Monday, December 6, 2010

Photo Essay: What Southern Californians Wear on their Feet when it Snows.

If you've ever moved to California, or know someone who has, then you know what happens.  California makes you weak.  Especially when it comes to weather, and especially in the ridiculously temperate southern part of the state.  My wife and I, who grew up in places with seasons, have a theory about how the lack of weather keeps Californians from growing up.  There are a lot of aspects to this theory, but the crux is that, whereas living through cycles of climactic adversity builds character, basking in comfort year-round renders one perpetually adolescent.

I don't know how we'll try to keep our kids from avoiding this pitfall.  Maybe we can send them to boarding school in Minnesota or something.  Lord knows it's too late for us now, since we've lived here for nearly ten years and get shivery and weepy when we visit family in Virginia, which really isn't even very cold.  But our children still have a chance.

In the interest of introducing the girls to the idea of winter, my wife and I took them to a temporary glacier in a suburban recreation area over the weekend.  They had trucked in 55 tons of snow from God-knows-where and created a little sledding hill and play area.

No one I talked to knew where the snow had come from, but it looked machine-made to me.  Still, the temperature has to be below freezing to make snow, so even though it had gotten down into the unseasonably cold lower 50s recently, they would have had to create the icy slush in some huge refrigerated warehouse.

The bustling event was supposed to be the site for an Asian Mommies meetup, but we only found a couple group members there amid the chaos of the snow pile, bouncy houses, pony rides, etc., etc.  It didn't help that many of the Asian Mommies that were supposed to show up were people I had never met or had only met once or twice, and that this particular suburb happens to be teeming with Asian families.  So I spent a good deal of time staring at Asian women, trying to figure out if I had met them or at least seen their profile pictures on our group's website.  I'm sure no one found this creepy.

The girls had fun digging around in the snow, and we even took a few runs on a sled that someone handed us.  But I don't think they really got a sense of how a real winter gets a harrowing grip on your soul, which, when released, makes springtime all the sweeter.  We'll work on that more next year.

The other creepy thing I did while we were at the winter wonderland was to take pictures of people's feet.  Footwear says so much about a person, and the way Californians prepare their feet for snow reveals the diversity of misapprehensions they have about this foreign substance.  The classic SoCal winter look is shorts or a mini-skirt with Ugg boots (those amorphous high-top shearling slippers), but I didn't take pictures of any of the 16-year-old girls rocking that look because I didn't want to get beat up by their dads.

So this is what I got:

 Full-on winter boots. 

Stopped by the glacier on the way to get some gas for the lawnmower.

If this were Northern Cali, he would have at least busted out the wool socks.


I was almost positive these belonged to one of the Asian Mommies, but I never got up the nerve to ask her if we had met.  Earlier, we had seen her pushing a stroller about a quarter mile up the hill to the park because there were no more parking spaces up top.

She also wore a coat that matched her mukluks.  I think the whole ensemble was made of extremely rare black reindeer hide.

Now that's what I'm talking about--sandals with socks.  This was somebody's Asian grandpa.

She just about bit it as I was taking this picture, but miraculously stayed upright.  I was also sure she was a member of my Asian Mommy group, and went ahead and asked her.  She was all "Um...what?  Asian Mommies?  I don't know what you're talking about."  I gave up on trying to find my sister-friends after that.

Ahh.  9-hole Doc Martens.  Rugged, stylish--just the thing for seventy degrees and light snow.


  1. Well,here in Buxton it was -12c when I pulled onto the car park at work this morning.We've had a real heavy dose of snow in Britain in the last 2 weeks.For some it hasn't been too bad,

    this is a view of the road I have to journey across to get to Buxton.

    On my feet have been 2 pairs of socks and some walking boots.

  2. Hey, I've lived all my life here in Cali.. u sure got the footwear right!. Oh u forgot to show the total pic of the kid w/the jacket, shorts and sandals... now that's Cali wear!. As long as u r warm up top, nothing else matters

  3. I still can't get over how awesome that header is.

    Anyway, agreed on the point that cold weather makes you stronger, both physically and emotionally. Have you ever noticed how ironically temperate folks from Minnesota tend to be? It's like they have to balance out the hell that is their weather by being gentle.

  4. Jesus. Even YOU got snow?! I'm totally jealous, and clearly the earth is preparing for the end of days. Because here in NY, where it's currently 26 degrees, there has been not a twinkle of snow.

    Anyway, this was pretty funny :) (BUT I'M STILL ANGRY.)

  5. As a full-on Canadian I totally get what you are saying about the cold getting into your soul and settling there with a death grip from about November to March (maybe April)! But it works the other way too...when Candians go to Florida on March Break we think it's so warm and summery that we will sit outside by the pool or beacj in full on bath suits while the staff are wearing pants and jackets! LOL

  6. I don't believe I'm meant for the tropics. Yesterday the temperature reached 31c (88F). I spent the day inside the refrigerator.

  7. Charming. I just came in from a two hour walk here in Finland; it has been snowing non-stop for almost 3 days and so I was wading through some 15 inches of wet, heavy snow for two hours in a temperature of 20F. Please adopt me to California. I could be your Scandinavian Nanny, no ?

  8. I live in the south the only child of my 3 that have even seen snow in person is the 21 year old daughter at college. My 9 year old said he should stay home from school today because it's 52. Clearly too cold for an education. I feel your pain as my husband searched for socks to wear to work today. Also best blog header on the planet.

