Renowned for their height, their healthcare, and their lofty ranking on the World Happiness Report, the populations of Europe’s northernmost countries embrace the elements in a way that makes the average American look like a tenderfoot. From all-season bicycle commuting to icy plunges into the Baltic Sea, the average Scandinavian regards extremes of cold as something to be celebrated, not feared.
To what may we attribute this hardiness? After some research, we’ve determined it’s the clothes they wear.
Little known outside their countries of origin, Scandinavian apparel brands may well be the secret behind this culture’s hearty embrace of winter weather. These great garments feature the clean, minimalist aesthetic that makes Nordic style so hot right now, along with incredible durability, premium and often sustainable materials, and uncompromising functional design.
We made the rounds to uncover the best Scandinavian brands on the market; some may be familiar to you, while others are still virtually unknown in the U.S. We even went a step further, identifying our top picks in every category, from sweaters and shirts to outerwear and accessories. These Scandinavian clothing brands are guaranteed to keep you warm and comfortable all season long, and ready for any adventure winter might bring.
If you think Fjällräven and all you picture are those cute little backpacks with the red bubble typeface on them, think again. This badass Swedish brand may have broken into the US market with a novelty item, but its adventure-ready garments and gear are anything but twee. Since 1960, Fjällräven has cranked out hard-wearing apparel for cold-weather exploits that define the Nordic lifestyle. Their outerwear is built to take on the most extreme conditions, from their windproof trekking pants to their heavy-duty down jackets. Best of all, Fjällräven is leading the way toward ethical fashion, with 100 percent traceable down production, recycled and organic fabrics, and fluorocarbon-free waterproofing turning up in their most popular items.
Best Down Parka
Named for Sweden’s highest mountain, Fjällräven’s Keb line is developed for technical trekking in challenging terrain. The fit and details of this incredible jacket are carefully designed for freedom of movement, maximum fabric functionality, and durability. Even if your hardest trek is just getting from your apartment to the nearest subway station in bone-chilling winds.
Built to keep hunters toasty during long, contemplative hours of waiting for a white-tail to appear, the Canada Shirt is also the first thing you’ll want to throw on when you walk in the door after a long day in the office. Made out of 100 percent wool in a nostalgic Buffalo plaid, this shirt insulates while still offering breathability, making you equally comfortable whether you’re raking leaves on a crisp autumn afternoon, hiking up a mountain on the morning of the first frost, or weathering a snowstorm with a good book and a steaming mug of oolong tea.
Best Workwear/Active Sweater
We put this sweater on the day it showed up and, well, we won’t be taking it off until it’s beach season again. Outside of its classy styling—half-zip V-neck, chest pocket, elbow patches—Fjällräven lets the Koster Sweater’s high-quality merino wool speak for itself. Turns out the fiber is surprisingly sophisticated with its natural elasticity, odor resistance, and moisture-wicking ability. With shoulder and elbow reinforcements in Fjällräven’s signature G-1000 fabric, this sweater is soft, but it’s no slouch.
The elusive goal for any outdoor gear brand is street-sharp aesthetics with genuinely functional warmth, and this Norwegian brand nails it like a dart in a bullseye. SWIMS started in 2006 by transforming the plebeian galosh with bold personality. Today, their line includes waterproof boots and chukkas, as well as outerwear and accessories, all designed for urbanites who live in vibrant connection with the elements.
Beware—this vest is not for the painfully introverted. Prepare to be constantly called out wherever you happen to sport this handsome, retro-styled number. A sleek silhouette featuring a high neck, it’s the kind of mid-layer that makes you keep unzipping your jacket to show it off. Fortunately, the hefty fill count and solid construction of this vest make it exposure-ready.
The SWIMS design philosophy is built on a love of water, no matter when and where it shows up. That love was clearly poured into the design of this waterproof lace-up ankle boot. The Motion Chukka joins durable, anti-slip rubber outsoles with a cushioned midsole, while the premium nubuck leather exterior is treated to offer uncompromising moisture control. Despite the premium materials construction and (mostly) neutral colorways, there’s something playful about these boots that will remind you of your favorite puddle-jumpers from childhood.
The story behind this Swedish outdoor brand is better than most: Wiktor Haglöf, the carpenter son of a forester, wanted to create clothing that made life easier and more comfortable for the working man exposed to the elements. His legacy is Haglöfs‘ growing line of gear that helps you get your work done while making the outdoor lifestyle a little more enjoyable. No shiny surfaces — just high-quality crafted goods that withstand the elements, are easily repairable, and last a lifetime.
Best Rain Jacket
Haglöfs’ latest outerwear offering combines revolutionary sustainable material with classic slicker aesthetic for a rain jacket that keeps you warm, dry, and looking good. Its fluorocarbon-free DWR coating and details like cord adjustment at the front of the hood, elasticated webbing at the back, adjustable hem, and multiple front storm pockets make it as serviceable on a backcountry trail as it is on city streets. But perhaps the coolest thing about the Eco Proof Jacket is its sustainability. Along with its bluesign® approved fabric developed to keep you dry while causing minimal environmental impact, the jacket is made so that many of its component parts can be easily replaced or repaired, making for superior longevity and minimal waste.
