Although it’s 81°F here in Singapore, back home in New York it’s 20°F. The days are falling from the calendar, and when I return to the USA, New York will be in its worst month, my birthday month, February. The bitch of winter. I’m not worried, though, because I have a secret weapon to fight the cold.
It’s called polypropylene. That link goes to the Amazon search for fabrics made of the stuff, but unless you’re itching to give me affiliate money (and why wouldn’t you be?), you don’t need to be overly concerned with clicking there. You can find polypropylene underwear at any Army Navy Surplus store in America.
I first learned about polypropylene when I was serving in the Marines. The winter of 2000 was a cold one, and the recruits were shown a rare mercy by the command (which the drill instructor staff, of course, took credit for) by being issued polypropylene underwear, a top and a bottom set for each recruit. At least that’s how it was for 1st Battalion. 3rd Battalion would probably tell you they were issued barbed wire underwear for training during the same period. What seemed horrific to us recruits was that we were not allowed to wear the stuff when we were undergoing the most strenuous outdoor training. This was true after recruit training as well, when our NCOs would check to see whether or not we were wearing the polypros because there was a risk of passing out from heat stroke in the winter weather because of how warm the things kept us.
I grew up in Florida and attended high school in New Hampshire. Some of my most vivid memories from boarding school are of trudging to class late in the morning as my body, especially my face, was pelted by miniature spears of ice. I remember sneering angrily at nature as my bike slipped and slided through snow on my way to a criminally early swim meet. Although I have lived through some cold winters, I was not born into it, and I have always hated it. I had worn long underwear before, and it definitely helps, but nothing ever solved the damned problem. When I learned about polypropylene, it was a seminal moment. Granted, recruit training had a lot of seminal moments, but the impacts from some lasted longer than others. I still wear polypropylene underwear when it gets cold, but I rarely* march in formation.
New York, where I’ve lived since 2004, has been the ultimate test space for my enthusiastic praise of polypros. Daily life has its share of miserable cold experiences when February comes, but the stuff officially made the cut to Little Miracle when I started performing stand-up comedy. Beginning comics need time, and many of the people who run shows around New York make the new talent pass out flyers to strangers on the streets. If you live in New York and have been in Times Square, you’ve probably seen my people. Some of those guys and girls are just working for a company, but a lot of them are hard-working comics trying to make it. The job is unpleasant enough as it is. You stand outside and bark at strangers who, by and large, seem to hate you. The cold, though, can make it into a soul-searing nightmare. I have stood outside in 10°F weather cursing the wind between overtures to strangers. If you want to get on that stage, though, you do what you gotta do. But I haven’t hated that assignment for a long time. Sure, my face gets cold, but I have a great jacket with a thick hood. And I have polypropylene underwear. I can stand around the entire day in weather that’s as cold as the continental United States has to offer and smile at what the elements throw my way.
I’ve never been to Alaska or Antarctica, never tested my thermal underwear against the likes of Nova Scotia, even. I’m sure in more dramatic environments more dramatic measures are called for, though. This blog, though, assumes you’re someone with access to considerable numbers of beautiful women, and that necessarily excludes extreme climates. If you’re living somewhere that gets freezing, your life will change drastically when you first start wearing polypropylene underwear.
Women, of course, have their vanity to think about. I don’t really have a solution for you guys, except when you are slogging in jeans and a long jacket anyway, and looking cute isn’t your first priority. Men, also, need to recognize that these things work well, and if you wear them in a warmer environment (i.e. anywhere above 70°F), you are going to start sweating. It’s rare, but there have even been some Chicago and New York workshops where I’ve been forced to strip that layer away and check it with my outer coat.
Stay warm, readers. Now I’m going to head out and try to figure out how to handle the opposite problem as I lug my camera equipment all around Singapore looking for the perfect shot.
Leave a comment