Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Librarianing in Hades: a how-to guide

C/O Hyperbole and a Half
There’s a lot of talk this week about how ever-loving hot it is outside. And people, Midwesterners especially, are finding out that those “in-style-summer” fashions, though expensive and bought this year, are not cut out for the current war in which the weather has ensnared us.

Luckily, I spent six years of my professional life in land-locked Tallahassee, FL. I come bearing gifts of fashion advice. Not that I’m fashionable (I actually don’t think I would have agreed to enter the working world if wide-leg trousers hadn’t started selling—RIP my favorite pair of JNCOS 1998-2003), but having lived through entire summers of unbearable heat I do know how to dress for work in an outfit that feels like you’re wearing nothing; which, of course, should be your objective when it’s, as my fiancée so eloquently puts it, “hot as balls outside.”
Here’s a few tips you can hopefully use, if not for your own sake but for mine, because I’m tired of looking at people and feeling sympathy itching. 

1. Above all else, it’s about the fabric: 100% cotton, no graphics. Repeat: 100% cotton, no graphics. Poly-cotton blends, no matter how cute they look, are the kiss of death in this weather. Add a screen print and you’re asking for misery. You can even wear dark colors if you wear 100% cotton!  Also, linen. Anything linen is so flow-y it makes its own breeze as you walk.

“Now the kilt was only for day to day wear.  In battle, we donned a full length ball gown covered in sequins.  The idea was to blind your opponent with luxury.”
2. Shorter is not always better: Again, I’m not talking fashionably, I’m talking keeping cool in balls-hot weather. Sure, you could wear cute tight Capri style pants, or denim shorts, but that part of your body that is actually covered with clothes will be way warmer than necessary. Also, polo shirts are the biggest farce in summer attire. They’re short sleeve but WAY TOO HOT, folks. A long cotton skirt or linen wide-leg pants will create that breeze I was talking about earlier. Trade your polo for a cotton button-up. In the South, it’s not unheard of to see a Senator wear a Hawaiian style shirt to the office, and not because they live anywhere near a beach. Some days, functionality is more important than anything else.

3. Powder makeup: Powder-based makeup is all you should dare to wear in 90-100 degree weather. True story, an ex of mine wanted to take me on a walk around his childhood neighborhood on a day I had a job interview. I had to go sit in the car after a half-hour because the foundational make-up I had on created a seal on my face. It felt like a mask, in the very literal sense of the word.  To this day, I feel itchy when I see someone with cake make-up. So yeah. Powder make up is where it’s at.

Behold: all the fucks I give.
4. Hair: Okay, so you should just resign yourself right now to the fact that you’re not going to look good on a hot-as-balls day. But, you can choose to intentionally look au-natural rather than looking like an ass having sweated through your attempt to look professional two hours ago. Here’s a great hairstyle to help you through the day: As soon as you get out of the shower, put your hair in a low ponytail. Then flip your hair up so it’s against your head. Then stick bobby pins in it till it stays that way. Will you look like a bowling ball until your hair dries? Absolutely. But your hair will not get in the way of trying to keep yourself cool. As an added bonus, before it dries it will be wet against your head, cooling you off more.

5. Don’t wear perfume: Okay, so you’re not gonna smell all that great either. Make sure you lather on some fresh-smelling deodorant (but NOT the medical strength stuff—imagine #3 but with your armpits, which ARE MADE to regulate your body temperature through sweat. After one day using that I felt like I was suffocating). BUT: resist the urge to spray on perfume. You’ll thank yourself when you’re walking downtown or you're hanging out at the brewery or whatever normal people do and the bees leave you alone (because I promise you, they WILL find you EXTREMELY interesting—as well a gnats, flies, wasps, and other awesome irritants) if you smell like candy. I use Bath and Body Works Rice Flower & Shea Butter, and they still love me. I can’t fathom what would happen if I used one of those jolly rancher smelling Victoria’s Secret scents.

These are just a few of the tricks I picked up. Of course, they are mostly applicable to women, because they all come from my personal experience. Any others? Any guy-specific advice? Anything I’m missing, my Southern friends? Let me know!


  1. One good "guy tip" my son's have shared is DO wear a cotton undershirt to soak up the sweat. It will, at least in theory, keep your top shirt (also cotton) dryer and looking better.

  2. Guys: A little dab of Talcum Powder or Gold Bond on "yer boys" before heading outdoors. This is not a gentle suggestion.