Students wearing shorts in February in central Pennsylvania
A brief rant/ethnography on the parking lot at a local high school
Every day as I drop off and then pick up my high schooler, I am dumbfounded at the number of kids traipsing into the school in gym shorts and t-shirts, with snow and ice piled on the ground and the thermometer reading sub-20 F.
The girls seem significantly less susceptible to the bizarre practice, although they have an equally confounding behavioral predilection. They frequently wear jeans that are so full of holes that they effectively offer about as much protection from the cold as a pair of shorts would. And the holes in such jeans now do not even approximately mimic the process of actual wear and tear on old pants; they are often just huge cuts running exactly perpendicularly from around the knee to the ankle. It looks as if the poor kid was just attacked by a lunatic with a knife and happily survived because the attacker slipped on the ice and fell down during the assault, only managing to slice the legs of the pants open on the way to the ground.
Beyond the ineffectiveness against the weather, it is a singularly silly look. I find it impossible to imagine how someone sees another person wearing such pants and then goes “Yes, I absolutely must have some of those, right now!” Thanks be to God, my own high schooler has shown no interest in this bizarre trend, and she seems as dumbfounded as I am by the phenomenon of shorts in frigid temperatures.
When and why did this start?
I suspect this must be connected in some way to status games, as a lot of clothing trends are, especially among the young. For males, perhaps the shorts show how impervious to suffering you are, a marker of your high status on the male attractiveness hierarchy. “Look how cosmically unconcerned I am with the weather! I levitate high above the merely earthly affairs of you dirt-treading mortals!”
As for females, how much do the slashed jeans cost? I have no idea about such things, but a quick Google search gathers some information that confirmed my suspicion that the students who are doing this are not only achieving a ludicrous appearance, but also getting bilked (or their parents are getting bilked): pre-destroyed jeans are apparently significantly more expensive than a normal non-destroyed pair of jeans. So perhaps here is an assertion of high social class position: “I can afford to throw good money away on a disintegrating scrap of cloth that probably cost 50 cents to make and fails at its one task, which is to cover the part of the body it was originally designed to cover. Bow before me, you servile lackeys!”
This seems a practice reserved to kids who are driving or being driven by parents to school. Kids who walk to school are probably not going to be able to pull this look off without hypothermia, unless they live right next door to the school and sprint from door to door. I was prepared to say that here’s another marker of status, but that would be to miss something important that has happened in school transport since I was a kid. It seems today that in most schools very few kids walk to and from school. So please disregard the riff I was going to go with on this (though here it is anyway because why not?): “I have a car, or I have a parent/chauffeur who obediently shuttles me in every day. I am not one of those lamentable herd animals who walk! I sit, and regally!” It seems most have left the ambulatory peasantry on this measure, though one of the costs of reaching the aristocratic heights of the never walkers is a greater propensity to obesity and reduced physical fitness.
As is true of most things these days, this gets me to thinking about my own youth. I walked to school every day all the way through high school. I can still see most of the streets and landmarks along the way in my mind’s eye, 40 years later. Thanks to Google Maps, I can also precisely determine how long the walk was: just under 2 miles, one way, taking about 35 minutes to walk.
So compared to the kids making the 30 second winter champion’s walk in their shorts or pre-ruined jeans after being dropped off by their ever-hovering parents, I got in excess of an hour’s daily exercise just getting to and from school. And never once wore either shorts or artificially aged jeans in February, or any other month.
I think I will share these data with my 16 year old and see how little she cares about them…