The conventional wisdom of dressing in layers for winter warmth is being challenged by new fabric technologies.
Exercising and staying active are essential aspects of living a healthy life, and that doesn’t change when the weather turns cold. But studies have shown that people are generally less active during the colder months, and significantly more prone to sedentary behaviors. People tend to gain 1-2 pounds over the winter months, according to the National Institutes of Health, in part because they exercise less.
Increasing physical activity during the winter could have a big impact on our overall health, but there’s little mystery as to why so many of us hibernate instead: The cold makes being outside less pleasant, and makes exercising an uncomfortable and even painful experience.
But there’s an often-overlooked component to our reluctance to go outside during the winter: the clothes we wear.
Buried under layers
The traditional approach to dressing for cold weather activities is to dress in layers: A base layer next to the skin is usually designed to wick away moisture before it can rob us of our body heat, an insulating layer above that keeps the warm air created by our bodies from escaping, and an outer layer protects us from wind and precipitation.
But this approach leads to voluminous, thick, and heavy clothing that discourages activity. Wearing several layers of bulky clothes makes doing anything outside more of an effort than it is during the warmer months. And wearing base layers like thermals all the time — even indoors, where rising energy costs have prompted many to lower their thermostats and layer on the clothes — can leave people feeling sweaty and overheated.
Advanced fabric technology
Innovative approaches to winter wear are changing this perception of winter as an inactive period, however. Advanced synthetic fabrics make it possible to have clothing that’s not only lightweight and comfortable, but also incredibly insulating. In fact, cutting-edge fabrics like those used in UNIQLO’s HEATTECH line are making it possible to leave layering behind.
The company created more than 10,000 prototypes before perfecting a blend of rayon, polyester, and micro acrylic fiber that is one-tenth the fineness of a strand of hair. The fibers capture the energy of water particles released from the body at the nano level and convert this energy into heat. The result is a single layer that not only retains heat but also generates warmth, performing as well as — or better than —traditionally layered clothing in terms of keeping you warm and dry in the cold weather.
“UNIQLO’s mission is to improve everyday life through clothing,” said Masahiko Nakasuji, UNIQLO North America chief marketing officer. “When we first developed HEATTECH with Toray Industries in 2003, we were driven to create a product that could truly transform daily life during cold seasons, serving as a solution to winter dressing, at an accessible price for all. Since then, we have continued to evolve the product based on the needs and direct feedback from our customers.”
Today, UNIQLO offers three levels of heat retention, each designed for different temperature conditions: Regular, Extra Warm (1.5 times* warmer than regular HEATTECH), and Ultra Warm (2.25 times* warmer than regular HEATTECH).
And in addition to inner thermal layers like long sleeve tops and leggings, UNIQLO has expanded the HEATTECH line to categories such as winter accessories — including hats, touchscreen gloves, scarves — outerwear, warm-lined pants, and its newest product featuring 100% cotton on the inside, the HEATTECH Seamless Ribbed Turtleneck (Extra Warm).
This fabric is lightweight and feels smooth against the skin — and because of its excellent moisture wicking, it even prevents body odor from developing. HEATTECH is available in a variety of colors, as UNIQLO is known for, offering not just functionality but style — a perfect foundation for your winter wardrobe.
Less bulky clothing can encourage more physical activity outdoors even when it’s extremely cold, and fabrics designed to wick away moisture while trapping heat avoid the discomfort often associated with layered clothing. If your goal is to maintain a healthy level of activity during the winter weather, choosing the right apparel can be a great first step.
*Based on CLO values, which indicate the thermal insulation of clothing.