Why Do Boys Insist On Wearing Shorts When It's Freezing Outside? An Investigation

by Colleen Dilthey Thomas
Originally Published: 
Two boys playing basketball, wearing shorts, while there is snow around them
Zia Soleil/Getty

We experience all four seasons where I live. The spring and the fall are lovely, but it gets hotter than blazes in the summer and we are subject to frostbite in the winter. Yet, despite four very distinct seasons, there is one constant: boys in shorts.

Yes, there are girls wearing shorts year-round too, but this seems to be more common among males. No coats and shorts, no matter how cold it is. As a mother, this is maddening.

I have three sons and one daughter. My little girl is only 5, so she still bundles up completely. She’ll have on gloves, a hat, and an insulated coat while her brothers will be in shorts and an extremely lightweight uniform performance sweatshirt, nary a coat in sight. I can still get my youngest to throw on a pair of pants when it’s cold, but my 11- and 13-year-olds? Not a chance. Sure, they’ll placate me by taking a coat, but it gets tossed in a backpack or left in the car, never to see the light of day.

I am a recess monitor, and I can tell you that this is not only a phenomenon in my home. If I had to guess, I would say at least 65% of the boys outside on a winter day are in shorts (and I think that number is low). There may be a few who realize that it is actually a frozen tundra out there and dress accordingly, but it’s still not a lot. You will see them with socks pulled up over their knees before you see them in a pair of pants.

Where do you go to find the best information about why boys don’t wear pants or coats? The internet, of course! I threw this out to my friends who are teachers and parents of boys and asked why their boys don’t want to wear coats or pants. The answers were pretty much the same.

There were lots of complaints about the feel of pants and coats, from being “too clingy” to “too puffy.” Some said that their kids run around too much during recess and they get too hot to wear pants or a coat. Of course there are the ones who just like to be contrary and fight authority. But the most resounding answer, in line with the typical vague answers of the tween and teen years — they simply don’t like them.

I went directly to the source in my house to find out why they aren’t wearing pants. My oldest said, “Why would I? No one else does. I don’t want to look like a weirdo.” So this is a peer pressure thing? Perhaps.

My middle son is the kid who gets too hot running around. Interestingly, he said that he’ll just pull his gaiter up over his face at recess, which keeps him warm, and the wind off of his cheeks.

And son number three? “If they’re going to do it, so am I.”

I did some more digging to see what this is all about. One of my friends suggested that it is a hormonal thing, which sounded plausible to me.

Dr. Deborah Gilboa told Today that, “Testosterone definitely keeps them warmer, body hair keeps them warmer.” This makes sense. But there’s more. According to Doctors of Osteopathic Medicine, men’s bodies heat up quicker because of their faster metabolic rate, and they stay warm longer.

“The body’s metabolism is responsible for the production of energy, including heat. Although men and women maintain an internal body temperature of 98.6 degrees, men typically have more muscle mass and generate more heat by using more calories to fuel those extra muscles. When that heat evaporates, it warms up their skin, their clothes and the air just above the surface of their skin,” the article reports.

Whether it be a fashion statement, an act of defiance, fitting in with peers, or true biological factors, it is unlikely that the trend of seeing shorts in the wintertime is going to end any time soon. Is it worth a fight? Sometimes, yes. If you are facing truly dangerous temperatures, it is time to pick that battle and insist that your child bundle up.

However, if the temps are what you consider unbearably cold, but they do not, let them choose their own adventure. Just let them know that when they come home complaining that they were freezing at recess, this was their own choice — and direct them to where their coat is hanging.

Even though you know deep down that that sucker is still going to be on that hanger when spring has sprung.

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