A winter blast sure can bring out the worst in folks' closets

January 15, 2004|By KEVIN COWHERD

ONE UNFORTUNATE aspect of cold, snowy weather that's rarely discussed, maybe because it's so painful, is this: It brings out the worst in office fashion.

Men who generally wear Dockers, button-down shirts and ties show up in oilskin coats, old, ratty sweaters, corduroy pants and big clunky boots, like they're part of a logging crew.

Women who normally dress in slacks and a nice Oxford shirt are suddenly walking around in jeans, turtlenecks and loud reindeer sweaters, as if they're going out to make a snowman.

It would be one thing if we lived in Maine or Minnesota, where winters are harsh and there's 10 feet of snow everywhere you look and you need a dogsled to reach the mailbox.

But this is Baltimore, hon.

It snows, what, maybe four times a year? And if we get an inch of the stuff, we shut down the schools and nobody goes outside anyway.

(And please don't bring up last winter. Sure, last winter was rough. Last winter, we were Boise, Idaho. But how many times does that happen?)

Anyway, the point is, does someone headed to a nice, warm office - someone who walked 15 feet from his house to his garage, got into his warmed-up Volvo, made the 25-minute ride to work and parked in the company parking garage - really need to dress like Grizzly Adams?

The other troubling fashion note about a cold snap like this is: It brings out the guys in the bad hats.

As a general rule, men don't look good in hats, except maybe baseball caps. And even then it helps to be no more than 25 years old, with a couple of piercings and tattoos.

But for some reason, as soon as the temperature plummets, middle-age men feel compelled to break out all sorts of goofy hats to keep their heads warm.

For instance, you'll see them wearing those furry Russian and Cossack hats, which, let's face it, should be worn only by Russians and Cossacks.

This being a few ZIP codes removed from the Ural Mountains, and no one's playing balalaikas and swigging vodka on the sidewalks, the hats look a little out of place, don't you think?

The other winter fashion nightmare is what I call the Elmer Fudd hat, that snappy little number with the bill and the ear flaps that is tied under your chin.

I'm told that, officially, it's called a Kromer hat, after the immortal George "Stormy" Kromer, who got tired of having his hat blow off his head.

As the story goes, Stormy's wife felt bad for him and stitched him this woolen hat with flaps for his ears and tie strings.

Then, demonstrating incredible cruelty to the man she professed to love, she actually allowed Stormy to leave the house wearing the thing.

But that was back in 1903. Life was harder. Fashion sensibilities were different then.

These days, I don't understand how any male over the age of 7 can wear one of those hats.

And yet ... when I turned on the TV early yesterday, there was Al Roker, the popular Today show weatherman, doing his meet-the-crowd bit outside the NBC studios wearing an Elmer Fudd hat.

Roker is a man I genuinely like, a man I have interviewed on a couple of occasions and found to be witty, charming and down-to-earth.

But now ... I don't know what to think.

Maybe that whole gastric bypass thing threw him off his game, skewed his sense of style.

Sure, it was cold in Manhattan yesterday when Roker was working. But he was outside mingling with the crowd for, what, two minutes?

And to think the rest of the Today crew let him walk outside wearing that hat.

Why didn't his producer or one of the cameramen walk over to him at one point and say: "Al, please ... you gotta take that thing off."

Now, I realize some readers, especially the short-fuse types, will read this and say: "Look, pal, I don't care what I look like, OK? It's 10 bleeping degrees out there. This hat is all about functionality. It's keeping my head warm!"

Well, see, there's the problem right there.

Sure, I guess you'd need a functional hat if you were working in the high Sierras today, moving 2,000 head of cattle. Or if you're out there today with the BGE crews repairing downed power lines or something.

But basically all you're doing is jumping in the car and going to the office, right?

The heater works in the car, right?

And it's warm in the office.

So what on Earth are you doing with that thing on your head?

You should really take a look at yourself.

No, I mean, really take a look.

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