Why Chicagoans freak out over every bit of snow…

It may seem crazy that every time you get on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram everyone in the Midwest, namely Chicago, absolutely freaks out every single time there’s any little bit of snow.

I know some people are saying just to get over it, it’s only snow… But you see… We can’t just do that.

Chicagoans will always find something to complain about, that’s just human nature. But there’s this crazy sense of pride that we can stick it out through these harsh, cold, and snowy winters.

Remember the Blizzard of 2011?

I was in Indiana a the time, and I was actually sort of jealous to miss such a massive storm. I mean, thundersnow. It was scary, and yes, people were stranded on Lake Shore Drive before abandoning their vehicles and making a run for it… But Chicagoans went out and we owned this storm, it was ours. People near in the high rises near the drive came out with hot drinks and went out to help those who were stuck.

We were all ready and prepared for another Snowmageddon, survivors of the Snowpocalypse. And you know what, we didn’t even care about another season of parking dibs. But the following winters? Sadly mild. Normally by this time in the season we’ve had 27-inches of snow. This year? Only 14-inches.

We miss snow.

The beautiful, and sometimes bitter, winters help balance out the also beautiful but humid summers. Spring and fall are just rainy, but hey, the temps are perfect. This craziness of random 60-degree weather in the middle of January just doesn’t cut it. Give us our snow!

Chicago has four whole seasons, and we just want our real Chicago winter back.

how this Chicago girl gets ready for winter.

It’s finally snowing in Chicago, and you know, I’m really kind of okay with that. This mild winter’s been nice–hey, more days to wear skirts! But yeah, I’m kind of ready for a little bit of a real winter.

It seems like every year in Chicago winter hits and people get all “OMG SNOW! ICE! THE WORLD IS ENDING!!”-sorts of stupid. Um. Hi. Welcome to Chicago. It snows here. And yes, it happens to get pretty toasty in the summer. As Steinomite has taught us: We actually have all 4 seasons. So again. Welcome to Chicago. It snows here.

So a few weeks ago, I found this post via twitter: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Chicago Winter by Confessions. There’s A LOT of good info, but I thought I’d share my own advice on getting through what some people say is the season that make people true Chicagoans.

First, Your legs: I choose not to drive and take the CTA, because of this I spend a fair bit of time outside. Not to mention, I still like walking places. Also, my office can vary in temperature quite a bit. Once it’s below freezing, I wear long underwear under my jeans. Jeans aren’t made super thick any more, so I need a little extra something. Tights or leggings work, but I really suggest thin, silky long underwear. I also tend to wear knee-high socks under my jeans, over the long underwear.

Your upper body: I’ve got camis (men, think a prettier and better named version of wife-beaters*) that I’ll wear under shirts and sweaters. I’ll wear a decent amount of cardigans still. Fleeces are good too, but I’m not a big fleece person. I don’t go do uber heavy sweaters because wearing that under a winter coat means dying of heat. I’ve got regular gloves, but I also have fingerless and arm warmers. I’ve definitely worn both of those, even together, while at the office. Also: it’s totally appropriate to wear your scarf inside. No jacket needed. But good gloves, with complete coverage is important.

On the topic of jackets and coats… Get one that covers your butt. I have a lot of coats, but three staples for the winter. The first is a wool-blend that’s lined. It’s nice, pretty, and light-ish weight. Anything 35-degrees and above (no snow). It goes past my waist of course. The second is my puffy coat. It’s nylon with a polyester liner. So it’s not completely waterproof, but it keeps me pretty much dry in snow. It’s got a fur lined hood and yep, covers my butt. Most importantly, it’s got good cuffs. So inside the sleeve is a knit cuff, sort of like a second sleeve that keeps the snow from getting in as well as protect my wrists from getting exposed. A good cuff is very important. Lastly, I have my OMG BLIZZARD coat. It’s an ankle-length coat that’s goose-down. It’s pretty much waterproof as well. Also has a good hood. The only thing I don’t like is it sucks interms of cuffs. Extending my arm means exposing my wrists.

Why am I so adamant about the butt coverage? Ice. Big puffy coats that cover your butt just give you a bit more cushion for if/when you fall. Also, it helps keep some air from sneaking up and getting your waist cold. (I’d also go for one that synchs.)  So. Coats. Remember: cuffs, butt, hood.

