Boomers Wore Their Winterwear Well

Despite any recent prognostication by a groundhog, the calendar shows there are still plenty of winter days ahead. That got Mister Boomer thinking about the different types of winter coats he has had over the past six decades. Prior to the 1960s, practically all winter clothing was made from natural materials, but the introduction of synthetic fabrics to make winter clothes coincided with the rise of the Boomer Generation.

Well into the 1960s, the majority of men’s winter coats were still made from wool, cotton, leather, suede or sheepskin, with wool being the predominant material in Mister Boomer’s neck of the woods. Stuffing and lining, when present, was either animal fur or down.

The DuPont Corporation developed an acrylic fabric in the 1940s, but it was the 1950s before the first practical acrylic fabrics began being used to make clothing. Its first uses were for linings, such as gloves and boots, and sweaters. Acrylic had advantages over wool in that the clothing was more lightweight and moisture-resistant, while still keeping the wearer warm. It could also mimic real wool, and was soft to the touch. Plus, acrylic fabrics generally held up well to repeated washing, and maintained lightfastness with less fading. As the 1950s became the 1960s, the affordability of acrylic fabrics, especially in versions made to feel like materials such as cashmere, became less expensive for growing boomer families. Besides, a bonus for boomer moms was that acrylic coats were not prone to moth damage once stored in the off-season.

Mister Boomer has vivid memories of most of the winter coats he had from the time he walked to kindergarten with his older brother. From those early days through his elementary school years, Mister B’s coats were made of wool or corduroy (a heavy cotton). Sweaters worn under the coats were made of wool or cotton. As boomers will recall, wool sweaters could be an itchy annoyance throughout the school day. Nonetheless, drafty classrooms and daily outdoor recess required that children wear warm clothing throughout the day.

Once Mister Boomer was in high school, he had an inkling of a fashion sense that was directly influenced by Brother Boomer. A few years older than Mister B, Brother Boomer had his eyes open to 1960s fashion, beginning with a Beatles’ style suit. Nonetheless, Mister Boomer’s father generally dressed quite conservatively, so standard winter coats and jackets remained the order of the day.

Sometime in the late sixties, Brother Boomer bought a synthetic suede bomber-style jacket with an acrylic-fur collar and lining (he had been working part-time by then). Mister B had to have the same one, and somehow his parents agreed. Up until that point, most of his winter coats had been three-quarter length, so now this jacket made an unwelcome difference on colder mornings as well as for outdoor play. After two or three years, he outgrew the jacket and went back to longer coats.

Mister Boomer never had a ski-style jacket in his early days. While these jackets began to appear in the 1950s, Mister B’s family didn’t hop on that bandwagon. It wasn’t until the beginning of the 1970s that Mister B purchased a ski-style jacket, which was entirely made from synthetlc materials.

When did you acquire your first winter clothing made with synthetlc fabrics, boomers?

Boomers Waited for the Holiday Season

In our current on-demand world, it appears the powers-that-be want to run events and holidays running into and overlapping one after the other, like sport team seasons converging in the inevitable playoffs. Take our current calendar season. As of this writing, the calendar says it is Halloween. Yet the store aisles are filled with Christmas decorations and holiday supplies, and TV is airing Christmas gifting ads … and they have been for weeks!

This isn’t entirely a recent phenomena. Boomers grew up knowing they weren’t going to be able to buy a swimsuit in August, or a winter coat in March — other than picked-over clearance merchandise. Yet things are different now. There is a dwindling recognition of season, and no sense of anticipation. You want breakfast at 3 pm, no problem! Need a new car by tomorrow? It can be in your driveway tomorrow, without ever going to a dealership. In the boomer years, anticipation was part of what made holidays and events what they were. (See: Boomers Learned to Wait)

Halloween used to be a one-day event. Now it’s a month-long, $10.5 billion dollar industry, according to the National Retail Federation. Christmas season didn’t begin until Thanksgiving dinner was over. Black Friday was hardly the madhouse it became in post-boomer years; stores opened at their regular time. Now it’s all shopping, all the time …. online. Fortunately, some retailers have seen the error of their ways and will close their stores for Thanksgiving this year, claiming they value their employees and want them to spend holiday time with their families. Of course, the real reason they will close is they can make more money with less overhead by pushing online purchases.

If Mister B is sounding a little cynical and curmudgeonly, and you’re ready to tell him “OK, boomer,” well, that’s fine with him. Boomers have lived six to seven decades now, and have the advantage of seeing how different things were to what they have become. Mister B, for one, enjoyed holidays as they arrived in the little boxes of a calendar, anticipating each day by day, and enjoying them to their fullest when they arrived. Only then could he and other boomers think about what came next. As each calendar page turned, seasons changed, and holidays would appear on the horizon. Anticipation made it special. Living in the present made it the best. How will today’s kids remember the Halloween of 2022? Or the Thanksgiving? Or the Christmas? And will they have to refer to some online archive of snapshots and videos to tell them what actually happened?

How about you, boomers? Do you care if Christmas ads play constantly on your TV in October?