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By Chris Rogers, editor, Winona Post

If Tuesday’s snows and Monday’s sub-zero wind chill didn’t give you the message, let me be the bearer of bad news: Winter is here. Long gone is the cider-sipping, pumpkin-carving coziness of autumn. We’ve reached the “now it’s just cold” time of year. Soon we’ll be on to “my face hurts just being outside” season. Ah, the joys of the North Country.

As a kid, my mom chided me to bundle up and got me wool socks every Christmas, but not everyone received training on how to cope with the cold. Once, a friend of mine moved from balmy California to Minnesota. Being quite concerned about the cold but not having the first clue about how to prepare for it, he got the thickest, fluffiest, most expensive coat he could find and trusted that surely this Antarctic-expedition-level parka would keep him warm. 

He was wrong. A coat is not enough. Dressing for northern winters really requires a head-to-toe approach. So to all the new Minnesotans and Wisconsinites trying to avoid misery during your first winter and for the reading enjoyment of you grizzled veterans of many a long winter, here’s my winter dress code.

1. Layers are your friends. My friend’s mistake was thinking that one big piece of outerwear would do the trick. Really, you need many, many lighter weight layers: a T-shirt, a long-sleeve shirt, one sweater, another sweater, a vest, a fleece, a jacket. Keep adding them until you’re warm enough or can’t bend at the elbows. Remove as needed. Repeat.

2. You can never have too many wool socks. It’s hard to be truly warm if some part of you is always cold, and too often, that’s your feet. The thin, free-spirited cotton socks of summer are not going to cut it. You need some frumpy wool socks the color of oatmeal — possibly even two pairs on a really cold day.

3. You need boots. Even if you’re not out shoveling or playing in the snow, at some point in the winter, you’re going to have to trudge through a drift deep enough to fill your shoes with snow, snow that slowly melts and soaks into your socks. Your day is officially over at this point.

Boots can be expensive. You don’t need the best boots or even necessarily winter-specific boots, but you do need above-the-ankle footwear that will keep your feet dry during brief brushes with the snow.

4. Long johns are more than maple-glazed donuts. Wearing long underwear is my favorite winter power move. Long underwear shrugs at 20 below, it eats icicles for dinner, it — OK, it’s just a nice way to stay warm. When things get really cold, it doesn’t matter how many layers on your torso if you’ve only got single-ply pants on. Leggings, tights, and lined pants are all acceptable alternatives. Of course the downside to long underwear is that, unlike other layers, if you get too hot, you can’t just take them off. 

5. Hats are not optional. Do knit caps look cool? Meh. Do they plaster your hair to your head like a wet cat? Yes. But they’re warm. Fifteen percent of the blood in your body at any given time is flowing through your head. Without a cap, your scalp radiates all that precious body heat out toward the cold, uncaring depths of space. A good hood can work just as well, but put something on your noggin.

Perhaps the best advice of all is, don’t let vanity make you cold. In the depths of winter, we’ll collectively reach a point where all pretense of fashion and dignity goes out the door in favor of bucket-sized boots, ugly coveralls, and mismatched layers so thick our bodies resemble blanket forts. I say, the sooner we embrace it, the better.