|Up for some down? A warm (75 °F) and |
humid (90%) day in late October, NYC
Temperatures on the U.S. East Coast have been averaging a good 10 °F above normal. But from the way many of my compatriots dress, you would never know this.
I wonder, are all these heavily-clad people sweating it out for the sake of fashion? Or have they actually persuaded themselves that 59 is the new 39?
As a repeat expat, or rex-pat, I'm all about acclimatizing. Upon arriving in a new place, I tune into what the natives are wearing and adjust my own dress habits accordingly.
|"Grumpy and Freezy" in Prague,|
courtesy Sezin Koehler
When I first arrived in Prague I was a size 7, had an acceptable C-cup and chocolate-colored skin. Three years later I’ve become a size 12 and an overbearing DD-cup with skin the color of weak tea. Aging plays only a small part.I take Koehler's point. Finding herself under assault from Prague's sub-zero temperatures, she responded as any sensible rex-pat would: by making the necessary bodily and sartorial adjustments.
But on the East Coast of America, it may be safer to take your cues from other new arrivals (including us repatriates), not the natives. Often as not, New Yorkers are staggering around like Rip Van Winkle, bundled up against a cold that existed some twenty years ago.
So, how is it that we Americans got stuck in this time warp? (I say "we" because to some extent this post will be a self-indictment.) And what will it take to shake us out of our stupor?
First, some possible causes:
NO CAN CALIBRATE
Americans are most comfortable with binary choices: good guys vs. bad guys, socialists vs. libertarians — or, as Heidi Klum might put it in her steely German accent: "One day you're in, and the next day you're out." It's hardly surprising that we should apply the same non-calibrated approach to the weather. If it's winter, we wear a coat, regardless of what the thermometer says. Life is so much simpler that way. Often it's much sweatier, too, but we have showers and deodorant for that...
"CODDLED" IS OUR MIDDLE NAME
The first time I went to the dentist since repatriating to the U.S., I couldn't get over how much he was at pains (pun intended) to tell me I wouldn't feel pain. If I'd been able to move my mouth, I would have said: "Are you kidding me? Since when did dental procedures become pain free?" That was an important lesson in how coddled my fellow Americans had become in my absence. I suspect that one reason so many of them can't wean ourselves off their heavy coats is that they can't stand the thought of being cold for so much as a second or two. It's everything I can do to refrain from getting up on my soapbox and preaching about mountain climbers who survived horrific cold simply by keeping their bodies moving. Oh, sorry, here I go:
Yes, the first blast of cold air hurts, but keep moving, folks, keep moving, and you'll be fine. Heavy wraps are for when you plan to be stationery for an extended period. ... Amen!
|Illustration by Milo Winter,|
Courtesy Project Gutenberg
America prides itself on being a new-world culture, where people can take charge of their destiny rather than giving into the Fates. That's all well and good, but attempting to rewrite Aesop's "wind and sun" fable qualifies as overreaching, in my humble opinion. That's the kind of thing I say to myself when I see my compatriots sallying forth in great big coats in 50-degree weather. What were they thinking when they decided to don that monstrosity: that they could make the climate gods conform to their sartorial whims? "Save that for when it's windy," I say under my breath, trying not to smirk upon noticing a few people lugging their coats around. That Aesop was smarter than he looked!
CLIMATE CHANGE? NOT US!
As Ross Douthat pointed out in his New York Times column this week, we Americans can't seem to make up our minds about global warming and whether it can really be happening to us (see #3). His observation dovetails with my theory that for some of us clinging ever more tightly to our coats is a way of clinging ever more tightly to the hope that if we ignore the issue for long enough, it will simply go away. It may even blow out to sea if we're lucky (and collide with the aftermath of the Gulf oil spill, but that's another tale of woe...).
KILLING ME WARMLY WITH COAT ADS
Global style hub Refinery 29 has just posted a "cheat sheet" for snapping up the perfect winter coat:
Finally, with so many strange, balmy days behind us, the deep chill of winter is in the air. Along with November's arrival comes a brand-new urge to overhaul the closet and put our coziest wardrobe staples front-and-center. And that definitely begins with a good, sturdy coat for winter.Of course it's jabberwocky, but I fall for it every time. Why? Not because I don't want to know about climate change, nor because I abhor being cold. The truth is, I'm an old sentimentalist. More than any other item of clothing, a coat harks back to an idyllic past that existed before the earth warmed up. Ah, the good old days when summer was hot and winter was cold, and you needed two wardrobes. I am getting all warm and fuzzy inside just thinking of it! But unfortunately for the retail industry, I have already collected a closetful of coats that I rarely wear any more. I keep them just in case I'm suddenly in the mood to bask (hahaha) in my nostalgia.
And now a few ideas for some wake-up jolts:
|British officer in WWI, |
- A lightweight innermost layer in case the sun makes a rare appearance for long enough for you to strip down to next-to-nothing — or in some cases, nothing at all. As Andrew Welch of British Naturism puts it: “When the weather gets warm, we have a whole wardrobe of clothes to choose from. We choose to choose none.”
- A practical outermost layer such as a rain/trench coat, mac, or anorak — ideal for when you find yourself being stalked by a chill north wind.
|The Climate Change Elephant,|
Facebook profile pic
3) Harness the power of reality TV to call attention to our proclivity for overdressing in winter. Possible titles include What Not to Wear — Quite Literally or The Emperor's Old Clothes. Contestants would be taken apart for their failure to don the appropriate garb for a climate that no longer gets as cold as it used to, and taught how to dress in layers. One or more of the judges would be from the UK or Japan. They would make surprise visits to contestants' homes on days when the temperature suddenly rises by at least ten degrees: how well are they calibrating their clothing?
Listvyanka in Siberia, next to the world's deepest lake, Lake Baikal, which freezes over from late January to early May. I'm envisioning a Doctor Zhivago tour, with glamorous fur coats and hats provided as part of the package, along with the option of having your photo taken standing atop the lake next to a cardboard cut-out of Omar Sharif or Julie Christie.
Question: Have you taken any steps to cope with our markedly different weather conditions? NOTE: Practical is fine, but nutty is even better! (Nutty times call for nutty measures ...)