7 Things You Can't Wear in NYC in the Winter

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(Image credit: @trustmebuythis)

While getting dressed, looking as stylish as possible is at the top of our list of priorities, but sometimes functionality is high up there too. That is if you don’t want to freeze your you-know-what off at the peak of a New York winter. I’m currently in the midst of enduring the chilliest season on the East Coast, so you can trust this is coming from personal experience. For example, while a little rip in your favorite distressed jeans might not look menacing, I can tell you it literally has the ability to ruin your morning commute if the temperatures are cold enough.

So what else should you avoid? I’ve broken it down into seven simple things, and, of course, included what to wear to ensure a stylish NYC outfit. Keep reading to see what made the list of seven things you can’t wear in winter in New York City, and then shop our picks of what to replace them with.

What to Avoid: Cotton Sweaters

What to Wear Instead: Wool or Cashmere

While a cotton sweater might look the same as its wool or cashmere counterparts, when the weather is really cold, you’ll surely feel the difference.

What to Avoid: Mules and Sandals

What to Wear Instead: Pumps and Ankle Boots or Add Socks

Unless you’re prone to wearing a sock-and-heel combo (which we fully endorse), we’d suggest avoiding mules and sandals. Not only look out of place with the rest of your cold-weather outfit, but they will also leave parts of your foot exposed, which is less than desirable this time of year.

What to Avoid: White Pants

What to Wear Instead: Leather Pants

Between long walks, subway seats, and the elements, it’s best to avoid white pants unless you’re looking at a quick cab ride and minimal time outside. Dark leather (and faux leather) pants, however, are more durable and will both keep you warm and leave you less susceptible to stains.

What to Avoid: Boots Without Tread

What to Wear Instead: Boots With Lug Soles

If you’re doing any walking through the snow, you’ll want to wear boots with a lug sole. Aside from the fact that your shoes might quickly be ruined, more importantly, it’s easy to slip and fall if you don’t have something with traction.

What to Avoid: Ripped Jeans

What to Wear Instead: Regular Jeans, or Add Tights

While a little hole at your knee might not look menacing, in sub-freezing temperatures, that inch (or even centimeter) of exposed skin can literally ruin your day. Opt for jeans without rips or layer a pair of tights under to ensure warmth and coverage. 

What to Avoid: Leather Jackets

What to Wear Instead: Winter Coats

Since leather jackets are neither warm enough to wear alone nor light enough to really layer, unfortunately, this fashion-girl favorite doesn’t serve much of a purpose in real cold weather. Instead, opt for a true winter coat—we promise they can still be stylish.

What to Avoid: Bare Ankles

What to Wear Instead: Long Pants, High Socks, or High-Shaft Boots

Much like ripped jeans, bare ankles are a definite no. However, this doesn’t mean you need to ditch your cropped pants for the next three months if you don’t want to. You can opt for boots with a higher shaft or just add high socks.

Next: I made a list of my favorite coats, and I think you'll find one you love.

Editor-at-Large

Since starting as an intern back in 2013, Nicole Akhtarzad Eshaghpour has held several roles here at Who What Wear, and she is currently Editor-at-Large. It was a less expected route, seeing as she was graduating from business school at USC when this all began, but it has turned out to be the best one for her. Fast-forward to 2024, and she's moved to NYC from her hometown of Beverly Hills and spends her workdays a little differently from when she was an intern starting out. Currently, she focuses on a weekly mélange of shopping content. As far as her personal style goes, she's largely drawn to classic pieces and neutral basics but will always make an exception for something colorful, printed, or bejeweled as long as it's deemed worthy enough. After all, the only thing she loves more than a good party is dressing up for one. On weekdays, she can usually be found at home eating something delicious for dinner and trying to force her husband to watch Summer House.