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Commentary: Not quite winter in Singapore, but no shame in bringing out the sweaters and jackets

Sweater weather has arrived, says Cherie Tseng, as Singaporeans have responded to the cold weather by pulling out their warmer clothing from the wardrobes.

Commentary: Not quite winter in Singapore, but no shame in bringing out the sweaters and jackets

A cyclist in the rain in Singapore. (File photo: Jeremy Long)

SINGAPORE: I discovered, somewhere at the start of December, that my three year-old didn’t own a jacket.

He had one when he was younger since we had travelled to Japan in the winter, but given how 2020 produced the less-than-stellar prospects of near-future travel and our island nation’s generally hotter temperature range, it wasn’t till we hit a spate of rainy days that we realised our little one needed warmer clothing.

Every year, at least in recent memory, right around Christmas and New Year’s Day, Singapore’s usually balmy and humid weather, gives way to torrential rain and a slight cooling.

When the dawn of this new decade brought with it days of incessant, relentless rain, my eight year old-son opined that it wasn’t just raining cats and dogs, it felt more like raining “mammoths and dinosaurs”.


I’d bet the weather apps must have seen a huge uptake with every other person checking in on the temperature.

It even became a competition among some to see who could record the coldest temperature or whose home was in the coolest spot in Singapore. 

READ: Commentary: A decade of climate change has had devastating impact. But there’s hope yet

Instagram stories carried screenshots of the weather like a warped game of social one-upmanship before a friend won the raffle and posted one that read “22 degrees out, but feels like 20 degrees”.

In some parts of Singapore  like Woodlands, Bukit Panjang, Newton and Upper Bukit Timah, mercury levels fell to as low as 21 degrees Celsius, while across the island it hovered around 23-24 degrees Celsius as torrential rains hit us in the few days of the new year.

Experts have said that these rains and low temperatures may continue for a few more days yet, even right through till mid-January or later. On Dec 31, the Meteorological Service Singapore said “the rainfall for first half of January 2021 is expected to be above average over most parts of the island”.

Dr Matthias Roth, Professor of Urban Climatology at the National University of Singapore, suggested the “prolonged rain spells should disappear once the dry phase arrives in February”.  

A person crosses the road in the rain in Singapore. (File photo: Jeremy Long)

Far from a conversation starter platitude, yet the weather was all anyone could talk about over the New Year period.

Unsurprisingly, Singaporeans have responded to the cold weather by pulling out their warmer clothing from the wardrobes. Sweater weather has arrived. 

Winter is here. Or some version of it anyway.


Tik Tok Singapore released a little tongue-in-cheek post of a guy dressed in a singlet with the caption: Rest of the world when its 22 degrees. 

It cuts immediately to a bundled up version of the man in all his winter beanie and scarf glory, sipping a hot beverage with the descriptor: Singapore when its 22 degrees.

Local media site SGAG said what was on everyone’s mind: Time to bring out all the winter clothes we didn’t get to wear in 2020! Accompanying it was a photo of a hoodied-out fella next to a faux TV fireplace. A small Christmas stocking hung in the corner.

READ: Commentary: Is behaving with social responsibility during a pandemic so hard?

Even Her World Singapore capitalised on what must be a slow season for Winterwear in the country: “Now’s the best time to don knitwear and live out your winter style dreams,” they posted on Facebook, followed by a post on 10 pretty knitwear for sweater weather in Singapore. 

On my Facebook feed, everyone became a Winter Collection fashion consultant wondering out loud on who’s broken out their winterwear yet. 

A friend of mine bravely admits, “Am I the only one breaking out the winterwear? Who has Heat Tech on?” Heat Tech, in case you didn’t know, is an innovative new material developed for warmth and comfort by UNIQLO and textile manufacturer Toray. 


I met up with some friends on New Year’s Day and saw adults happily bundled up in jackets, kids in hoodies and galoshes, old folks with scarfs to keep the wind chill at bay. 

(Photo: Unsplash/Brooke Lark)

The day after, at another gathering, I myopically opted to wear sleeveless and was grateful my husband thought to bring a cardigan to rescue me from my vanity.

I joke with overseas friends that contrary to popular belief, Singapore does have four seasons: Wet-and-cold (La Nina), hot-and-wet, hot- and-dry (El Nino) and cold-and-dry. 

Otherwise known as the seasons of ponding season, steamed pau season, mosquito season and being-inside-a-shopping-centre season.

And with each season, we dress appropriately. 

Raingear and jackets when La Nina rears her ugly head and brings monsoon - and sometimes hail - to our shores. Beach gear with a side of umbrella when we head into more mainstream weather forecast, hoping for the best weather but also prepared for the worst.

In the middle of the year, we all collectively smell like a blend of citronella and lemongrass with the kids sporting little mozzie patches at the back of their shirts. 

And ask any mother of young children and she’d be able to tell you which shopping centre’s air-conditioners run cooler than most and where a cardigan-in-hand may be useful.

The point is, we suit up for occasion. We wear and do what works for each of us. And really, kudos to those who are willing to do so at the expense of some small ridicule. They are more comfortable for it. If it floats your boat, power to you. 


We are a society that applauds those that resist and hold out, instead of complimenting those who opt for pragmatism – cover up when it is cold. Isn’t it time the boring, predictable and sensible wins the day? This, in a time where we preach self-care and share coping mechanisms. 

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Furthermore, the truth is, for many of us feeling boxed up this season, being able to play dress up for a faux Winter Holiday can go a long way to satiate our wanderlust souls. 

We, the current wearers of sensible, courtly shoes, can do well with a healthy dose of whimsy and fun in a time of erstwhile drudgery. A modicum of slightly cheeky reprieve if you would 

Besides an added style element that cannot be understated – don’t you just love those chic jackets, cardigans and scarves - our collective mental well-being might just thank us for this winter-esque interlude. As would our freezing bottoms. 

After all, who would want to catch a cold during the pandemic and risk having to undergo more uncomfortable COVID-19 tests?

This brings to mind early COVID-19 days where people tended to overprotect and were often subjected to social media ridicule. But really, if we think deeper, we downplay what must be deep fear for themselves or maybe vulnerable family members at home. 

(Photo: COS)

They harmed no one in their choice of ski mask goggles on top of their masks so why make a fuss about it?

They did what they felt they needed to do. To cope, to stay safe, and to feel safe. 


If we must, let’s fuss about things that matter.

The torrential dinosaur-esque rain that helped us welcome this New Year triggered landslips and flooding round the island. It caused statuesque trees to fall, like the massive 22m one at Fort Canning Hill. 

READ: Commentary: Spas and other indulgent treats a needed comfort in a bad year

Photos in news coverage show slope erosion at ongoing construction sites, barrier fences along major canals felled. In videos that circulated on WhatsApp, golf courses were submerged, while manhole covers sprouted small water fountains.

If ever there was a time on a global stage where small sensibilities like wearing a cardigan when you are cold, opting out of a large social gathering if you are even remotely ill, or wearing a mask out in public should be lauded, it’s now. 

If 2020 taught us anything, it is to roll with the punches and make the best of a given situation.

When life gives you lemons, you make lemon meringue pie. When there’s a virulent virus out and about, you safe distance and wear a mask. 

And when El Nina brings torrential rain and sweater weather, run an ugly sweater contest with your colleagues on Zoom.

Cherie Tseng is Chief Operations Officer at a local fintech company, a mother of three and editor with The Birthday Collective.

Source: CNA/ml


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