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D.L. STEWART: Real men wear short coats because being cold is cool

A letter writer to the chief fashion critic at The New York Times asked a question in last Tuesday’s edition.

“My son is in college in Maine,” AMY, PELHAM, N.Y., wrote, “and the temperature is frequently below zero. It seems like every woman is swathed in an ankle-length black puffer coat from November to March. So why do men have so few choices in outerwear that is knee length or longer?”

The fashion critic’s reply, in part, was: “It’s pretty clear this is one of those sexist fashion things – a long coat is somehow seen as not manly, unless maybe you live in Russia and it is fur. Because real men … have weatherproof legs? Or something.”

My answer would have been a lot shorter. It’s because men are stupid, I would have explained.

How else do you account for the fact that on days when polar bears huddle together to stave off hypothermia you see guys walking down snow-covered streets in T-shirts and shorts? What other explanation cold there be for all those television shots of bare-chested men with frostbitten nipples in the stands at December football games in Cincinnati?

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It’s not our fault. Being stupid is in our DNA. Men start out as stupid teenage boys and a lot of us never get over it. When I was a stupid teenage boy in Cleveland, I left the house for junior high every morning in the galoshes my mother made me wear over my shoes on any day it was snowing. Which, in Cleveland, meant any day between November and March. But I stashed them under a bush when I got around the corner and spent the rest of the day in frozen socks. Now when I leave the house on cold days I dutifully put on the scarf my wife insists I wear and when I get around the corner I stuff it in my coat pocket.

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By coincidence, the day before that letter to The Times was published I attended a funeral in Akron. Mercifully, the rabbi kept the ceremony short, because it was a morning of single-digit temperatures and snow-covered tombstones. At the grave site the women were swathed in ankle-length black puffer coats. The men’s coats, including mine, stopped at mid-hip. The women were wrapped in scarves and hats and they all wore boots. Most of the men were scarfless and hatless. The guy next to me was not only hatless, but bootless.

So if it’s any consolation for AMY, PELHAM, N.Y., I’d have to advise her, “Forget about it, mom. If your son had a million choices in outwear that was knee length or longer, he wouldn’t wear one anyway. Not even if he went to college in Russia.”

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