Hazardous Haute Couture

Published 10:58 am Saturday, March 24, 2018

Coats. How fashionably chic we Austin folks look in them when in early November winter begins. It’s all downhill from there.  Seems that by mid-winter we don’t care. Stroll the aisles of Hy-Vee and Walmart and you’ll see what I mean. We look like we’ve grabbed anything in our closets (with the lights off), that feels thick, furry, quilted or padded.

Next come hats. No longer caring about good looks, we cram them onto our heads ignoring that they have Mickey Mouse ears, tassels as large as tumble weeds and ties that get lost in our double chins. But make no mistake, those funky hats are our blessing in disguise for they hide every frigid weather hair issue known to man.

Winter coifs are calamitous! Demoralizing! Beneath them lies the truth that our bouncy summer curls and waves hide. Flattened cowlicks with whorls the size of black holes. Pooped out helixes and vortexes that could win contests with rip tides. They hide in wait until cold weather, clinging secretly to our scalps like plastic wrap. Then in deep December when our hats are removed in the entrance to Shopko, we stare at each other in wonder, barely recognizing who we’re talking to.

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Partnered with this is the other hat scenario. The extreme opposite. This hair horror occurs when the hat is suddenly pulled off the head, bringing the coiffure with it in a hysteria of static electricity. Finger-in-the-light-socket time. I think men are better at these spiky coifs than women. They care less.

Foot coverings are another whole column. Fashionable ladies wear long leather boots, some rising to their upper thighs. My thighs would not welcome them.  They’re too accustomed to their jiggling freedom. It’s just a guess, but I’m thinking that once these ladies get their boots on (tugging and fussing in the extreme), they do not remove them until bedtime.

Many young women now wear small-sized men’s hiking boots. They do this with panache, pulling the look off splendidly … even wearing them with skirts. Being thoroughly panacheless myself, I could never carry off such a fashion statement. You’d think I was Ma Kettle off to kill herself a moose.

In the 1950s, when I was in Austin High, there was a boy who always wore a satiny, puff bombardier’s jacket that he had purchased at Nate’s Surplus, a small yet wondrous military equipment emporium where you could easily get lost in the winter inventory and not be found until spring thaw. There was nothing unusual about this boy and his poofy, kapok-filled jacket except that he always — ALWAYS! —  wore it feverishly jammed into his jeans. This created a mid-belly tire (think Michelin boy), like nothing the town had ever seen the likes of. I always thought that had he taken the Titanic’s maiden cruise, he would have survived.  He would have floated to safety.

I have a very long, ankle-length down coat that looks exactly like I’m wearing a sleeping bag. It’s wonderfully warm and in it I can go to bed anytime, anywhere — even  standing up! In every respect I am the epitome of a fashion farmer, dressed exclusively for our hyperborean climes.

Recently, with a longing to update my risky appearance, I went to Younkers looking forward to a change. Alas, it did not happen. It wasn’t for a lack of choices. They were everywhere — and looked marvelous on their hangers. It’s when I put my arms in the sleeves that all visions of a new me were smashed. I know, I know … I shouldn’t have worn my thick polar fleece jacket and expected a coat to seamlessly glide over it. But, heck! This is Minnesota where polar fleece is our state uniform.

I even resorted to the XL’s, but even there the wobbly dingle dangle of my upper arms felt as if they they were being squeezed into surgical support stockings.  Am I the only one with this hanging affliction? I just wish those thin-armed coat designers lounging in their warm California studios would come to Austin for a reality check. Either that or start adding accommodating stretchy elastic pouches to the upper arms.

Have you noticed that most Minnesota winter coats are black? This is because winter is dirty and none of us want to wash our coats. Additionally, there is a recognizable swath of winter road detritus smeared across both of our hips where our bulk accidentally brushed against our cars. We don’t care. Caring is for Californians.

Have you ever wondered how we folks of the northern hinterlands look to visitors from Speedo-hot-spots like Florida and Tahiti? They must think we’re toddling, down-encased, butter tubs. We are. It’s not that we don’t want to look gorgeous in winter. We have every desire to turn the heads of Jim’s Market shoppers, but let’s face it. It’s not going to happen. It’s cold. We’re cold.

Meanwhile, as we waddle into the the produce section, our frostbitten fingers vainly fumble to find the ties of our hats that have become lost in the fleshy folds of our necks.

Just think, in less than two months we’ll hear the cranking up sound of lawn mowers.