Global Warming, Local Chilling
Extremes of weather provide interesting people-watching, perhaps especially in cities, and the wild swings of temperature we have been experiencing in recent years make it all the more amusing. There I was, walking to Whole Foods on Houston Street in what is almost a late-afternoon ritual. It was the second week in January, and it had been 60 degrees out. A fellow jogged by in shorts, and then a middle-aged woman emerged from the grocery store in a long overcoat, scarf, and flip-flops. I actually saw quite a few flip-flops that day, and several pairs of shorts. But what I have noticed repeatedly is that a large segment of the population dresses according to the calendar, and not prevailing conditions. On a balmy day you will see down jackets, gloves, scarves, and ski caps aplenty. Such overdressing tends to make the perpetrator look like a schizophrenic. I’m sure you’ve noticed that street crazies dress like it’s winter in the summer. I used to wonder if it was because the homeless tended to wear everything they owned for security reasons, but then I discovered that this compulsive layering among the mentally unsound was noted by Shakespeare.
Here’s a tip: Check the temperature and forecast before you go outside. I have the weather set up on the “Dashboard” of my MacBook. As I write it is 47 and sunny. Light overcoat, light scarf, and fedora weather. I think men should wear hats. They keep your brain warm; protect you from small falling objects; give you a regal, crowned feeling; and generally top off your look.
A scarf isn’t really necessary today, but it’s cool enough to get away with one, and so I’m wearing my Dries van Noten silk-and-wool scarf embroidered with flowers and a snake. When the temperature drops I’ll move into a larger, heavier scarf. Here’s the Dries van Noten scarf—the brown fedora is from Worth & Worth and the green pea jacket is vintage, Austrian I think.
When we’re below freezing and there’s a wind chill, I start thinking about my ears. This may mean the big fake fur hat with ear flaps or the real rabbit-skin trooper cap. Don’t start on the rabbits. I eat them, so I might as well wear them. And you know the little critter wasn’t trapped.
The other alternative is the stocking or watch cap. I have one in a French sailor-stripe from Saint James with a matching scarf. And I have a really silly Norway ski cap that I bought in Oslo when it was starting to blizzard. I don’t like earmuffs, and I have no problem wearing this hat with an overcoat and dressy kit. The point is to look sensible.
Here I am in my Norwegian street vendor pom-pom ski cap, with the Saint James scarf.
Guys walking around in suits, hatless, on a freezing day may feel macho, but they look stupid. They look as stupid as the guys you see dressed that way trying to run between raindrops, maybe holding the Financial Times over their heads. Get with it, chumps! When it rains, you wear a raincoat and carry an umbrella. When it rains heavily, or snows, you wear boots or galoshes. If you don’t, you look stupid.
On chilly days in Midtown I often see men in suits, overcoats, and baseball caps. This looks preposterous, and it seems especially so if it’s a Yankees or a Mets cap. If it’s Titleist you just feel sad for the guy, and if it’s plain and non-adjustable and possibly heavy wool or leather, you think, “Well, he’s trying.” Trying, but failing.
There are several other natty alternatives—the touring cap, aka coppola; the golfer’s or newsboy cap; the deerstalker, aka “the Sherlock Holmes cap”, with a double brim and earflaps; the traditional Persian diplomat, which is often made of Persian lamb; and the similar Astrakhan or Politburo hat, the type favored by Brezhnev, Gorbachev, and other cold warriors.
Here’s a shot of my friend Hooman Majd in his diplomat. Apt in his case because he’s very diplomatic and his father was a career Iranian diplomat (Hooman writes for the Huffington Post and his informative and amusing book The Ayatollah Begs to Differ will be published by Doubleday this year.) The scarf was swiped from the Revolutionary Guard.
It’s similar to the Arab scarf, the kaffiyeh or shemagh, which we see in the news on all sorts of Palestinians. It’s standard kit anywhere where there’s desert because it’s cotton and warms you when its chilly, but also protects you from blowing sand and the like when it’s hot. These have become a quite popular fashion item among young folks in Britain. And not-so-young folks like Sting, Colin Farrell… and David Beckham wears one, mate.
I have one given to me by an old Palestinian girlfriend (a Christian, actually, nothing Muslim about it), although I haven’t worn it much since an angry older lady punched me in Dean & DeLuca. I guess she thought it meant I support Hamas. I do support the Palestinian people in their struggles, but that doesn’t mean I’m anti-Jewish. Incredible how many people take offense. Actually, you often see them on our boys and girls serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Especially the Special Forces cats in beards and shades. Here I am in a kaffiyeh with a tweed cap from Bates of Jermyn Street, London. Sunglasses by Fabien Baron, coat by Anderson & Sheppard.
The tam is a nice hat, too. They're big in Jamaica, where they are made to contain dreadlocks. Since I don’t have those, I can pull my rasta-made tam down to cover my ears. Here I’m wearing a Jamaican tam with a reversible cashmere-and-paisley silk scarf I bought from Barneys a few years back.
For cold weather it’s nice to have a big scarf. This cashmere scarf by Armand Diradourian for Paul Smith runs a spectrum of greens, from dark to Kelly, and it’s 28” x 78.” A bit pricey, this was my big Christmas present to myself. The green fedora is from Worth & Worth of West 57th Street, New York.
When it’s absolutely freeze-your-ass-off cold there’s nothing like serious ear coverage, which is provided by this fake fur hat from Paul Smith from several collections ago. It’s acrylic, so only trees died for my ears. I found an even more over-the-top one by Gaultier about a decade ago at Maxfield in L.A., and I hesitated and lost it. Tried to track one down from Gaultier in Paris later, but too late. I learned by lesson. When you see something great, buy it.
Okay, I’m going to be watching. I don’t want to see you guys out there shivering in your suits or flitting between raindrops. Real men dress for adversity.