Sunday, July 21, 2019

How to Dress for Extremely Hot Weather (Seriously)

Ironically, my current stomping grounds of north Georgia did NOT suffer from the record-breaking heatwave recently; the high-pressure system that turned most of the continental US into a bake oven ended a bit west of me, which meant my neighborhood was actually cooler than more northerly climes for most of the past week. This in turn inspired me to take to social media so as to tell my northern friends "How terrible. You poor thing. I feel very very sorry for you right now." And since I merely typed that statement onto a social media site, said friends could neither see my facial expression nor hear my tone of voice, both of which would immediately indicate "She's lying through her crowned teeth right now. She doesn't feel sorry for us at ALL. If anything, her soul is being corroded by a scorching schadenfreudey envy of the 'Serves you RIGHT. See how the other half lives??!' variety...."

Having said that, here is some genuine non-sarcastic advice for people sweltering under unusually hot temperatures, specifically conditions that are hot and humid: ignore everything you've ever heard along the lines of "Cotton is a comfortable fabric in hot weather." That might be true for hot and dry climates -- I've never actually lived in one myself, so I wouldn't know -- but cotton is terrible in humid conditions because it hoards moisture, and feels wet too.

Up north, anytime there was a brutal winter cold snap, there would always be "news you can use" stories advising how to dress in layers against the cold, and those stories always said "Do NOT wear a cotton layer closest to your skin, because if you perspire the cotton will stay wet and ironically increase your risk of hypothermia." Despite this, it took me much, much longer than it should have, to figure out "Hmm, so, if cotton makes you feel wetter and sweatier in cold weather, perchance might it do the same in hot?"

True fact: until I moved to Georgia three summers ago almost every casual summer garment I ever owned was some form of cotton, and I figured it was a fact of life that "when you personally are sweaty and gross, so too are the clothes you have on." Which is indeed the case -- IF those clothes are cotton.

The two fabrics you want to wear in hot and humid conditions are linen or rayon (also sold as "viscose" or "bamboo.") Linen is a more high-maintenance fabric -- it wrinkles if you look at it too hard, and (at least on me) somehow always manages to look baggy and ill-fitting even when a garment is cut to your precise size and shape. Rayon has some advantages over linen -- not nearly as high maintenance, and many forms of it do not hold ANY body heat at all, making it ideal for high temperatures -- but according to an article I read, some people dislike rayon precisely for that reason: they say the "cool" feel of the fabric on a hot day can come across as almost "slimy" to the touch. I wouldn't know about this, however, because I only wear rayon on days sweaty enough that EVERYTHING feels slimy, since I'm touching it with a damp and sweaty hand. Also, I've noticed a wide variation in quality between various types of rayon -- some of it is so nice, it looks and feels identical to silk, linen or cotton; some is so cheap it looks more like that rubbery polyester used in really bad 1970s leisure suits.

For days when the temperature would be pleasant except the humidity makes it too hot (or a tiny bit too chilly), silk is an excellent fabric: it stays dry to the touch as does linen or rayon, but holds noticeably more body heat than linen or cotton of similar thickness, meaning even very thin silk is best avoided in high-heat conditions.

Under NO circumstances do you want to wear nylon, spandex or polyester in hot humid weather. Even cotton is better than those three.

End message. We now return to your irregularly scheduled programming. Trump sucks.


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