Matt Yglesias, the Slate blogger, is generally considered to be a smart guy by the elites in Washington for his commentary on economics, politics, and even basketball. But in the midst of low temperatures across the country, he has written a terrible and misguided defense of cold weather (as compared to hot weather).
Yglesias lives here in D.C., where on Tuesday it was very, very cold. (Note to people in Russia and Canada and Minnesota: yes, I know it's much worse for you guys blah blah blah). Here is Yglesias's description of his day:
The crucial issue is clothing and adaptability. I went out today wearing a warm hat and warm gloves and a scarf. I had four layers on my torso. I wore some corduroy pants, a warm pair of socks, and some boots. All things considered, I was pretty comfortable. Don't get me wrong, not as comfortable as I am on a nice 72 degree day. I am very glad that D.C. winters don't normally get this cold. Still, I survived.
It is beyond my comprehension how people can be warm if the temperature is beneath twenty degrees and they only have, as Yglesias says, four layers on their torso. I had seven on Tuesday. But no matter. Yglesias continues by contrasting this to a hot day:
A T-shirt and shorts may be comfortable at 85 degrees. But then what about 95 degrees? What about the occasional day when it's 102? You run out of options fast. And even shorts and a T-shirt only get you so far. If your agenda for the day involve a friend's wedding, a business meeting, or even a nice dinner than you're out of luck. Doomed.
Now, it's true that we live in a deranged society where people demand that you "dress up." Rather than all agree to live happier lives, we put on silly suits for work, and are forced to sit through weddings in fancy clothes while the sun shines on us. I occasionally still show up to work, during the summer, in shorts and flip-flops but my self-confidence has been progressively weakened by alternately envious and moralistic colleagues. So yes, these things are ridiculous. (Yglesias doesn't even add that buildings are massively over-air conditioned, which is both bad for the planet and makes sitting in a Starbucks in shorts in July bearable for only about 3 minutes.)
But back to Yglesias's piece. He continues:
So why are so many people confused about this? Part of it is that in my experience people from California and Texas (and probably from the in-between states) tend to adopt a quasi-principled refusal to dress appropriately on cold days. But that's on them.
This is slander. I am from California, and I have generally found that my fellow Golden Staters dress more than appropriately, with more layers than necessary—largely because they are not used to this beastly and inhumane weather. More Yglesias:
The larger issue is that I think there's a warm weather cognitive bias because it's a lot more fun to go on vacation in warm weather. If it's a nice hot day and you're on vacation then you're in good shape. Enjoy a cool beverage in the sun. Relax in the pool. Swim in the ocean. This is all good stuff. In terms of cold weather recreation, there's not much. Skiing, I guess, for fancy people. But hot vacation definitely beats cold vacation, and vacation definitely beats working. So people get it mixed up in their heads and think hot = fun while cold = not. But that's a confusion. You're not on vacation most of the time. And when you're not on vacation, you're better off with extreme cold than extreme heat.
Yglesias is half right here because cold vacations are terrible, but then he continues on as if he hasn't just made the crucial point. Do you know why cold vacations are terrible? It's not just because skiing requires so much money and effort for such a small reward. No, it's because they are cold. Who wants to be in the cold? I could never understand people who said they liked going to ski lodges to sit around the fire with hot cocoa. Why bother? Why not just live in Florida?
Moreover, hot vacations are so good largely because they are hot. You can wear shorts. You can sit outside and read a book. You can go for a walk. You can get a tan. These are all lovely things. It's true that occasionally the weather can be too hot, but just compare the feeling of warm heat on your face to biting cold. There. Is. No. Comparison. Warmth is good. (Is this why we say nice people are warm?)
Rather than wasting his time castigating the people (like me) who are trying to make the world a better place, and allow employees and wedding-guests to dress in shorts, Yglesias should target the uptight prohibitionists who hate our Freedom of Dress.