The May weather was like deep summer last week. It was so warm that I decided I could wait no longer to unpack my warm-weather clothes.
I knew it was time for a change when I tried to cool off by pulling the legs of my sweatpants (the retired man’s uniform) up to my knees like shorts. “Why not get out the real thing?” I asked myself.
“You have sweat shorts so you could continue to be in the height of retirement style.”
My experience has been that people can be grouped somewhere on the scale of two general body-temperature types: coldblooded or warmblooded. I lean more toward the coldblooded end of the spectrum. In the colder months I mostly wear sweatpants and long sleeves around the house. Then a string of warm days will occur sometime during the spring and I realize that cooler clothes are called for.
At that point, I will go through the biannual ritual of cleaning, folding and packing away one season’s clothes while unpacking and unfolding the clean clothes of the previous season. It is a ritual in which many Americans participate, and aren’t we fortunate to have so many clothes we store half of them in boxes? I pack away my short pants during the winter months, but some people wear shorts year round. I think this is a fairly recent trend. I’m sure people didn’t wear short pants during Indiana winters when I was a kid.
The ﬁrst time I noticed the cold weather shorts trend was during bus duty when I taught school. I chalked it up to youth and the idea that it’s more important to look cool than to be warm. Some kid would get off the bus and slip on the icy sidewalk wearing a stylish pair of shorts and maybe ﬂip ﬂops, as well. The opposite would happen when the Indiana heat kicked in and kids would appear at school wearing hooded sweatshirts as the thermometer approached 90.
“That’s just being a kid,” I told myself, and I remembered back to my own youth. I would scan Life Magazine or some rock and roll periodical and notice how the rock stars and hippies were dressed and try to model my wardrobe on the hip people in the photos. I didn’t stop to think that the leather-
jacketed rock musicians were being photographed in London where it is chilly even in July or that the
hippies in their longsleeved Nehru shirts and fringed coats were frolicking in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco where the average high temperature reaches 70 degrees only one month out of the year.
Didn’t matter to me. I still wanted to go out in the sweltering Indiana summers clad in military style jackets with perhaps a turtleneck sweater for good measure.
Every half year as I go though the wardrobe switching ritual, I ﬁnd myself with a number of items I haven’t worn in a while. “This is a good chance to simplify my life,” I think and assign many of them to a giveaway pile. I bag them up and haul them to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, and then I am pleased that I have extra shelf or closet space, or at the very least, slightly smaller storage boxes. Isn’t it strange how every six months I ﬁnd myself making another large giveaway pile of clothes? Where do they come from?
As I get older, I like to think I shop less and buy fewer clothes especially now that I am retired, but maybe I’m kidding myself. I really do ﬁnd it easier to pass up a sale rack these days but, still, if I spot a bargain on a good pair of retirement sweatpants, I am tempted.
Norman Knight, a retired Clark-Pleasant Middle School teacher, writes this weekly column for the Daily Journal. Send
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