Want to keep cool? Wear more clothes

I know, I know, it’s counterintuitive, but as summer pays its annual, six-month visit to the South, it’s important to know how to dress for success.

White T-shirt collar
Showing a little white collar under a polo isn’t a sign of fashion clumsiness. It’s about keeping cool.

In an era when underclothes are getting way too much exposure for my taste, one example that is not only appropriate but expedient is men’s undershirts. In the South, it is not unusual to see the neck of a white, crew undershirt under a polo or golf shirt. It’s a secret Southern men have learned as they adapted to their humid environment.

First, let’s deal with the science. This may gross you out, but your body is secreting oils and fluids all the time. This stuff is what creates body odor and unsightly stains on your clothing, particularly the arm pits. You can avoid this mess showing up on your clothes by wearing an undershirt.

Among those aforementioned fluids is sweat. Southern summers induce sweating the way the smell of bacon induces salivating. No amount of antiperspirant can keep sweat from soaking your clothes. You need a barrier between your skin and your shirt. An undershirt not only traps moisture preventing it from soaking your outer clothes, it wicks the moisture away from your skin allowing evaporative cooling to take place. Hence, the title of today’s entry: stay cool by wearing more clothes.

Internet forums devoted to men’s fashion are divided on the topic, but as a long-time undershirt wearer, I can attest to the validity of the wicking and cooling properties of a T-shirt.

I routinely wore undershirts with my Sunday clothes as a kid and teenager, but it wasn’t until I got to college that I began wearing them under everyday casual wear. Attending school in Troy, Ala., I was exposed to what I thought at the time were pretty arcane fashion choices, one of which was undershirts with collared, knit pull-overs. In fact, I called it the “Troy Boy Look.” It consisted of a polo with white crew-neck undershirt showing through at the top, jeans, khakis or even khaki shorts with white socks and buck oxford shoes. Sounds real sporty, don’t it?

I mocked it for a while before eventually assimiliating, mostly because of an Alabama girl who gave me wardrobe “suggestions.”

While I don’t wear white socks and bucks anymore, I have kept the undershirt as all-occasion wear. It has absorbed the sweat trickling down my back at a sweltering September day game at Sanford Stadium. It has provided an extra layer of insulation when a cool breeze kicked up during a round of golf (although I can’t remember the last time I played and couldn’t find my clubs with a map.) And I always wear them under my dress shirts as any self-respecting man should.

So while everyone else in society today is showing off their underwear distastefully, I think it’s OK for a little white to be visible at the collar of a polo. I have learned that fashion sometimes gives way to practicality, and with this particular style, cultural adaptation results from prevalence.

It’s more than a fashion statement, it’s a sign of intelligence.

I’ll admit this style is headed in a weird direction. I recently discovered that Spanx, a company that makes women’s “controlling undergarments,” has moved into the market of men’s “compression undershirts.” No, I’m not talking about athletic compression wear that shows off rippling muscles and aids in athletic performance. The new “compression undershirts” by Spanx are essentially girdles for men. I can’t vouch for their effectiveness at “holding everything in,” but they do give you the same effect of showing a little white T-shirt at your collar.

Anyone not living in the South may be a bit confused by this week’s post, but I assure you, this is an issue confronting Southern men every day. And if you want to look and smell your best during the summer, you’ll proceed to the closest Wal-Mart and get yourself a pack of Hanes crewneck undershirts.

If they’re good enough for Michael Jordan, they’re good enough for me.

What’s your take on men’s undershirts? Do they really keep you cooler or is it psychosomatic? Do you find it tacky to see a man’s undershirt at the collar of his polo? Leave a comment below to help guide the fashion impaired on this Southern style.

In search of Black Friday

I hate shopping.

I don’t even really like Internet shopping.

There is absolutely nothing appealing about Black Friday to me. I don’t believe in its philosophical underpinnings. I don’t understand its attraction. I don’t acknowledge its existence.

But like someone chasing a ghost or questing for grainy 8 millimeter footage of Big Foot, I set out Thanksgiving night in search of a genuine Black Friday experience.

I didn’t have to go far.

Target on Thanksgiving
The line outside Target at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving night stretches on into the darkness.

Hearing and reading about the controversy this year of Target opening at midnight on Thanksgiving, I started my epic journey outside the Minneapolis-based retailer’s Snellville location. At 10 p.m., the line stretched 100 yards, and all seemed calm.

I met Gabriel Ortiz, 20, and his brother, who had been at the front of the line since 1:40 p.m., eagerly anticipating the purchase of a 46-inch Westinghouse high-definition television for $298 instead of the usual $600.

Gabriel Ortiz
Line-camper Gabriel Ortiz of Snellville stakes out his spot at the front of the line at Target with dreams of a high definition television.

He told me this was his first time to ever shop on Black Friday, and as a relative brought him some food, he shared what he had learned. He started at Best Buy, but at 1 p.m., the line, containing several tents, was already wrapped around the building. The Target scene was more his speed, and depending how his experience went, he would consider doing this again.  I determined for certain at that very moment that I would never consider doing it.  Ever.

Like Andrew Zimmern in search of exotic cuisine, I continued in my pursuit of the Black Friday experience, and Black Friday, I hear, is not Black Friday until you’ve been to the world’s largest retailer, Walmart.

I knew I was in trouble as I drove up Highway 124 and saw the line of traffic just turn into the parking lot. It was 10:32 p.m., and the parking lot was chaos. In about five minutes I managed to snag a spot at a bank in the out parcel. The walk wasn’t bad, and it gave me time to steel my nerves against what I was about to experience.

As I stepped in through the automatic doors, I could not have entered a more alien scene had I been dropped into the Mos Eisley Cantina. Everywhere I turned, there was a long line, emanating from a Mylar balloon with a product printed on it. Remembering that we were out of pull-up diapers, I spent 20 minutes meandering through the store, avoiding the blocked off aisles and walls of people waiting on everything from HD televisions to video game systems to bicycles.

I found the Huggies pull-ups just above the head of a woman sitting in the floor.

“The line for diapers starts back there,” she quipped.

“Seriously?” I said, an obvious Black Friday novice.

“No, it’s for the laptop,” she said, pointing to the balloon. A 15.6-inch Hewlett Packard laptop to be exact.

Out of luck or ignorance, I ended up in the “10-items or less” line. A woman with a Wii and another with a Xbox Kinect chatted brightly in front of me.

“That’s all you’ve got?” the Wii woman said.

“What are you doing here in this mess?” her friend asked.

“You must be a really good husband,” Mrs. Wii said.

“You should’ve just gone to CVS or Kroger. They’re open today, too, you know,” Mrs. Kinect said with just a slight hint of condescension.

The beleaguered clerk rang me up and laughed.

“Is that all?”

“It’s all I need,” I said, and as she handed me my receipt, I offered “Hang in there. I hope you survive.”

Wallmart check out
A sea of humanity tried to check out Thursday night at Walmart in Snellville.

By this time, it was still an hour until Target was to open. Just for laughs, I drove back by Target. Gabriel and his brother were still at the front of the line wearing hopeful smiles, but now the line stretched at least a quarter mile.

When I got home, I put the diapers on the counter, brushed my teeth and climbed into bed. The clock said 11:30. I thought about the Walmart scene and how it was about to be repeated at Target.

For any other skeptics out there, let me assure you, Black Friday is real, and it is dangerous.

Please shop responsibly.

What’s your view? Do you love or avoid shopping on Black Friday? Are you a line camper? What’s your best deal you’ve ever gotten? Help continue my education by sharing your experiences below.