The colder, grayer season is seeping in, and with it, a potential darkening of our mood. The winter can feel bleak in any year, and that’s especially the case in this one, in which a pandemic continues to pervade our lives and keep us from what would normally be welcome outings and festive entertainments.
If there’s a silver lining to the season though, it’s that its bleakness heightens the pleasures of getting cozy, or, as the Danes — who must weather an especially long and dark winter — call it, getting “hygge.” Hygge represents a warm, snug, relaxing atmosphere, and it’s something you can intentionally cultivate.
With all of us staying at home more this winter, there’s never been a better and more important time to add some hyggely elements to our abodes and daily routines, and below we have 8 suggestions for how to do just that. Keep in mind that the coziness of hygge is most strongly activated through contrast; that is, sitting by a crackling fire, in a comfortable pair of sweatpants, sipping a mug of cocoa feels most pleasurable . . . when it follows, say, an afternoon spent snowshoeing in the cold woods. So to best survive winter, toggle between continuing to get out for draughts of bracing fresh air, and then retiring to a domestic den which you’ve optimized for hygge-ness.
In my podcast interview with Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living, he said that putting a ton of candles in your home is the first step in building hygge, noting that Denmark uses twice as many candles as the second-most candle-consuming country in Europe.
It’s easy to understand why candles create the foundation for coziness: real fire feels primally comforting, and generates a softer and warmer light than what’s created with electric lamps. Though the flicker of a candle’s flame is small, it adds a disproportionately large amount of coziness to your home. There are endless makers of candles, and endless scents of them. But an Instagram follower recently introduced us to what has to be hygge-ist kind: WoodWick candles. As the name implies, the wick is actually made out of wood, and when lit, the candle crackles, like a real fireplace fire. The effect is genuinely soothing.
One place you may particularly want to put the unscented variety is your dinner table at mealtime. Wiking shared a story of the significant difference this addition can make:
I spoke to a Canadian a couple of years ago who had read Hygge, and because of the focus on lighting and candles in the book, he went out and he bought some [candelabras] and started to light candles for dinner at home. And him and his wife, they have three teenage sons, and when this guy, he started to light the candles, the boys, his sons, they started to tease him. ‘Dad, what’s going on with the candles? Do you want to have romantic time with Mom? Should we leave?’
But eventually the boys, they started to light the candles and it became this sort of ritual of food and fire. And more importantly, he says now their family dinners last 20 minutes longer because the atmosphere of the candles puts the boys in a storytelling mood. So instead of just sitting down and shoveling down their food, they sit down, they talk about their day, they sip their wine. And I think it’s really fun and interesting to hear, and hear that from several sources, how a candle can actually change how a family interacts.
There’s no need to wear constricting, uncomfortable shoes when you’re padding around the house, but just wearing socks can leave your dogs cold. Enter the slipper, for which today’s man has many options. You can go with the traditional slide-on that your grandpa may have worn. Or you can sport a leather moccasin. I had been a moccasin man for years. But this year, I’ve traded my mocs in for a yet hyggier kind of footwear: the Grey’s Outdoor Slipper. It’s made of a cozy wool blend that feels like you’re wrapping your feet up in your favorite blanket, and yet is temperature regulating, moisture wicking, and odor resistant. The rubber sole provides some grip and allows you to venture out of the house. It also dampens sound as you walk across a tile or wood floor, allowing you to sneak around like a ninja (handy for fulfilling the role of tooth fairy, I can personally attest).
Wiking told me that the essence of what hygge should feel like is “a good hug.” Blankets are the kings of cozy for their clutch-ness in imparting this feeling. When you’re reading a book on a winter’s night, or snuggling up with your main squeeze, a blanket adds a comforting layer of warmth. This Faherty Brand blanket is a nice pick on this front; one side is made with brushed cotton, the other with soft Sherpa fleece.
When you’re staying home, there’s no need to wear anything with a non-elasticized waistband. But that doesn’t mean your pants-wear has to be schlubby. There are many kinds of sweatpants in the world, but my favorite is the jogger, as the taper at the ankle just looks sharp and classic. I feel like Rudy training for Notre Dame’s football team on a crisp, fall morning in South Bend. I’ve been rocking Marine Layer’s Yoga Jogger for the past few months and absolutely love them. They’re made with a super soft performance fabric that’s got plenty of stretch and has served me well for working at home, taking walks around the neighborhood, and coaching Gus’ flag football team.
5. Robe, Flannel and Bath
There are two types of robes for men. The first is a flannel robe that you might put on in the mornings to stay warm as you make coffee, or don in the evenings to get cozy while you read on the couch. The second is a bathrobe, made of absorbent materials that you put on as you emerge naked from a shower or bath. I’ve owned the former kind for several years, and use it for lounging around the house on cold days. I just recently became a bathrobe guy and have become an ardent convert to the practice. I use my bathrobe in lieu of a towel, and I like how it cuts the chill as I step out of the shower and dries me off from head to toe. There are bathrobes that are thick and fluffy, but I like this thinner, quite absorbent one from Upstate (it’s out-of-stock on Huckberry right now but will be back in a week or so).
Sweatshirts are certainly comfy, and many days you’ll find me padding around the house and running errands in my 10-Year-Hoodie from Flint and Tinder. But when the temperature really dips, and (on those currently rare occasions) I’m having some friends or family over, the warmth and classiness of a sweater can’t be beat. Sweaters are an underused option in the male sartorial arsenal, especially the cardigan, which you may fear will read as old-mannish, but can in fact be quite handsome. Case in point, the newest addition to my sweater collection and a candidate for my all-time favorite: this rugged cardigan from Schott’s. It had me at “corduroy elbow patches.”
7. Flannel Sheets
Last year during the holiday season, my mom sent Gus and Scout sets of flannel Christmas-themed sheets from Pottery Barn Kids. Every night as Kate and I would put the kids to sleep, we’d gaze longingly at their amazingly cozy-looking bedding and feel really envious of it. Finally, unable to take it anymore, we ordered a set for ourselves. Yes, from Pottery Barn Kids, in the most mature pattern available, bedecked with cartoony deer. Honestly, we felt no shame, neither in the design, nor the fact we used them on our bed long after Christmas had come and gone, as the sheets were just as comfortable and snuggly as we had imagined. Now, I can’t in good conscience recommend that other adults also purchase children’s Christmas sheets for themselves (plus they only go up to queen size, which may be an issue for some). But I can wholeheartedly recommend flannel sheets in general; if you’re looking for something more grown up, try these from Upstate.
8. Hot Drinks
Whether in the form of a hot chocolate, a hot toddy, or a hot cup of tea, coffee, or apple cider, hot drinks warm your hands while you hold them, your belly while you sip them, and your soul as you savor them. Try out some different recipes and mixes (Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel is a standout in the cocoa category) and make a hot mug of somethin’ each night as you unwind from the stresses of the day.