Founded in 2004, Norse Projects specializes is built on a passion for functionality, quality, the classics and the ultra-modern. This Danish company’s seasonal collections blend traditional work and outdoor pieces with high-end and avant-garde fashion, as well as Japanese specialty products and technical outerwear. Norse Projects started life as a retail streetwear shop and art gallery but launched its own line in 2009. Now known internationally as one of the top Scandinavian menswear brands, the company remains true to its name through frequent collaborations with like-minded designers such as Gore-Tex, Adidas, Monocle and Dr. Martens. Their flagship store in the heart of Copenhagen remains an outpost of beautifully curated fashion, books, and art.
Best Casual Sweater
Just as squirrels stockpile nuts for the winter, we’d like to fill our closet with the entire catalogue of Norse Projects wool sweaters. The variety of colors and patterns are fun, nostalgic and cozy as hell. Case in point: this collegiate mock turtleneck in Shetland wool, with its muted slate grey punched up by a varsity-sized intarsia N on the front. This is the kind of brand repping we can get behind (even those of us with no Viking blood whatsoever).
As Sweden’s premium underwear company, CDLP has perfected the male base layer in terms of performance, style and sustainability. For its efforts, the company enjoys the distinction of having been featured in the New York Times (how many underwear brands can say that?) as well as Esquire, GQ, and Vogue. Classic tailoring and no-fuss Swedish design make for understated luxury that you have to feel to believe.
A modern take on a Scandinavian classic garment, these low-waist long johns combine supreme comfort, sartorial detailing, and the CDLP signature waistband. Made from lyocell, an eco-friendly wood pulp, the fabric is refined into a pinnacle of softness and durability to smoothly follow the shape of your body type. No need to relegate them to outdoor wear, either—these long johns are temperature regulating, keeping you warm when cold while providing a cooling effect when hot. Speaking of hot, our sources tell us that’s exactly how they look when worn solo. Just saying.
Founded in 1936 as a small family business in the small Swedish town of Hestra, this company is an outerwear legend among elite athletes and snow lovers alike. Hestra Gloves‘ best-selling Army Heli model is the last word in alpine skiing gloves, but their line now includes a wide range of gloves and mittens oriented toward various sports as well as fashion. Several of these models are handmade by some of the most experienced glove makers in Europe. Despite manufacturing over two million pairs of gloves per year, Hestra still operates very much like a family business, ensuring their unparalleled quality with careful material selection and control of the production chain.
This glove is the perfect marriage of Hestra’s renowned technical design with premium-grade materials. Named for one of Sweden’s leading survival experts, who was also involved in the development of the glove, this highly durable glove is made entirely of proofed goat leather tanned to a buttery softness that ensures flexibility as well as windproof warmth. It features a mid-length gauntlet to keep your extremities protected, and a removable wool terry cloth/wool pile liner for extra insulation. The warm neutral colors and refined texture let it transition easily from the alpine trail to the city streets.
When you’re a kid, you think slippers are for old people. But once you’re “old,” if you’re lucky enough to find the right pair, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without them. That’s what we’ve been wondering ever since we discovered Austrian brand Giesswein. (Note: while not technically a Scandinavian country, we figure the land of schnitzel and schussing might know a thing or two about keeping warm in winter.) Started by a couple of athletic lovebirds in 1954, the company has been crafting heritage-quality boiled-wool shoes and slippers from the same Alpine village ever since, improving their model over the years with sustainable manufacturing practices, chemical-free materials, and ergonomic features that (no joke) contribute to better overall health.
Every day of winter is an opportunity to thank our lucky stars that the Lodge Shoe is now in our lives. These slippers are truly next-level, featuring a toasty boiled wool upper that provides both warmth and breathability, as well as dirt- and water-resistance. The waterproof rubber outsole means that they won’t suffer (or make you suffer) from dashing across an icy driveway to pick up the paper or leading your dog to the nearest snowbank to do his business. The piece de resistance, though, is the contoured cork/latex footbed, which brings eye-rolling comfort in the form of firm arch support. Forget coffee—these slippers are the best part of waking up.
We’ve been huge fans of this Finnish cottage brand since we discovered them on Instagram a few years back. Founded by a couple of van-lifers and mascoted by their too-cute-to-live puppy, Vai-Kø has branched out over the past year into a variety of great items, including sweaters, tees, and even skateboards. Their flagship product has remained the star of the show: Stout and stylish beanies made from organically farmed, mulesing-free merino wool sourced from Patagonia (the region, not the company) and dyed in G.O.T.S.- and Bluesign-certified facilities. The company even goes the extra mile by donating a portion of profits to Protect Our Winters, an international organization that strives to stop climate change from destroying what the Finns consider the best season of them all.
Light enough for all-day wear, this merino wool beanie double-layers to a comfortable fit and a cozy, breathable warmth. Think you’re not a beanie person? This one will change your mind. Get one in every color.
Now that you’ve got your Scandinavian look down, why not plan a trip to the land of the midnight sun to visit one of these starkly minimalist Scandinavian lodges.