It was eleven degrees (fahrenheit) when I walked in to work today. I guess I’m kind of an epicure, that is if I have a choice I’ll act for my own pleasure, so I wore a big old army coat, a hat with ear flaps (Netherlands army surplus) and a Pittsburgh Steelers scarf. It stands to reason to me to get bundled up when it’s cold, yet I was openly smirked at by several people I encountered along the way, and indeed I was out of step with the majority of my fellow pedestrians, who were less than seasonably dressed in sneakers, windbreakers, no hat or glove, etc. It’s a constant war to get my son and his middle school friends to wear anything but a hooded sweatshirt no matter what the temperature and my daughter’s high school peers may wear coats but absolutely refuse to zip them up. What gives? When I was young there was no shame in wearing something warm when it was cold — you wanted to, and it was kids without good coats who were pitied, rather than those whose parents made them wear them. When did being cold become cool?
Well, don’t worry — UBU will explain. As for most irrational behavior, the answers are cultural, and in the U.S. most current cultural values seem to derive from wealth and class. First of all there’s what I call the limo factor. You don’t see celebrities or rich people in coats very much (except at ski slopes, but that’s conspicuous consumption so it’s O.K.). The idea is that they’re in the real world for only moments as they dash from heated limo to heated nightclub, so they, protected by their cocoon of wealth and privilege, are isolated from the indignities of nature and even reality. Ever since Reagan all good things are assumed to drizzle down from the rich, so this attitude can now be found in the streets, even if it’s far from the reality of the individuals hypnotized by it. I don’t need a coat and hat, I’m just on my way to my car! It’s declasse not to have some expensive form of conveyance — the bike rider looks down on the pedestrian, the motorcyclist looks down on the bike rider, the motorist in the clunker looks down on the motorcyclist, the new car driver looks down on the guy in the clunker, etc., all the way to the fool in the Hummer, who, having the most ludicrously expensive and impractical vehicle of all feels superior to all. Walking, of course, is the healthiest, most thoughtful, most convenient, ecological, thriftiest form of conveyance, but if you do it you’re in peril of being mistaken for a poor person who is walking because they don’t have any choice. A lot of the walkers I run into are WALKING, that is, pumping their arms histrionically in their work out gear, puffing away, careful to signify Hey, I’m not walking to GET anyplace, I’m exercising! There are people who drive two blocks and take the elevator up to their Pilates class. We don’t want to break a sweat while working or getting anywhere, no that’s only for leisure when we pay to do it voluntarily. Similarly, Nature’s a non-factor in our daily lives because we can pay to protect ourselves from it. Again it’s something for leisure, for vacation, not for daily life.
The second reason comes from the opposite strata of society, but again it’s because of the diabolic work of Ronald Reagan. During his administration it was determined that as part of the "war on drugs" and to curry favor with the white middle class it would be a good idea to put a significantly larger percentage of young black man in prison. Since before the jazz age it’s just these young black man who have been the most significant avatars of youth culture. It should be no surprise, then, that the current trend among the youth is to dress as if you were in prison — ill-fitting, too large clothes, no belts, loose denim shirts, unlaced shoes, etc. But in prison you don’t think much about outerwear, do you? You’re INSIDE after all, and the government is not exactly going to spring for boots, decent overcoats, warm hats or gloves for you to promenade the yard in, are they? So suddenly COLD is COOL.
UBU is way to old to worry about being cool — or at least he has his own innate cool compass that’s not going to let a bunch or rich parasite celebrities or convicts tell HIM how to dress. So smirk all you want you lamebrains — you’ll be doing it through chattering teeth!