Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Wrap up warm: there's a nasty bout of underdressing going around

You can just imagine the scene. The sky is a clear ice blue; the trees are stark and bare; your breath leaves your body in a little cloud when you go outside. The first leaf you step on when you leave your house crunches under your heavy boot, rigid with frost. You inhale fresh, icy air and think, with a wistful sigh, ‘at last, winter has arrived.’

At least, you think winter has arrived. You have become quite excited over the past few weeks, thinking about the upcoming annual celebrations, like Halloween and Bonfire Night, and the official start to the mulled wine and firework season (short though it is). Pulling out musty winter clothing from the attic fills you with - well, joy - and you can’t help emitting a little squeal of delight at the thought of ditching your summer clothing and climbing into a new wardrobe altogether. Out come the boots, and the gloves, and the many, many scarves. The possibilities are simply endless.

And then you go for a little walk, or you meet some friends at the pub for a drink. Or, to get the weekly shop, you nip down to Sainsbury’s, dreaming of the delicious winter soups you’ll be making. Hmm, root vegetables. A glance in the wrong direction rudely interrupts these scrumptious thoughts. You screech to a halt in your tracks. A person, around your age, has just walked past you. You quickly glance down at yourself, checking to see that you really have donned thermal leggings, tights, woollen socks and boots (amongst other things), and that you haven’t jumped the seasonal gun. You look up and crane your neck to see the said person walking off in the distance, just to get a second look. No, you weren’t mistaken. They were indeed wearing FLIP FLOPS.

What is it with people who wear summer clothing, and, might I say, the most extreme summer clothing, in the depths of winter? What, I ask you, goes through their minds as they are getting dressed to leave the house? Can’t they see the frost on the pavement outside, or the icicles hanging from the drainpipe?!

I first came across this phenomenon at university, where I witnessed fellow (mainly male) students lolling about the campus in late November dressed in t-shirts, joggers and Havianas. Despite the fact that joggers are hardly the most flattering items for a man to wear at the best of times (can I apply the words ‘swinging about’ here?), it was even more ludicrous for them to have barely anything on their feet. Didn’t they get cold? Didn’t they get wet? Did wearing a selection of coloured Brazilian flip-flops really make them that cool? It’s tempting to think that the reasoning behind all of this is comfort and convenience.

I can understand the need to pop to the corner shop and back for a pint of milk in your pyjama bottoms and sandals, simply because you can’t be bothered to change and they’re the easiest things to slip on. I’ve even owned a few pairs of jogging bottoms in my life, and if they didn’t make me feel like a small, walking bin-liner with a saggy behind, I’d wear them outside all the time. They’re probably much warmer than a pair of jeans. But flip-flops, hot pants and vest tops? Ho-ho, you must be kidding.

It is precisely the thought, rather than the lack of it, that goes into all this that really rattles me. I appreciate the need to look attractive on a night out, but when I’m standing in a queue for a nightclub surrounded by girls in flannel-sized skirts, skin-tight vest tops and absurd heels, I’m torn between shouting at them and running home to grab my duvet in order to cover them up. It’s almost worst when the ridiculously inappropriate summer clothing is teamed with winter favourites; last weekend, on the way to watch a fireworks display, I spotted a girl wearing a t-shirt and a pair of flowery, cotton culottes, which just reached past her bottom. She was also wearing Ugg boots (shudder) and a very over-the-top faux-fur hat, with bobbles. This wasn’t comfort. It was called freezing your knackers off for the sake of fashion. A good combination it was not.

Perhaps my feelings over this issue stem from long-given advice on the part of my dear mother, who, when I was growing up and looking with mild envy at much cooler girls with miniature jackets, assured me that wearing the winter version of a crop-top would inevitably lead to a ‘chill on my kidneys’ and other assorted illnesses. I have occasionally dabbled in risky clothing decisions in the winter just to rebel, look nicer, or be a bit more original, but I’ve always come to the same conclusion. Blue lips, goose pimples, and chattering teeth? No, thank you. I’d rather have my circulation, and feel my toes at the end of the night. Read more by Rosie.