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My Dad Was Right: You’re Gonna Wish You Wore Long Underwear

Midwestern sports dads are your pandemic winter style icons

Bring out the Columbia jackets, Dockers socks and HotHands packs of 240 hand warmers. To get through outdoor hangs this pandemic winter, we have to dress like my dad at an 8 a.m. Chicago Bears tailgate. Gird your loins — literally.

COVID-19 hasn’t slowed down, and winter is coming. Spending time outside in parks, closed-off streets and on rooftops was one of few joyful reprieves we had in the warm weather. Now, to maximize our time outside, we’re going to need to layer up — and we need inspiration. 

So let me tell you a little bit about Dave Longo. If you combined Tony Soprano’s body with Mike Myers’ deeply Chicago sensibilities in the early ’90s Saturday Night Live skit “Da Bears,” you’d get my dad. He’s one of those Midwestern boomers who love nothing more than to eat a bratwurst, go to mass and talk about Da Bears. 

I love that my dad loves Chicago football. A Bears season-ticket holder longer than I’ve been alive, he’s fostered a connection with my two equally sports-obsessed older brothers over fantasy football and Chicago 670 The Score sports radio. They gossip about quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s arm the way my mom and I talk about Nicole Kidman and her wigs in Big Little Lies and The Undoing. (She’s better in the former.) 

My mom is also a die-hard Bears fan, more enthusiastic than any woman I’ve ever met. Unfortunately, for me, this meant I spent my childhood being dragged to below-freezing winter games at Soldier Field. I paid no attention to the games, though I loved heading into the city and walking around the stadium, feeling like Cameron Diaz in My Best Friend’s Wedding

But I never look as fashionable as Diaz did in 1997. Winter in the Midwest means layering up. Forget fashionable coats and overpriced chore jackets. You buy one hefty parka from Macy’s, and you wear it every day through mid-March (at the earliest). You’re not worried about repeat dressing because your coworker has done the same, wearing whatever Columbia coat was on sale at Dick’s Sporting Goods on Black Friday.  

What about heat lamps? Trust me, they’re great, but they’ll never match the effectiveness of double socks, hand (and feet) warmers, gloves, hats, long sleeves, jackets and parkas. No, for the next four months, your mission is to dress like Frances McDormand in Fargo.

I never thought I’d say this, but it’s time to embrace long underwear. It’s no longer reserved for winter athletes. Luckily, thermal garments have come a long way in recent years. You don’t have to worry about looking like Leo DiCaprio in The Revenant

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Let me tell you about merino wool. It’s a natural fiber grown by Merino sheep. More importantly, it’s thinner and softer than regular wool, which means less bulk when layering up. The best brands in the merino wool game right now are Merino Ridge and Smartwool. Elsewhere, Uniqlo’s heattech long johns for $20 will keep you warm for cheap. There’s also Mack Weldon long underwear for $98, and L.L. Bean heat keepers for $30.

Now, if you want the true Dave Longo experience, you’ll just waltz right into Jewel-Osco, and buy a fleece jacket and gloves with your weekly groceries and a lottery ticket. You might balk at buying clothes from the grocery store. I certainly did growing up. But if there’s one thing my dad won’t be, it’s cold. The man has a closet full of winter wear, and no pandemic is going to keep him from getting his tailgate on. 

So put on your windbreaker and parka, pick up a pack of Italian sausages from Mariano’s and crank that Coleman grill. It’s tailgating season, baby, and the only game we’re pregaming is survival in the hell that will be 2021.