Wear­ing ther­mal un­der­wear in the win­ter is a must for Shang­hai na­tives, but what do for­eign­ers think about this fash­ion?

Global Times – Metro Shanghai - - CITY PANORAMA - By Qi Xi­jia

Tues­day marks the be­gin­ning of win­ter ac­cord­ing to the 24 So­lar Terms. As tem­per­a­tures rapidly drop in Shang­hai, one of the most dread­ful sea­sons of the re­gion (sec­ond to sum­mer) is fast ap­proach­ing. Novem­ber is when na­tive Shang­hainese, who do not have any cen­tral heat­ing in their homes, start rum­mag­ing through their chests to dig out their long un­der­wear, lit­er­ally the only thing that saves many lo­cals from the chilly weather.

I’ll wear long un­der­wear

For mil­len­nial and fash­ion-con­scious Shang­hainese who wouldn’t want to be seen wear­ing the same thick, quilted, padded red pa­ja­mas as their par­ents, in re­cent years thin­ner and more fashionable vari­a­tions have ap­peared in stores.

But what do for­eign­ers liv­ing in Shang­hai think about this sea­sonal trend? Would they dare wear long johns un­der their daily clothes?

In­deed, the sight of long johns pok­ing out of the bot­tom of Chi­nese peo­ple’s pants has be­come a kind of joke or meme among Chi­nese ne­ti­zens.

Long un­der­wear was im­ported into China from the West. Long johns were first in­tro­duced in Eng­land in the 17th cen­tury, then be­came pop­u­lar as sleep­wear in the 18th cen­tury as mi­grants set­tled in the Amer­i­cas. The mod­ern two-piece de­sign is cred­ited to Myles Stan­field, a na­tive of Nova Sco­tia, Canada, who patented his de­sign in 1915.

But based on our in­ter­views, the use of long un­der­wear de­pends on each for­eigner’s na­tive coun­try. In the Ukraine, where tem­per­a­tures drop to mi­nus 20 de­grees in the win­ter, long un­der­wear is es­sen­tial.

“We wear it be­cause it is too cold in the Ukraine. In ev­ery build­ing we have a heater, but still we wear it be­cause it is not warm enough,” said Pavel, a Ukraine na­tional.

Warmth ver­sus fash­ion

In the US, how­ever, heat­ing sys­tems are well-de­vel­oped. Homes, apart­ments, cars, pub­lic trans­porta­tion and of­fices are all constructed with built-in heaters. But in many cen­tral and north­ern states, like Maine, long johns are still worn just as they were in the 1800s.

Keri from Chicago, the US, told the Global Times that she wears long un­der­wear in the win­ter when­ever she goes out­side. “It is more im­por­tant to stay warm than be fashionable.”

“Maybe in places like New York City you might not see it as much,” she added. “But some­where like Chicago can get very cold,” she ex­plained.

Un­like the Chi­nese, who pre­fer their long johns all in one solid color such as red or flesh-toned, Keri likes to mix it up. “I will buy a plain color for un­der­neath my pants, and for a shirt a pat­tern. A lot of peo­ple [in Chicago] wear pat­terned ther­mal shirts as their reg­u­lar top shirt,” she said.

Niels from the Nether­lands, where win­ter sees tem­per­a­tures drop to mi­nus 10 de­grees, said peo­ple there wear jeans, a T-shirt and a sim­ple coat even when it’s freez­ing.

“We wear ther­mal un­der­wear only for ski­ing or snow­board­ing, but not dur­ing your reg­u­lar day. Maybe at night, as a sort of pa­ja­mas. For us it would bea lit­tle bit un­com­fort­able. It’s too tight,” he said.

In Is­rael, where win­ters don’t get much colder than 20 de­grees, long johns are un­heard of. “Our coun­try is a warm coun­try,” Al­bert from Is­rael said. “It would be too warm to wear it un­der­neath; a shirt and a light jacket re enough.”

Good for health

Hav­ing lived in Shang­hai for five years, Hugo from France even­tu­ally de­cided to join in the lo­cal tra­di­tion of wear­ing long johns in the win­ter. “Not just be­cause of the cold but be­cause of the damp.”

“Since com­ing to Shang­hai I have felt very cold ev­ery win­ter, so I started wear­ing these kind of things,” he said. “In the be­gin­ning it was a lit­tle bit weird be­cause I was not used to it. It feels lik a sec­ond skin. But once you get used it you can’t take them off !”

Ac­cord­ing to Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine (TCM), wear­ing long un­der­wear is good for peo­ple’s health. Zhang Ting, pro­fes­sor from Shang­hai Univer­sity of Tra­di­tional Chi­nese Medicine, told the Global Times that wear­ing too few clothes, es­pe­cially in the win­ter, can lead to a stag­na­tion of vi­tal en­ergy and blood in the body.

Headaches, stom­achaches, dys­men­or­rhea and arthral­gia (joint pain) are symp­toms that peo­ple (es­pe­cially the el­derly) can suf­fer if they don’t in­su­late them­selves in the win­ter.

Zhang also sug­gested the fol­low­ing ad­vice to help guide new­com­ers through Shang­hai’s no­to­ri­ously cold win­ters. First, pay at­ten­tion to your neck warmth, oth­er­wise it may de­crease blood cir­cu­la­tion. The sec­ond is to pay at­ten­tion to lower limb warmth, which colud lead to frost­bite, leg cramps and joint pain." Zhang said.

For sports en­thu­si­asts, Zhang

sug­gests not ex­er­cis­ing ex­ces­sively in the cold an not train­ing too early in the morn­ing.

“Fit­ness en­thu­si­asts of­ten sweat pro­fusely in the win­ner [be­cause they wear too much clothes], which is not good for their health. Since it s also very cold in the earl morn­ing, it is un­nec­es­sary to ex­er­cise too early. Wait un­til the sun comes out,” the pro­fes­sor said.





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