Photo by Gregory Hayes
What do I wear to work in the winter in Canada? I have this question from many who are immigrating to Canada. Just so we cover this from the start, the weather in Toronto is pretty mild in comparison to the rest of Canada. In many parts, the temperatures drop to extreme lows (say -27C as an average for some places). They have incredible amounts of snow in the winter and for a much longer time than we experience here in Toronto. This blog post will suffice for most territories but for those of you who are immigrating outside of Toronto, layering up at all costs until you are unrecognisable is the norm and completely okay! Remember that when you are inside a building it is warm and the layers are peeled off.
If you are meeting at the office, men will wear suit pants or smart cargo-type pants with a shirt and no tie (unless you are in banking or in an industry/company culture that wears ties). This goes for summer and winter. Lighter colours are often worn in summer and darker colours in winter. This is not a hard and fast rule but generally speaking this is the norm.
In winter you will simply add layers to what you would wear in summer. A short sleeve vest under your shirt is the way to go and a knitted sweater over the shirt (long sleeve may be overkill since the buildings are so warm inside). Many will wear a blazer/jacket over that. Rather have an extra layer that you can remove than not have it at all.
For a more smart/formal look, wear a coat over your jacket or simply wear the coat over your shirt and jersey. This coat is often called a car coat. A car coat is not as fitting as your blazer would be - it has space for more layers underneath the coat and it is is longer than blazer. You should be able to wear this over your suit or jacket. In this video I talk about the car coat and show you an example of one. An example of a car coat would be something like this one below, however this one is more of a trench coat since it does not have an inner layer but it will do the job for a mild winters day. It will certainly not be warm enough for the colder provinces that's for sure!
Trench coat or car coat as an option to wear over your work attire.
Have a look at this car coat by Cole Haan. It is rather heavy, warm (53% is wool) and has an inner layer. I really recommend this one. I found this on Amazon. You can find Cole Haan at Hudsons Bay too. A car coat is a great investment because you can dress it up or down. It can be worn with jeans or with a suit or work wear.
PARKA/JACKET (SNOW JACKET)
The other option for a work jacket, and for more insulation when you travel in the snow or rain in winter, is to wear a parka/snow jacket. This will definitely be a purchase you will make since you will wear this jacket almost everyday. Wearing the same jacket everyday is often the reason why some like to have another option for work. Some snow jackets can be rather bulky and casual looking. First and foremost, it is very important that you stay warm as priority. Your budget will also play a factor on what you purchase. Either you have the luxury to purchase both (which is not a necessity) or you purchase the parka to start. If the latter is your option, perhaps go for something plain and smarter looking so that it works well for both casual and work wear. Remember that you don't need to wear jackets inside because it well heated inside the buildings. It is completely okay to wear both items to the office, its your choice and style that should make the decision. Here are a couple of examples of snow jackets.
Winter parka is essential. Photo by KAL VISUALS
There is a massive variety of snow jackets or parkas here in Canada obviously, so they are well versed with what works. Don't be bullied into buying expensive brands - there are so many out there that will tick the boxes of being weatherproof, warm and that look great. TIP: Buy a jacket that covers your rear end! You will thank me. Have a look at these options: The Langford Parka from Canada Goose (very expensive brand and very well known in Canada). The price is often escalated on parkas because the fur on the hood is real fur. You will see in the description that each jacket will give you the temperature it can handle! (eg.-25 or -15). Love that. Here is the down parka from Eddie Bauer I found from Hudson Bay. Note the price difference. Look at this one - Antarctic waterproof jacket from Mountain Warehouse. Here are a few more you can look at: Moose Knuckles, Rudsak, North Face, Columbia, Pajar, Noize, Polo Ralph Lauren. Look at Hudson Bay ("The Bay" as we call it) is a good place to start looking at pricing and their large range of parkas/jackets. They often has massive sales on these items, so look out for them. The Bay is similar to Stuttafords if you are in South Africa or Macy's if you are in the USA. If you live in the UK, it is similar to Marks and Spencer.
Gloves are a must. Photo by Sarune Sedereviciute
To add to the layers for winter for when you travel to and from work, don't forget to get a good pair of gloves (leather is not warm, been there - done that, unless it is lined with fleece or fur). Fleece lined gloves or searching for ski gloves are a good option. You get gloves that have finger-touch options to use your cellphone while you wear them. Mittens have been said to keep you warmest since all four fingers are touching each other and stay warm. Cut off mittens are great which often also have a flap that folds over the four fingers. These are heated ones!
A toque should always be in your bag or pocket at all times. Photo by Delaney Boyd
Of course you will need a toque (say "too-k") which you may know as a beanie. Make sure that the toque is insulated and not just one knitted layer. If you can see your hand through the knit, it will not do! Get ones that are fleece lined or double layered. Wool is so warm too. I have seen many guys wear the aviator hats - those with ears and a neck flap and lined with fur. You can't go wrong with buying one of these, but perhaps not for work (had to slip this in here, they are amazing to have, and if you never wear it, you can take it to along to the next Burning Man!). These stores have a lot of accessories you can look at: Hudson Bay, Sail, MEC, Mountain Warehouse, and all the other stores where you purchase parkas/jackets.
Layer with a scarf. Photo by Jilbert Ebrahimi
Another item you may consider is to wear a scarf. This works well if you use it to cover your neck and mouth. Now that we wear masks more often, this will also help keep your face warmer. If you are wearing a car coat that does not have a hood, a scarf will come in handy to keep your neck warm, so I highly recommend wearing one. Wearing a scarf will definitely up your work wear style (if you will even consider wearing one). Do it!
If you are walking to the office in heavy snow from a bus/train, you will want to wear snow boots. If there is not much snow, most men will wear normal work shoes to work (make sure the soles are rubber - much warmer and weatherproof). A brilliant option is to wear covers over your shoes called overshoes - such a win! These are Hartt's SWIMS overshoes. They even stock boot overshoes. Not a cheap exercise but well worth saving your leather shoes and the hassle of taking an extra pair to work. TIP: Leave a couple of pairs of shoes at the office to change into from your snow boots.
Blundstone boots. Photo by Jonothan Cooper
Here is an example of a boot that works for snow and can work with work clothes. They are very popular here - called Blundstone's: see the photo above. Both my girls and husband have them and kids wear them to school here. Their thermal edition have woolly inserts which make them ideal for winter.
Timberland boots. Photo by Tevin Trinh
These are Timberland boots (above) that are one example of hundreds of brands you can look at that would work well for both work and outdoor wear. You can look at: Redwing, Pajar, Sorel, and of course go take a look at Hudsons Bay for their boots and sales!
SNOW BOOTS FOR SHOVELLING & OUTDOOR EVERYTHING
I thought I would throw these in the mix - you will love them... check out Bogs. My husband loves them… pull them on and go. Super warm, soles are moulded to your foot - so comfortable and all rubber. The uppers remind me of a neoprene wetsuit! Great for outdoors and especially shovelling the driveway! They have kids sizes, everyone should have a pair.
LAST TIP FOR ALL HUMANS IN WINTER....LAYERS!
I know your mother kept nagging about whether you have a sweater or not.....! Seriously.... layering with wool or knitted pieces makes a huge difference. You can then dress in thinner layers and be very warm and not feel like the Michelin Man. Do you know why wool keeps your warm? Wool responds to your body temperature whether you are hot or cold. Air is trapped inside the wool fibres which circulates your body heat. It is a proven fact that wool will keep you warm when you are cold and cool when you are hot. There you go!
Have I missed anything? More tips you want to share? Feel free to leave a comment to help others reading this article.