oh and the other really great thing about IceBreaker’s merino wool products? Not only are they natural, renewable and biodegradeable – they’re also “no stink” – the lightweight fabric is naturally odour resistant.

This is a good thing, because, trust me, you will be working up a sweat once you get pedalling. I find it hard to stop and remove layers too – once you get pumped up you don't want to stop, so that's when I'm grateful for the wicking properties of the merino wool undershirt.

Oh and don't forget your wool socks. Always carry an extra pair of socks. Extra socks will save your life on the day that you get a soaker after riding through a large puddle "just for fun" and then realize it's still January and it's pretty cold outside.  (You can stuff your shoes or boots with newspaper to speed up the drying process too.)

Personally, I’ve really been very happy with my army boots for winter boots this year – they have such great solid tread that I’ve been able to get around pretty easily even with the icy roads post-ice storm. They’re comfy but roomy enough to wear two pairs of socks (or one thick wool pair.)

If I’m not wearing my army boots then I’m wearing my “cute boots” for winter – for work and nicer outings. They are Camper brand boots with a small heel. I find my winter bike: a vintage step-through Hercules 3-speed, is perfect for riding in heels. A slow, upright, classy ride with a rack and panier on the back to carry all those extra socks and whatnots.

That's another favourite part about winter riding: I get to spend a lot more time with my oldest bike "Herc".

To recap: Wool + winter cycling = 🙂

I was describing Icebreaker products to a friend and was telling him how they really care about and have a sort of 'personal relationship' with their sheep. His reply, "Oh dear, that's all I want to know about how they treat their sheep." Hah! But seriously folks, you can trace the natural, sustainable product right back to the farm in New Zealand. I like that.


On the day of our shoot it was really warm. I wonder why people still think that climate change doesn't exist. It had been so cold that you can see the big banks of ice, yet here I am playing in puddles... in January!?

Key item, no matter how mild or how "polar vortex" you get: wool layers.

IceBreaker's base layer (blue merino wool undershirt below) from the southern alps of New Zealand is the bomb:

...But how do I dress when it's actually WINTER outside and I want to ride:

On Shaw in the sub-zero temps: London Fog piled wool knee-length jacket and my fabulous furry ear-flapped hat with peak and chinstrap. I wear two scarfs, gloves and mittens (my right index finger is exposed in the gloves for social media purposes, and my mitts were purchased in Central Park at an outdoor stall that sells fair trade Llama wool items made by Peruvian grandmothers).  I also have two white lights and two red lights. And, yes, I have extra socks in my pannier.

And, just for fun, here is one of my favourite people in the whole world, Bill Cunningham, explaining "functional fashion" for winter.

Winter 2014 homepage: read all nine here.  


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