In November, as winter settled in and I worked from home in my draughty period-conversion flat with single-glazed windows, I started to feel a chill. Having the heating on all day was just as bad for the planet as it is for my back pocket, and I was already refilling hot-water bottles as quickly as my kettle would allow. I needed something sustainable that would last for the next few months at home as I waited for the frost to thaw.
Thermals were the sensible solution, but my go-to Uniqlo Heattech was out of the question — everything was out of stock. So where else would I find inoffensive, affordable layers? While racking my brain I remembered my most recent, incredibly cold trip to Paris. The day before I travelled I made a last-minute trip to Marks and Spencer to find warmer socks for all the outdoor explorant I’d be doing, and picked up a pair of thermal leggings. They were lightweight enough to wear under my clothes without bunching up or looking bulky, and kept me so warm that I ended up wearing them every day of my trip. I figured if they could protect me from the Parisian winter, they’d help me stay snug in a poorly insulated South London flat.
It’d take more than one pair of leggings to see me through winter, so with physical stores closed, I supplemented the pair I bought for Paris with a fresh set from the Marks and Spencer site, among 50(!) other options for women within their Heatgen range. Not only are these thermals actually in stock — a rarity in colder months — but are more size inclusive, going up to a size 28 (whereas Uniqlo tends to run small). Previous customers rave about their quality too — every product with an available review is rated four stars or more out of five.
At £12 for a pair of leggings (that’s a pound cheaper than at Uniqlo) or long-sleeve top, the thermals are affordable enough to try without investing too much, or to stock up on multiples. I did the latter, ordering two extra pairs of leggings and a multipack of tops to hide under jumpers. I added a black roll-neck from the premium Heatgen Plus line too — an extra-warm upgrade with a brushed cotton inner layer.
Since my order arrived, I’ve worn a full thermal layer every single day. The supersoft, almost silky material soothes my winter skin dried out by the cold and reduces my need to turn on the heating. Even better, they don’t look like thermals: At a glance they just look like the activewear you’d schlep about in at home, far from the long johns image I had in my mind.
As the standard Heatgen thermals are more lightweight (read: see-through), I layer them under jeans or loungewear, but my Heatgen Plus roll-neck is opaque enough to be worn by itself and also happily happens to give me a flattering, tucked-in shape. Everything washes really well too — I stick them in with my usual weekly 30c dark wash and they hold their stretch without getting baggy, haven’t bobbled at all, and stay incredibly soft. Even though I’d rather be wearing them in Paris rather than at home, at least I don’t have to worry about my winter heating bill.
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