In fashion showdown vs. winter, parents giving up

Today’s evidence of the devolution of the American boy comes from the Boston Globe, which today reports a disturbing fashion trend among boys who want to look cool at this time of the year: shorts.

“In my generation, it was ‘Don’t wear a coat,’ ” Marshal Cohen, a fashion-industry analyst with The NPD Group, said. “Then it was ‘Don’t wear gloves.’ For this generation, it’s ‘I’m wearing shorts all year-round.’ ”

And providing another reason for school administrators to call off school when the temperature drops below zero.

Beyond that, is it a potential health problem for kids walking to school in shorts in the winter? Maybe, but a little science might be on their side, the Globe suggests.

Matthew Decker, a “comfort scientist” for W.L. Gore, the company that makes Gore-Tex, said that beyond a desire to look “macho,” boys have physiology working in their favor.

Because of differences in body fat, males do not get as cold as females, and kids and young adults are generally warmer than parents, he said, meaning that on average, boys may in fact feel the cold the least, and moms the most.

Here is why: Feeling cold has less to do with changes in a person’s core temperature than in changes in skin temperature.

“This is never popular to say,” Decker said, “but a number of studies have shown that, on average, females have 10 to 15 percent more fat than their [same-age] male counterparts.”

That layer of fat sits between thermal receptors that lie right below the skin — and control whether a person feels warm or cold — and the core of the body.

“The fat is effectively an insulator keeping the warm temperatures inside from getting to the skin,” Decker said. “That means skin tends to get colder on women faster than on men.”

Parents consulted for the story have given up. One says she doesn’t even bother trying to get her son to wear a jacket in the winter anymore. “My fear is that it would end up in the lost-and-found, never to be seen again,” she said.

Another mother’s comments were even more disturbing.

“There came a point where I stopped worrying about him freezing to death, and started worrying about how this would make me look,” said Karen Hanson. “His actual health is secondary. It’s what are people going to think of me as a mother?”

Blogger Alisa Schindler described her surrender to fashion in a post two weeks ago in the Washington Post.

I’m careful, throwing a hoodie into a jumble of other morning nonsense – brush your teeth, did you put your homework in your backpack, try this cookie I just baked, here’s your hoodie – and hope it gets lost in the shuffle.

Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s always a surprise. I used to fight about it and force them. I used to insist, take away privileges and ruin many a morning until I realized that they are not me (I’m wearing sweatshirts in my house with the thermostat on 70). If they’re really cold, they’ll put on pants or a coat. And that’s that.

With all the things to negotiate and argue about with my kids, here’s one I don’t really sweat.

Cleveland Clinic pediatrician Elaine Schulte thinks parents should make their children wear pants in cold weather, despite protests.

“I think we just have to use our common sense,” she says.

Common sense? She apparently doesn’t have boys.

  • Kassie

    I wore a dress today. I wear a dress most days. Many women do. What’s the difference?

    • Skorts are where it’s at…

    • Kari

      My mom tells the story of her mother making her wear pants under her skirt on the walk to school in winter. She quickly took them off in the alley as soon as she was out of sight.

      Maybe this isn’t a gender thing or a generation thing, but instead a teenager thing.

      • Kassie

        And I do wear yoga pants under my dress when it is very cold. Or long johns or leg warmers. But on a day like today, or most days in the winter, it doesn’t really matter. 20 degrees above zero is not cold enough for most kids to get frost bite, unless they are going to be outside and not active for an hour or more.

    • kevinfromminneapolis

      These are kids.

      • Kassie

        Ok, many girls wear skirts everyday. Some schools require it as part of their uniform. What’s the difference?

        • kevinfromminneapolis

          Uniform requirements aren’t anything new or newsworthy. A trend of kids thinking it’s cool to wear shorts in the winter is new, and therefore newsworthy.

          (Well I wouldn’t say it’s newsworthy, but someone obviously thinks so.)

          • I’m saving it for the next “Oh, dear, it’s so cold and what about the kids that don’t have jackets” discussion. They don’t HAVE them? Or they don’t WEAR them?

            Frankly, I think the story here is the mother who says her kid’s safety is secondary to what people think of HER.

          • Jack

            Nope shorts are nothing new. My kid is college now and he wore them all through high school.

            Yes, I gave up making him wear sweatpants when I realized he was taking them off a half block from the house.

            He survived. I did too. It just wasn’t worth the fight.