Your head: I’m done with winter beanies. Tiny knit caps that never really keep me warm. Once snow melts on them? Yeah. Done. Personally, I’m a fan of trapper hats. They’re warm and have flaps to cover your ears. Generally you can secure them under your chin. Mine’s fur lined (and actually fleece lined too). I’m more a fan of these types of hats, but just make sure the top of your head is completely covered AND your ears are covered. Whether this is a hat and ear muff combo or just a snazzy hat like mine, just make sure you’re covered.

Now, most importantly… Footwear: I’ve seen a lot of people make dumb winter footwear choices in this city. Hell. I’ve made them. (Sorry, but cloth boots in snow is not a good mix.) Personally, I always suggest boots that are at least mid-calf. If you’re walking around, eventually you’ll have to cross a street and you’ll get a nice mound of snow and slush to climb over. Mid-calf helps insure great coverage. I like going knee-high because it’s just that much more protection from the cold. (So between my boots and my coat, it’s only my thighs that are exposed.) Secondly, WATERPROOF. Get boots that will keep your feet dry. There’s always slush. Thirdly, TRACTION. These things are in all caps because they’re important. There’s a lot of ice. People are dumb and don’t take care of their sidewalks even though they’re supposed to. Give yourself every advantage you can to not fall. This year I’m investing in some good boots that’ll hopefully last a few years. (My Nike boots were awesome looking, but tore up my ankles, so those are dead to me.) Looking at Sorel boots now, which I’ll probably order from Zappos or REI just in case they don’t work out.

Just remember… Don’t worry how ridiculous you look. Bring a change of shoes or whatever to wear at work. Just be smart, and most importantly warm if you’re going to be outside. Others may laugh at you, but you can laugh at them for as they freeze.

Now that we’re done with getting you dress properly, later I’ll write about just general rules for surviving and dealing with winter itself.

*Hate the name “wife beater” all you want… I’m originally from Indiana and that’s what we call those tank tops on dude. Just kind of stuck now.

I’m a snow beast!

The first real snow is finally here.

Though the great boot search is still under way (see: start walking (notes on cold weather fashion))… I managed to pick up a new coat and hat just in time this year.

hat01I hadn’t actually been searching for a hat this year…  I had knit hats already — various ones my gram had made me… and my new 91.1FM beanie… But I stumbled across a nice trapper hat at target and well, found it amusing.  It’s also warm.  So between the humor and the warm factors, it wins.
Just last week I wore this hat to work, like I have been lately, and well, saw a young student wearing the same hat coming in.  She wasn’t all that thrilled, and had to tell her friend, and then they had to whisper comments and gawk.  Apparently I had ruined her whole “I’m so original” look… But hun, when you shop at target, there will be at least 25-50 other people with the same item.  Just gotta learn to deal with it.  And as you can remember from my guitar hero-ing, I rock out that hat.

true rockstar
true rockstar

Anyway.  When it came to buying a coat, I had specific things I had in mind.

1. Puffiness
Puffy coats are pretty warm.  I’ve been a fan of ski jackets (I own at least 3), and just enjoy the extra padding.  Falling down is almost inevitable, so if I can make my landing a bit nicer, all the better.  There’s also something about a big puffy coat to remind you of your apparent smallness.

2. Nylon/waterproof
Not a huge issue seeing as most puffy coats are made out of this material.  Though it would be amazing to see a wool puffy coat.  crazy.

coat023. Below the waist
My previous winter coat, which belonged to my late stepmom, went down to my ankles.  I’m just that much shorter than her that a below the knees coat turns floor length.  I was a giant black puff ball in that coat, but I was warm.  So I stopped caring.  But until the snow gets out of hand or it gets in the negatives, I don’t need anything that long… All my other coats are either too lightweight or waist length… meaning I end up having a very cold booty.  Not fun.  So butt coverage was a must.

4. Definable waist
Just because I want it to go past my waist doesn’t mean I want it to cover it.  I want to still look all feminine in my coat.  Who says you can’t be warm and look good?

5. Fur.
I find it hilarious.  Maybe it helps with the warmth, but mostly I think it just looks amazing.  So I needed a coat with fur around the hood, preferably — none of that furry lapel stuff.  It sort of ties into the snow beast things…

So this is what I ended up with, after a lot of searching — The Buckle didn’t have the coat I wanted, so I meandered through an entire mall filled with mindless shoppers and eventually found my coat in Macy’s.

meets all criteria. win.

