Winter wear?

Kids prance around in shorts, T-shirts despite cold

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Nic Trefts, 12, waits for his parents to pick him up after school Monday as he stands next to a snow berm while wearing shorts and a short-sleeved shirt in 20-degree weather.

It has happened to you.

You glance out your car window, and for an instant become your mother as the question swells in your mind: "Why aren't those kids wearing jackets out in the snow?"

The question baffles parents and professionals alike.

Come the gray winter dawn and plunging temperatures, many kids shed their layers instead of loading up on blubber and winter gear like their elders.

Some teens blazon their thick skin every day, withstanding the bitter winds and flurries in scanty outfits like shorts and T-shirts.

Even, heaven forbid, flip flops in the snow.

What the heck?

"It's just crazy," said Nick Lilyquist, assistant principal at Canfield Middle School. "I can't say it's a huge population, but there's a pocket that cares more about fashion than they do about staying healthy and being practical."

He sees it all the time when the snow starts falling.

Male students strutting around in their basketball shorts, girls shuffling in their flip flops and T-shirts.

It's just the fashion, he said.

"Snow pants and snow jackets are, you know, just not as fashionable as a T-shirt or a fashionable pair of jeans," he said.

Most kids can get away with their summer wear, Lilyquist pointed out, because they're in a heated building most of the day.

There are few cases, he added, where kids simply don't have the duds in their closets.

"Very rarely do I ask a kid if they have don't have proper gear on, and it's because they don't have it," he said. "It's, 'I just didn't want to wear it.'"

Deanne Clifford, Lake City High School principal, is shocked by the meager threads some kids don during chilly weather.

"I've actually walked into the building wearing my full coat, mittens, scarf, hat and been walking in next to a student wearing a T-shirt and flip flops," Clifford said.

It's a matter of convenience, she thinks.

Kids don't want to wrestle with layers before and after athletic practices, she said. And most don't want to lug around coats like sherpas when they're inside.

"For the most part, it's about having to carry that thing (coat) around from class to class, not having time to go to their lockers," she said.

Allie Harrison, manager at Smitten Clothing Boutique, figures North Idaho kids wearing summer clothes year-round are emulating the southern California beach bum style.

But are they successful?

"Not really," Harrison said. "I think most people look at them and think, 'Well, that's not smart. You're going to freeze.'"

Kids might just be impervious to the cold, said Olsen Pamela, a Coeur d'Alene child and family therapy therapist who didn't wear a coat herself as a youngster.

"One of the things I think is going on is their (kids') metabolism is faster, and they don't experience cold quite as much as we do," Pamela said. "But it's still pretty cold."

Nic Trefts, 12, stood casually in shorts and a T-shirt as snowflakes danced around him outside Canfield Middle School on Monday afternoon.

The cold doesn't get to him at all, the seventh-grader said as he waited for his parents to pick him up. So shorts are his daily uniform.

"I just don't like pants," he said with a shrug. "My mom usually doesn't like it, but my dad doesn't care."

Reid Woolsey and Janelle Burnham, both 14, said they weren't cold yet as they stood outside in thin shirts and jeans, without coats, hats or gloves.

"It's easy. It's easy to put something thin on," Woolsey said.

"You don't have to lug all your stuff around when you're not wearing it," Burnham said, adding that their lockers are too small to accommodate outerwear.

Kids aren't at much risk wearing shorts in the cold if they're only running from a car to school everyday, said Dr. Sean Linford with Kootenai Family Care in Rathdrum.

But lengthy exposure could lead to hypothermia, he said, and severe, wet conditions could pose a risk for frostbite.

"You see more cold injuries in those types of people who are sledding or snowmobiling, especially if they get wet," Linford said.

Colds are caused by viruses, he added, not from exposure to the cold.

Some parents accept their children's sparse winter attire.

Like Canfield office employee Dawn Cordes, who said she doesn't complain about her 13-year-old's perennial loyalty to shorts.

"As a parent, you have to pick and choose your battles," Cordes said. "I figure at this point, he's old enough that if he's cold, he'll figure it out."

Janelle Burnham talks to her friend Reed Woolsey, both 14, as they walk outside of Canfield Middle School after getting out of class Monday.

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