McAbee: Colorado fashion faux pas fueled by fear of freezing |

McAbee: Colorado fashion faux pas fueled by fear of freezing

Jeff McAbee
special to the daily

Batman has his bat-suit. Clark Kent wore his uniform both as the mild-mannered reporter and the superhero. Even if it’s a tall tee and sneakers, we all follow a dress code.

If you meet someone new in Colorado, he is far more likely to be from outside of Colorado than locally grown. It’s one of the great things about living here.

OK, it’s not exactly the pioneer days, but Colorado is a young enough state that we, the current inhabitants, have much to say about what it will mean to be a Coloradan in 50 or 100 years. While I do not pretend to know just what that will look like, I have spotted a few fashion trends that I think we should let go the way of the horse-drawn wagon.

Men, this fashion faux pas is not without its roots. People who move here tend to rave about the laid back and friendly manner of the local inhabitants. Casual is king in Colorado.

Back East you can find families who can trace their name back to the passenger list of the Mayflower. A lot of their descendants have stayed put. They have their circle of friends and family and can remain satisfied within these groups. But in Colorado most of us lack the kind of heritage three or four generations can provide and can’t afford to be parochial. In other words, where everyone is from somewhere else, the only reasonable way to establish crucial social bonds is by being friendly and casual.

However, it is one thing to shrug off pretentiousness with your hyper-casual dress. It is quite another to look the same wherever you go. Let me explain.

I’m sure that you have noticed other men trekking through town in Gore-Tex, hiking shoes, and when the weather turns colder, polar fleece and down. There’s a war with nature on, boys. It’s called winter and we’re really combating the elements. For a couple of friends and me, the fashion stable, at least in the colder months was a big black down coat. When we all wore them the same night we called ourselves the “black puffy posse.”

I am reluctant to place blame on a single person but if you are like me, when you first moved here someone probably told you “cotton kills”.

This warning no doubt sent you to an outdoor retail establishment to reduce your risk of getting caught in a freak snowstorm wearing the wrong clothes and freezing to death in your own non-wicked hypothermia-inducing sweat. A helpful chap in the store who had lived in Colorado a total of two months longer than you had, explained that it is neither uncommon to see temperature swings of 50 degrees or more nor is it uncommon to encounter snow in any month of the year. His speech and others like it were and have been very effective, because I see a lot of fellows walking the streets of cities, suburbs and ski towns in some form of tech wear as if they were going to spontaneously climb a Fourteener.

This is not to say that some of these men didn’t just get off a mountaineering expedition or the ski slopes. It is possible. After all, there are some uber athletes around Colorado. But if your life isn’t that adventurous or is just part-time adventurous, then you might leave the ski coat in the closet unless you’re skiing and for other occasions perhaps something a little more appropriate.

Women notice your feet. Women judge you by your shoes. If your shoes promise stability on the trail, well, keep it on the trail. Most athletic shoes are made in a country that still practices foot binding. Do yourself a favor, buy something leather, perhaps Italian and thank me later.

When the weather turns nasty, you don’t have to go for a fabric made of out recycled soda bottles. Wool has been around for a long time. They make sweaters out of it. It even keeps you warm even if it gets wet. Play around with the idea. Have some fun with it fellows.

If you do decide on a winter ascent of the Crestone Needle you will still have the gear in your closet.

Jeff McAbee is a former Summit County resident now living on the Front Range. Contact him at or via Twitter @Jeff_McAbee.

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