While I in no way champion or endorse the resurgence or reinvention of Roland Martin’s choice of neckwear, how is it that we can lampoon him for that square of admittedly questionable taste, yet at the same time sell patterns for a knitted version of basically the same thing?
The latter is called a neckwarmer and patterns for neckwarmers have been assailing me since I returned to this country. But for all that the patterns are everywhere I have yet to see anyone wearing a neckwarmer, knitted or otherwise. And this makes little sense, since I am clearly in a part of the country where wool and other warm fibers play a significant role in one’s survival of the winter. Certainly the idea of something tucked up close to your neck in one of the brutal winters common to this area is appealing at first.
But then I stop and separate myself from the well-choreographed photos on the pattern pages and try to imagine what my winter wear is really like. For one, I’m not from here, so the wind blasting my face into sandpaper and my lips into brittle traceries of burst blood vessels is not something I can ignore, jacket open cheerily to a -20 degree windchill. If I am out on the street I am zipped up to the bottom of my eyes and hatted down to the top of them. A wool-and-gortex burqa, if you will. (Or not.) For all that I knit scarves with reckless abandon once the t-shirts go away for the summer, I rarely get the chance to wear them in truly cold weather, because they are too bulky, sitting between my neck and the stand-up collar of my coat, to let me zip the coat up all the way. And I’ve yet to find or make a scarf that can cut the wind as well as my Columbia jacket.
And, too, there is this idea that neckwarmers are the ideal place to go to find a pattern for that single skein of “luxury” yarn you indulged in months ago and can’t afford to buy more of. I understand this buying habit, sure, and have quite a few treasured lone skeins in my stash. But not one of them is a yarn I’d be willing to cram up against my stressed and sweaty neck for the slogging through snowdrifts; the sudden changes in temperature from street to coffeeshop to street to lecture hall; the grime that is the daily life of a neck. Things by your neck need washing. Whether you bother or not — still, they need it. And luxury yarn tends not to be wash-friendly. Cashmere? Mohair? Hell no. Maybe the idea is you are already wearing a turtleneck shirt or sweater and so the neckwarmer is just adding to the sum of the total fabrics used — not lying right up against your skin. But as someone who retains a distinct distaste for turtlenecks acquired in childhood, this is not a scenario I’m going to run into often. (See: ever.)
Which leaves me with the question: who makes a neckwarmer part of their daily winter routine? And why aren’t we making fun of them for wearing a wooly ascot?