I am a staunch admirer of Scandinavian design. Clean, sleek lines. Muted colors. An aesthetic as spare as an ice field, yet as elegant as the aurora borealis. This trimmed-down style manifests in Nordic painting, architecture, and even culinary arts. But I particularly love how it expresses itself in Scandinavian fashion: handsome, understated attire in which form follows function. For my taste, the clothing company that most beautifully captures this aesthetic is 66°North, a brand emblematic of Iceland and the official outfitter to the nation’s elite search and rescue teams.
In Iceland, one of the most frigid corners of the inhabited world, high-performance clothing is no mere matter of comfort. Proper gear can make the difference between life and death, especially for sailors and fishermen. Cognizant of such high stakes, 66°North aims to craft the most reliable cold-weather gear money can buy.
“Growing up in a fishing community in the West Fjords, the most remote part of Iceland, I lost family members to hypothermia on the water,” Helgi Oskarsson, 66°North’s CEO, tells me. “Ultimately, I design clothing to save lives.”
With a deep respect for Icelandic craft traditions, Oskarsson sources wool from Icelandic sheep and down from the endemic elder bird—the same materials his Viking ancestors employed in centuries past.
Mercifully, my day-to-day does not entail braving the frigid temperatures of the North Atlantic, but my 66°North gear is like a second skin for me during the winter in New York City. My 66°North jacket, gloves, and fleece keep me toasty even during the most virile weeks of February and garner plenty of compliments to boot. An equally strong selling point is 66°North’s commitment to sustainable and humane down harvesting. While some major companies slaughter countless geese to manufacture down jackets, 66°North gleans down from the Icelandic elder bird in a process that does not require killing the creature.
Below, find my five favorite offerings from 66°North that will keep you warm and stylish during the chilly months.
In Icelandic, the word upla, roughly translating to warm jacket, connotes that well-loved fleece, pullover, or sweater that you invariably grab before leaving the house on a cold day—your companion for all occasions in the cold. My Tindur Fleece from 66°North has firmly supplanted my Patagonia pullover as my trusty ulpa. Solid black, tailored to flatter athletic builds, and emblazoned with a red 66°North logo, the fleece pairs well with jeans or khakis. The collar is high and prominent, providing scarf-like warmth as well as a subtle dash of swagger. Functionally speaking, this is the best fleece I have ever owned, and the Tindur's six pockets (three interior and three exterior) are convenient for carrying my wallet, keys, or even a Kindle. Both the collar and the waist boast elastic drawcords, allowing for extra insulation when temperatures drop.Buy: $330
Perfect for hibernal excursions through the city, the Vic gloves are discreet, warm, and easily portable. They roll up as compactly as a pair of socks, and I usually keep them in the slash pocket of my Tindur fleece or Hofsjökull Bomber Jacket. The material is thin but warm, and the gloves provide enough mobility and finger articulation to make you forget you’re wearing them. These gloves are sufficient by themselves for a winter stroll, but when I need extra warmth, say for a hike or bike ride, I wear them under a pair of heavier ski gloves.Buy: $60
A light satchel, the Bum Bag comes in handy on hikes or travels when I need cargo space for an external charger, granola bar, or random odds-n-ends. This bag has long been my trusty companion on airport runs, when I need my passport or charger easily accessible. The zip-up pocket in the front is ideal for stashing keys or Airpods, and the larger pocket easily holds a paperback book, passport, and sunglasses case. Made from leftover fabric in 66°North’s atelier, the Bum Bag is constructed of water-resistant PVC and polyester—clutch when you need to protect electronics or small items from rain. The strap is adjustable, so you can rock the Bum Bag like a fanny pack around the waist or slung across the shoulder.Buy: $65
Hofsjökull Bomber Jacket
Available in black or Army beige, the Hofsjökull Bomber Jacket upgrades the classic bomber cut with first-in-class insulation and water-proofing technology. Here is the type of jacket James Dean might have worn if Rebel Without A Cause had been filmed in the Arctic. The Hofsjökull is also one of the most versatile items in my wardrobe, equally well suited for the ski slopes as for a wintry night on the town in Williamsburg or Georgetown. The large slash pockets on the sides keep your hands warm even without gloves, and the slim pocket on the sleeve comes in handy for toting a wallet, purell, or ski pass. Coated with Gore-Tex, the jacket wicks water and keeps your shirt dry and crisp even in a downpour. I usually leave the detachable hood off, but I’ll zip it on for extra protection for my face during the coldest days of the year.Buy: $690