Wanton Scarfists brave frostbite for the sake of fashion - Chicago Tribune

As we battle subzero temperatures here in Chicago, it's clear that there are the two distinct groups of humans:

One group knows how to dress for Chicago in January. And the other group? They shall be known as the Wanton Scarfists.

You can spot the Chicagoans who know how to dress at distance, their lumpy, almost human shapes trudging stiff-legged across the frozen streets.

They look rather stuffed, like turduckens in puffy coats. They don't look like some model in a glossy fashion magazine. Instead, they're thick with layers, including woolen socks, hats and gloves.

And some, unfortunately, sport nose icicles, which are hideously unattractive.

But they're 100 percent Chicago, and they know how to keep warm.

Then there is the other tribe. The foolish tribe. The stubborn tribe. Those who are slaves to fashion and freeze.

The Wanton Scarfists.

They wear their scarves dangling outside their coats, the long ends flapping dangerously in the killer wind.

Isadora Duncan, one of the pioneers of modern dance, was a Wanton Scarfist. She just loved long scarves and let them dangle. One fine day, the end of her scarf became entangled in the wheel of a motorcar. And that was that for Isadora.

"It's individual preference," said my colleague Old School, somewhat of a Scarfist himself, fashionable as he is. "Some people like the scarf outside. Some inside."

But that is nothing but Wanton Scarfism.

There are other scarf techniques, including the Wrap-Your-Face-and-Breathe-Into-It, and the standard Chicago chest stuffers, which is the proper mode. The Breathe-Into-Its are the ones who develop the nose icicles. But the Scarfists are the worst.

Like that fashionably dressed woman on Michigan Avenue, all in black, with a thick beige scarf. Yes, she was expensively dressed, understated and classic like a Medici.

And yes, her scarf was just hanging there, useless, on the outside of her coat.

She'd made a loose knot at the throat, so the bulk of it dangled in the wind like a bib of foolishness. And as I approached her, I used my polite voice.

"Pardon me," I asked. "but why are you wearing your scarf outside your coat? Does it keep you warm that way?"

She ignored me.

"Excuse me," I insisted. "I'm a journalist. Why are you wearing your scarf outside your coat? To keep the outside of your coat warm?"

She gave me the finger, and moved on.

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