Annie Hemmesch knew there was a market for high-tech winter gloves when she saw her mother answer an iPhone call from her father.
"She brought it to her face and slid her nose on it," Hemmesch, of Chicago, said. "She said it was too cold to take her gloves off."
Last February, Hemmesch, her mother and sister started selling Telefingers gloves made by threading the thumbs, pointer fingers and middle fingers with conductive material that allows wearers to use touchscreen devices while keeping their hands warm.
The gloves are just one example of the influence that fashion and technology have had on cold-weather clothing this winter, providing more efficient but still stylish designs.
Suzanne Kopulos, cofounder and style director at the Chicago-based fashion blog Garmental.com, said she’s seen boutiques increasingly stocking neck warmers, infinity scarves and looped cowls instead of traditional scarves.
"Everybody is looking for it and stores have changed gears that they’re stocking them," Kopulos said. "It’s also translated into a complete accessory staple for the wardrobe."
The single loops can be doubled or tripled around the neck for extra warmth, making it easier to get bundled up for winter weather, said Amy Phillips, founder of TieMyScarf.com. It’s a departure from the conventional long, fringed scarves that need to be tied around the neck.
"You tend to get disheveled, it’s easier for them to get lopsided, one side gets longer than the other," Phillips said. "It’s not always clear how to tie it."
But with looped scarves with the ends attached, "you just wrap it twice and you’re done," Phillips said. "I think that’s why they’ve become so popular."
They’re also versatile, allowing wearers to drape them over their heads like a hoodie or pull them down for a shawl. They come in an array of materials, from expensive furs to alpaca and angora wools, jersey and cotton.
Trisha Fernandez, 29, of Colorado, sells chunky knit cowls and neck warmers on the crafters’ website Etsy.com. She said she’s selling few normal scarves this season because customers are asking for the circular and infinity shapes.
"They’re good for sports, jogging or bicycling in the winter because they’re not flying around or getting caught in spokes," Fernandez said.
Athletes — professional, amateur and the occasional — are among those driving demand for high-performance products because they spend time outside. Of course, many commuters, dog walkers, teens and just about everyone else want to be both warm and connected, too.
Telefingers isn’t the only company offering gloves that allow wearers to embrace technology like touchscreen cell phones, music players and pad devices: North Face sells eTip gloves that the ubiquitous winter wear company says has a "gripper palm and click-wheel-compatible thumb and index finger." Isotoner offers women’s plush, lined smarTouch gloves in seven colors. The brand 180s has a convertible glove-to-mitten style with a retractable "hood" that goes over the fingers. When you pull it back, there are discs on the fingertips, as well as the thumb.
Telefingers also offers a "flip tip" design.
"You can pop your finger through the little hole in the end of the fingertip," Hemmesch said. "You flip the fingertip back and then pop it back on."
Moisture and salts from human fingertips are what allows conductivity with the touchscreen, said Jennifer Spencer of Colorado, who sells Agloves woven with silver conductive material.
"If you put something between your finger and the screen, like a glove, it’s not going to work," Spencer said. That’s why the conductive material is so important, because it allows for similar conductivity, she said.
"Everywhere we travel, everywhere we go, we have technology and we have to have gloves that match the world we live in," Spencer said. "We need our gloves to be as smart as our phones."