Your ‘bomb cyclone’ and ‘polar vortex’ style guide


The year 2018 is starting off with a bomb — no, not the kind that we don’t want dropped on us by North Korea but a winter weather event that could bring some historically frigid temperatures to the East Coast of the United States, on top of below-average temperatures in the region. Winter Storm Grayson is a monster-size front that is fed by low atmospheric pressure off the Atlantic Ocean, producing a phenomenon called explosive cyclogenesis, or a “bomb cyclone,” which totally sounds like a Pokémon attack move.

From left, base layers from Nike, Urban Outfitters, and Uniqlo.

The National Weather Service is predicting blizzard-like conditions for the Northeast later this week, while areas such as northern Florida have already seen snow. So although it’s probably best to hunker down and ride out the storm with scented candles and reruns of The Bachelor, you’re going to need to get bundled up if you venture outside. The blizzard weather will bring snow, ice, extremely cold temperatures, and wind, meaning you need to be strategic about your gear. And as a former Chicagoan who regularly dealt with winters so cold that the fluid in my eyes would freeze, I can tell that you that this is not the time for obsession over style. Remember, the temperature often doesn’t accurately describe how cold it feels.

Comfort and practicality are key.

Serious winter boots from Sorel, left, and Columbia.

Let’s start with base layers. If you don’t have a pair of traditional waffle-knit long underwear, no need to fret: You can make do with wicking athletic wear ($55) under your street clothes. It won’t keep you as warm as long johns, but it will wick away moisture from your skin as you pile on the layers, and you’ll be much more comfortable (a little secret I learned from my days as a bike commuter in Chicago’s winters).

Uniqlo’s HeatTech line ($10) is also lauded for a reason — it works, and it is affordable. In a pinch, Urban Outfitters also makes excellent fleece-lined tights, and right now they’re on sale for $5.

For your street clothes, stick to your winter basics: a wool sweater and heavier denim. Your ultra-fashionable Madewell mom jeans ($115) will give you extra room to accommodate your leg base layer.

As for your coat? Leave your oversize gray wool duster tucked away in your closet; it’s time to look less like Patti Smith and more like an Alaskan lumberjack. You’ll need a long down coat if you want to stay warm in this frigid cold, and this is where Uniqlo comes in handy again. Its down coats ($100) are affordable and they do the job, which is what we all want in for-real winter outerwear. If you’re feeling spendy, those Canada Goose parkas ($895) are popular for a reason: They claim to keep you warm down -15F, and their minimal design is as stylish as a coat can get. For a midrange option that won’t set you back a grand, try North Face ($300). Its coats are, in my opinion, the best bang for your buck.

Socks! Wool socks are the standard here. Some people find them itchy or less flexible than regular cotton socks, but you’ll find them infinitely warmer. Smartwool’s wool socks ($17 to $26) are second to none, and they even come in adorable prints.

You’ll also need serious footwear to deal with the serious weather. Doc Martens are cool, but as I can attest after several miserable winters, they aren’t waterproof, despite how much I wanted them to be. Instead, Sorel’s winter boots ($145) are beloved for their functionality and relative affordability: They keep your feet warm and dry, are wide enough to accommodate those wool socks, and come in a variety of styles. If you’re not looking to spend, Columbia’s Ice Maiden II snow boots ($80) has thousands of glowing reviews on Amazon.

Finally, do not skimp on accessories. Any cold-weather expert will tell you that they aren’t a luxury but an absolute necessity. Wear a hat, even if your coat has a hood. Wear a scarf, and tuck it into your coat. The upcoming winter storm will bring heavy winds, so I recommend leaving the plaid blanket scarf at home and bundling up with an infinity scarf ($26): It can be tossed around your neck and head at the same time, and won’t flap around in the biting wind. Gloves or mittens are also not up for debate, and we won’t don’t mean the simple black fingerless knit gloves that you wore in your goth days. We’re talking serious, cartoonishly large gloves, like these bad boys from Carhartt ($22). Yes, it is a bummer to not be able to use your touchscreen phone while you’re outside, but Candy Crush can wait through the bomb cyclone.