Sunday, 5 April 2009

Only the Shoplifters Wear Coats!

About ten years ago, or maybe even longer, I noticed a strange phenomenon one day whilst travelling on the bus. It was the middle of winter, in fact, I remember there was a blizzard. A young chap got onto the bus wearing one of those short sleeved polyester football shirts, a Sunderland FC one in this case but he wasn’t wearing a coat. He must be just going to someone’s house I thought but no, he got off at the football stadium and was obviously going to the match as it was a Saturday lunchtime. In case you're wondering exactly what he was wearing you can take a look at it here. Well this is the latest retro shirt.

Now I used to go to the matches in Sunderland in my youth but I remember being absolutely frozen even though I was well wrapped up with hat, scarf, thick winter coat, gloves and boots. The lad was going to get hypothermia if he wasn’t careful. I wondered whether he had learning difficulties or something as it seemed really daft to go out dressed like that.

However as time passed, I saw more and more young people who didn’t wear coats. I realised that most young people in the North East, especially girls just don’t wear coats or jackets if they are going out somewhere and it doesn't matter what the weather is.

You see them walking the streets winter and summer, rain, hail or shine with no coats, just strappy summer tops and mini skirts, the girls that is. They line up for clubs and pubs, skimpily clad in only their “glad rags” which are totally inappropriate for the frigid Northeast elements. I asked my daughter why they don’t wear coats and she said “Well where would you put your coat”? Mmmm carry them when you get in to a pub or restaurant maybe? No! Apparently you’d look a right prat carrying a coat!

I checked out whether it happens in other countries and apparently lots of youngsters in the USA don’t like to wear coats either. However it’s mainly because they go to school in the car or bus and are only outside for a short while. They do wear light jackets and hoodies apparently. Well they don’t seem to do that here. I see them walking to school in the pouring rain most are just wearing thin cotton shirts. Some have lightweight school blazers but most don’t wear jumpers. They must sit in soaking wet clothes all day. As far as I can tell it doesn’t seem to happen in other parts of the country, just here for some reason.

A few years ago the BBC TV drama series 55 Degrees North told the story of a police detective, Nicky Cole who was relocated from London to Newcastle after blowing the whistle on police corruption. (It was a great series and a pity they didn't continue it.) He found adjusting to life in the North a bit difficult and I found one of his comments about local people and the lack of outer clothing most memorable,

“Only the shoplifters in Newcastle wear coats!”

Well, is there a possible genetic reason for this bravery or is it simply because they like to show off their finery on a night out? Well now scientists want to discover if Geordies feel the cold or have extra thick skin to cope with low temperatures. A survey is to be carried out by staff at the Centre of Life in Newcastle to see how they are able to wear so little.

The online questions include:

'What would persuade you to wear a coat on a night out?'

(The likely answer to that is Nowt!)

The investigation is part of the Newcastle ScienceFest, which will feature a 10-day programme of events to celebrate creativity and innovation. Have to say I don’t believe this for one minute. I think it’s a generation thing. You never see people over forty without winter coats!

Also given that young people seem to drink quite a lot on nights out, maybe that’s why they don’t feel the cold.

For more information check out the BBC website