  9. Back in early Nov., I was on a research trip to Worcester, Mass., staying w/ cousins when they got their first frost & first dusting of snow. The kids were VERY excited--they can't wait for winter!!! Winter is AWESOME!!! (These kids do have character, I might add. Or are characters.) On the phone, my kids back in Va. wondered why their cousins' school wasn't closed & they weren't out playing in the snow. (Granted, we did get 3 FEET of snow in one week last winter.)

  10. Cute article!

    We have really cold weather here! Freezing snow and ice! It is 20 degrees out there today and with windchill feels like 6 degrees. I am barefoot because I have no plans to go outside. Ha!

  11. When I lived in ATL, my transplant friends and I would laugh our asses off when it snowed. Which granted was rarely, but all it took was a single flurry to bring the entire city to a standstill. It was all fun and games until a light dusting (NO accumulation) caused a 20 car pile up on I285.

  12. The next time a white dude with an Asian wife stares at me for an uncomfortably long time with a strange smile on his face, I will think, oh, he's wondering if I'm part of his Asian mommies group. Thanks for the explanation BD!


  13. Thank you for this outstanding contribution to mankind's understanding of footwear. Also, I love that your child has the same grim expression mine did when I took mine on a sled for the first time.

  14. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Last winter it snowed. The next day the skies cleared; the air was a crystal-cold 29 degrees. My girls bundled up and outside I saw a high school kid walking to the bus stop in a t-shirt and shorts.

    I polled a bunch of my male friends asking "Was that kid trying to prove something or was he just stupid?" They all picked "Stupid."

  15. @jacks--I hope the crazy snow doesn't last too long. It's only fun for a while. Thanks for the great links!

    @KBF--Hahah...I AM that kid with the shorts and jacket. I only wore jeans because I knew I'd be rolling in slush. My kids really have trouble recognizing me in long pants.

    @Mme.P--Yeah, all my people are from Montana, and they're pretty laid back. I guess they always know that things could, and do, get much more difficult.

    @Kristine--Yeah, we "got" snow. From the back of a dump truck. I'm sure if you go up to Hunter mountain, they're blowing tons of it.

    @Beth--Yeah, people can't handle heat either. I've seen the stoutest Germans swoon in the humidity of a Virginia summer.

    @Vinny--You should go on vacation to North Dakota in February. That'll make you appreciate your climate.

    @Zella--I've been to Finland in winter. It was a nice break from Russia! At least they had saunas and consumerism (this was in the seventies).

    @Peach--Even in VA, where I lived for ages, society went into a tailspin everytime there was any accumulation of snow.

    @Trout--I remember reports of the big storm last year. All my fb friends from VA were complaining that they were sick of having their kids at home.

    @Kimber--That's another advantage of having weather. You sometimes have an excuse to not leave the house. We only do that here when there are forest fires. Or rain.

    @Rachel--We get pile-ups like that when it drizzles!

    @Pam--I never stare at Asian women with anything less than pure intentions.

    @JohnO--What you can't see in that picture is the expression of the other child, sitting on my right leg: abject terror.

  16. Being raised in Southern California, I thought winter was a myth created by Hollywood filmmakers. And then I moved to Quebec. And my feet were never warm again.

  17. There is a better way to live and snow isn't a part of it. Happy to be an LA native. Been in Toronto and Buffalo in the dead of winter and am clear about why it is called, the "dead" of winter.

  18. I can't wait to see some snow for the first time when we travel around Australia next year.
    I have Ugg boots but mine are cute and I DON'T wear them out in public. We call people who do that over here "Bogans".

  19. Somedays I think about chucking in the frozen north for the balmy south. Then I remember no snow on Christmas and that would be a trajedy. Plus the dual climates allow for a better wardrobe!

  20. When in doubt: Crocs n' Socks, man. Even in snow. Just for the Absolute Coolness factor alone. I've been saying it all along.

  21. Finally! A chance to use those snow sandals!

    Bet the girls loved the white stuff.

  22. Huh...I never knew you were an Asian Mommy stalker with a shoe fetish...but please, leave my poor Asian grandpa alone. He can't help how hot he looks in those socks and sandals.

  23. "I'm sure no one found this creepy." Best line of the post.

    I continue to be awed by how friggin' cute your girls are.

    Good luck toughening them up in a weather-wise fashion.

  24. Me last night? Huge wool hooded winter coat over a poofy down-filled thing, aaaand flip flops. Someone questioned me about it, and I was all, "Heat doesn't escape from the feet, only the core and the head" because I'm very knowledgable about science. Then I stubbed my toe. About 3 hours later the message of pain arrived at my brain. I guess my feet were cold.

  25. Canadians wear stilettos in the snow. Well, the cool ones do.

    Well, I do; they have surprising traction.

  26. We have the same problem as imports to SC from OK (a state with four extreme seasons). South Carolinians (aside from taking the heat off the stupidity of Oklahomans by creating a whole new league of stupids) wear flip-flops year-round, and if it gets cold (like below 50, they pull out their goose down coats. They look like COMPLETE idiots.

  27. The guy with the sandals had me chuckling to myself...
    I have to say though, cali folks have some of the most varied 70 degree weather shoes I have ever seen.


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