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 Knew Their Snow Business

Recent snowfalls in Mister Boomer’s current neighborhood triggered his Wayback Machine to the winters of his boomer youth. Several snowfalls over the course of a week have produced different types of snow as conditions and temperatures changed. Mister B recalled that, as boomers, we were snow connoisseurs. It’s well documented that our generation spent a lot of time outdoors, regardless of weather. This included the winter; dress in layers and head out into the elements for hours at a time. After a step off the front porch, boomers could tell what type of snow was falling. This was important because it could dictate the type of play that was about to transpire. Mister B recalls three basic types of snow, though combinations of the three were possible:

1. Wet snow: The heaviest of the snowfalls due to the water content; when temperatures and moisture in the air were just right, wet snow blanketed the neighborhood. The snowflakes could be large and snow depths often amounted to four or more inches. For a good number of boomers, especially the boys, this was the favored type because it packed well. Play in wet snow could then be centered around building snowmen and snow forts, that would be put to good use in snowball fights. Warm gloves were essential, and, if not made of water resistant material, double gloves became a necessity. Occasional trips back inside for a quick warm-up and change of socks and gloves might be in order. Sledding, though possible, was not ideal in this type of snow as the sled’s runners could bog down, especially if the snow fell quickly and resulted in deeper snow depths. It was, however, the best snow for making some money, as homeowners could have struggles with the weight of shoveling.

2. Icy snow: When snow and ice crystals mixed, with the proportions leaning toward the icy, the snow that stuck on the ground was slick and solid. This surface made for good sledding, as boomers’ sleds and saucers could glide down a hill with less friction. These icy properties made it a terrible choice for snowball fights, though some masochists among us (you know who you are) took great delight in blasting the sides of faces with hard-packed ice balls. These boomers could be seen coaxing a snowball over time, like a sculptor shaping clay, far beyond the scoop-pack-throw immediacy of the typical snowball fight. In their private game, extra points were earned if the targeted kid’s face produced a red spot, or chunks of icy crystals remained behind a pair of glasses. Boomers in Mister B’s neighborhood avoided asking for snow removal jobs in this type of snow, because it often involved lots of ice chopping to reveal the sidewalk below.

3. Powdery snow: When humidity levels are low and the air is dry but cold, a powdery snow falls. This type of snow was impossible to pack, like grabbing a handful of granulated sugar. Ergo, it was a terrible choice for making snowmen or snowballs. Nonetheless, intrepid snow bullies would attempt to get a handful down a boomer’s back, delivering their payload by pulling open the space between the scarf and the coat. The powdery surface made it decent for sledding, but the ideal play mode for powdery snow was for making snow angels. It was terrible for trying to earn money while shoveling, because it was light enough to be removed by homeowners with a broom.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BlWWsAi4eao.0

At any given time, a combination of the three might occur, but boomers knew their snow and what they could do with it. Do you recall shifting your play priorities based on the type of snow that fell, boomers?