Toward the end of the Before Times, I started wearing this short-sleeve wool tee whenever I was on the run. Sometimes that was literal, when I would wear it to jog — or to play morning soccer in the autumn and early winter, when the temperature could rise or fall ten degrees based on the behavior of a single cloud. During those soccer games, the wool kept me warm, but as I sprinted, then walked, then sprinted again, it breathed enough to keep me from overheating.
Most of us think of wool as a warmth provider, but it’s actually a temperature stabilizer, with fibers that spread and releasing heat when it’s toasty, but maintain your temperature when it’s cool. The Harrier tee from the somewhat niche Massachusetts running apparel company Tracksmith is the best I’ve found. For everything. It’s a blend of merino wool and elastane, so it has some cling to it that lets it serve as an undershirt. But it’s also cut in a way that’s not so constrictive that, if wearing it on its own, you feel the urge to suck in your stomach when you catch your reflection. It’s become my secret weapon.
A little over a year ago, I was faced with a challenge: I needed to attend a sit-down dinner event wearing a suit and tie. It was going to be a brisk November night, but I also didn’t want to wear a coat in order to avoid the coat check. With this substantial-but-slim shirt under my button down, there was no coat for me to worry about. When I arrived a the event, I headed straight to the scotch. When I left, I walked right past the dozen or so people fiddling with their phones at coat check and headed directly outside, where I was … totally fine. Comfortable and warm enough to get where I needed to go.
I wore this shirt to everything. Out dancing, to parties — to all the things we loved to do when we could leave our homes for anything other than groceries without feeling a little guilty. But it’s proved incredibly useful during the pandemic as well. I still wear it for daytime runs and hikes, and recently I found its best use yet.
If there is one thing that has been a source of solace in this hellish year, it has been the time I’ve spent outdoors beneath the New York night. Much of it has happened in the confines of the small shared courtyard of my apartment building — a largely concrete space with a faded wooden table and a handful of rusting chairs, made beautiful by an array of plants my neighbor tends to (except in the coldest months) and adorned with a single crisscrossing string of solar-powered lights. It has hosted tiny — or rather, exclusive — pandemic birthday parties. It has been where my roommates and I go to decompress or to drink till three in the morning with our neighbors, who have become good friends. It has been our site for roasting s’mores over the charcoal grill, beneath the straining stars.
That haven has mostly emptied now as winter has arrived, the sun has grown shyer, the virus has thrived, and several of us (though not I) have left to isolate before spending the holidays with family. But my shirt helped me comfortably prolong the time we did have, and my hope is that it — and maybe some insulating running tights — can help me foster a rekindling of that community when they get back.
So far, it’s winning out over the chill. In one recent week, I wore it beneath a hoodie and a peacoat to have an outdoor beer with a former colleague I hadn’t seen in too long, from which I went directly to play some masked, small-sided soccer where it acted as my only top layer. The next night, I snuck it beneath a wool sweater on a first date in a bar’s backyard. At no time did I feel constricted or puffy. Not once did I shiver.
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