January 30, 2013

ELIOT: Winter in Ithaca: Why Isn’t Anyone Wearing Pants?

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When I told people that I was going to Cornell, the one thing that I always heard first was “Oh, it’s cold there.” Sometimes it was a variation like “Bring a jacket,” or the classic “Brrrrr!” But no matter what it was, people always wanted to talk about the weather and how devastating it would be. It would have been one thing if I had grown up in Thailand, El Paso or even San Diego. Maybe then I would have been cautious. But I am from Colorado. In my younger days, when I met kids from other states and they heard I was from Colorado they would always ask me, “Do you ski a lot?” “Does it just snow all the time?” or “Do you ride a horse to school?” (Yes. That was an actual question I received at age 14, believe it or not). Colorado is rugged; it’s the land of Chipotle and skiing. Colorado was for pioneers and cowboys and South Park and the legendary stylings of John Denver.

And then last year rolled around and winter in Ithaca never really seemed to come. It would drop down to the 30s for a day or two, but then the sun would shine again and things would start to thaw.  Needless to stay, when I returned to Cornell in mid-January this year, I was cocky. I have endured -14 degree days at home. I thought that I knew cold and that there was nothing to worry about.

And then the first week of classes came. I remember walking around campus and thinking to myself, “This is the coldest I have ever been in my life. This is absolute zero.”

Who was it that settled here in 1790 (Ithaca’s founding year), lived through one day like last Tuesday and said to him or herself, “Yes. This is a good place to live. We should definitely put ourselves through this again next winter?” 1790 was before central heating, before warm buses and before North Faces and Ugg boots.

Either way, they put a school here. And one thing I noticed last week (in addition to how my regular banana became a frozen banana on my way to class) was the diversity of wardrobes that could be seen around campus. Here are brief descriptions of a few of my particular favorites:

The Cartoon Character

This person obviously isn’t an actual cartoon character — actual animated figures tend to stay within their cartoons. However, these Cornellians wardrobes’ may as well belong to one. Day in and day out, these people manage to wear a very slight variation (sometimes less) of the exact same thing. They range from teaching assistants to fraternity guys to girls who only own sweatshirts and leggings. Anyone can be a cartoon character — the only qualification is to find one clothing combination and stick with it. You may see someone, perhaps my freshman writing seminar teacher, who decides to wear black from head to toe everyday. Some choose to wears boat shoes and a Patagonia fleece whether it is in the mid-sixties and sunny or it is 10 degrees with a bone-chilling wind ripping across the arts quad. And, of course, there is the multitude of girls who wear leggings and Uggs every day. Somehow, though, despite an Ugg endorsement from Tom Brady, this look hasn’t quite made it to the male community at-large.

The Winter Warrior

This person dresses like they are going to face the punishing cold of K2’s north face. Each morning when the temperature dips a bit below comfortable, this person can be found adding an extra 40 pounds in clothing to his or her frames. He or she covers him or herself head to toe, only leaving a small gap visible for the eyes. Now, while I must admit that this person probably isn’t feeling the crippling cold outside, Cornell tends to keep the insides of its buildings consistently a little too hot. There is no way that person is comfortable sitting in the heat in class or trying to be responsible for all of that clothing after taking it off. To give them credit, though, he or she is definitely not cold when walking outside.

The Tough Guy

Alright, man. I saw The Social Network too, and however cool Jesse Eisenberg may have looked running across the Harvard campus wearing a gray hoodie, flip-flops and white socks while designing the most influential website of our generation, here in real life, you just look silly. We are not at Harvard. You are not Jesse Eisenberg. You are not designing Facebook. You know what other movie I saw? Everest. People’s appendages froze solid and turned black from frostbite. They had to go through devastating physical therapy and rehabilitation and even then their fingers still fell off. And those people were wearing the most technologically advanced cold-weather gear of all time. Now, Cornell may not be quite as cold as high-altitude Nepal, but it’s close enough. Wearing cargo shorts, a light hoodie and sandals isn’t impressing anyone. Take care of yourself. You look ridiculous. And you definitely don’t want Everest-esque frostbite.

The Individual

Most people probably fall into this last category and it is these people that help make Cornell that wonderful institution that it is. The people in this group don’t really fit in a box. Some may opt for a good old-fashioned Canadian tuxedo and wear denim from head to toe. Some may wear socks and Crocs even when it snows four inches overnight. Some might dress like a Perry Ellis catalog. And some might wear only clothing relating to Star Wars. The individual is what adds variety to the campus when walking through the arctic tundra where we attend school.

Like I said, these are only a few of the styles I noticed walking around campus. And in an opinion column it might be nice to somehow tie this article together into a neat ending about how these styles represent Cornell’s greatness. Everyone can find a place where they belong and still expose themselves to all types of people (and harsh elements) while growing as an individual. I’m not going to do that, though. I just want this column to be a message to the tough guys out there: Invest in some pants. Your calves make everyone around you uncomfortable.

Christo Eliot is a sophomore in the College of Engineering. He may be reached at celiot@cornellsun.com. The Tale of the Dingo at Midnight appears alternate Thursdays this semester.

Original Author: Christo Eliot