I will say, mine is not black.  Mine is actually a gunmetal gray color… which well, I have a fondness for gray.  (And yes, grey too.)  … I just couldn’t find an image of my coat’s color… It is indeed warm too.  And the fur is ridiculous.

One goal this winter is to get a lot of really cheap faux fur stuff, including fluff mommas (see post mentioned above)… then run around the city… “I’M A SNOW BEAST!!”  Fun times shall be had by all.

The Mennojerk knows the value of a good hat.
The Mennojerk knows the value of a good hat.

start walking (notes on cold weather fashion)

(I seem to be on a fashion kick… oh well… and no pun intended for this next entry…)

I lived in the city long enough to go through one winter, and in that short time I learned there is just something you seriously cannot do without.  Good boots.

Chances are, here in the Second City area, you won’t really have to be climbing through large mounds of snow — more like the banks created by the plows that decide that sidewalks really don’t need easy access points… Or in the neighborhoods where people just refuse to get out and do their civic due of shoveling their sidewalks.  However, boots are a must.

Since it’s already hit the 30s, and with the wind and everything it feels like the 20s… students across campus have already started donning their winter wears.   Well, not so much as in coats and such, but the boots are out in mass.  And there’s one boot fashion trend that seems to not want to die.

classic uggs
classic uggs

The Ugg.

They hit the peak of their popularity in the early 2000s.  Anyone who was anyone had on these boots, pants tucked in, so everyone could see that you were indeed stylish.  A very popular outfit with these were sweatpants.  It was the “I just got out of bed” look… and seriously, who wouldn’t want to wear the most comfortable and warmest clothes they could in the winter?  I, however, refused to buy Uggs.  Not just because I was bucking a trend, but because frankly I thought they looked dumb.

the fluff momma by ugg
the fluff momma by ugg

Best of all with the Uggs… the Fluff Momma.  I kid you not, that’s the official product name of these horrific sasquatch feet of boots.  Yes, make me look like a giant snow beast.  It’s exactly what I want.

I find these boots to be absolutely hilarious.  Maybe if you live somewhere that it doesn’t snow much, or they don’t use salt or sand on the roads, leaving dirty slush everywhere… maybe then could these boots survive past one winter.  The idea of washing one of these after a romp around the city seems beyond what most people would ever want to do.  Granted, they do look warm though.

The boots that strike my fancy are from Blowfish and Rocketdog — two companies which happen to be related.  Both brands have produced shoes and boots in the past that I’ve been oh-so tempted to purchase, and sometimes I question why I haven’t yet.

two different style of blowfish boots
blowfish boots

Blowfish first caught my eye with their Hobbit boots.  I’ve seen knockoffs at retail stores, but I’m not going to settle for anything but true hobbit boots.  Not only do I like the style, it just makes me giggle when I think about hobbits.  (The boot on the left, the Hey Now, is basically a higher cut of the Hobbit boot.)

I wouldn’t wear the Hobbit boots around this winter, not once it starts to snow.  I’m not even sure I’d do the same with the Hey Nows, but it just depends on how water proof I could make them with various sprays.  The boot on the right, the Faldo, is a flannel boot… Again, as long as I could keep it dry (or at least my socks) then I might consider these.

rocketdog boots
rocketdog boots

For something a bit more waterproof, and well a better twist on the classic snow boot, I’d probably want the rocketdog popcorn boot (shown on the right) or the honeydew (on the left) — both of which, by the way, are vegan.  These boots would definitely survive various jaunts around the city, slush and all.

And well, apparently the only way to wear boots now is to tuck in whatever sort of pants you have on.  This would be the only reason I’d probably ever get skinny jeans (with hips like mine, I don’t really need to accent them).  Granted, I don’t tend to wear my boots around the office… Anyway.  Tucking in, though it used to be something I’d thought was sort of silly, is very practical.  I tend to be quite fond of dry pants, so keeping them out of the muck is key.  Last winter I was surprised more than once by the depth of a snow patch or slushy puddle.

This year I’m actually looking for a new pair of boots.  And though I’m leaning towards something faux fur lined, I’ll be passing on the Uggs (though an old high school friend swears by them).  Knowing me, I’ll end up buying two pairs… this has definitely been a year for shoe buying for me.  What can I say, I like footwear.

various boots I might find acceptable
various boots I might find acceptable