What is the best everyday base layer?


What you’re talking about, of course, is the item formerly known as “long pants” or “suit” or “long underwear” and now mostly referred to by the more socially acceptable name “”. Base layer.” Base layers suggest clothing that has at least the potential to be seen by others, while also implying a sort of hiking-skiing-climbing association.

And as with most fashion items, where the terminology has evolved — see, for example, the way used and used clothing has been translated to “gently loved” and “vintage” — she too has a choice. Base layers now come in so many different materials and prices (SmartWool! Synthetic! Merino! Silk!) that confronting a shelf of potential tops can feel as intimidating as climbing Denali.

OK, not that intimidating, but everything is relative.

Which option is the best depends on the intended use. A good guide to the details of men’s and women’s base layers can be found here, courtesy of my colleagues at Wirecutter. But for your purposes – to keep you warm in everyday life instead of engaging in sporting activities – many experts agree that merino wool is at the top of the list.

According to Brian Anthony, Head of Merchandising at Houdini, a Stockholm-based outdoor brand, “merino wool’s natural properties regulate the ‘microclimate’ of our clothing systems, keeping you warm without overheating. They can also be worn repeatedly without leaving an odor and dry fairly quickly.” Eoin Comerford, the managing director of Moosejaw, an online retailer, agreed.

Then there’s the question of style: want a layer that looks gym-ready? Vintage? Or do you prefer a thin t-shirt (check out this V-neck top from Icebreaker).

You can find merino versions of all of the above, but for those with less technical needs, silk is another great option. It’s not as effective as wool or synthetics, but it feels a little more sophisticated and urban, less wild. Both LL Bean and Land’s End are great resources.

Then there’s this colour-block Heattech Turtleneck from Uniqlo x Marni that’s synthetic but silky and can go pretty much anywhere. Granted, it’s visible, but in a good way.

Finally, if you want something that is really flattering, unbulky and can be worn with a suit or dress, nothing beats a bodysuit. Intimissimi features a simple crew neck made from a cashmere-modal blend (modal is a fabric made from beech pulp), and for a holiday treat, check out Commando and the Wolford outlet.

The prices may seem outlandish for something most people will never see, but this is an item that never goes out of style. It’s also a great last minute gift. It’s a little splendor that might seem too expensive to buy for yourself, but the items offer secret confidence and comfort. The value proposition is just… well, simple.

Each week on Open Thread, Vanessa answers a reader’s fashion-related questions, which you can send her anytime via E-mail or Twitter. Questions are edited and compressed.

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