John Freivalds New Book  Ramblin' Man is here!!  Click here for more details

 Freivalds: Minnesotan winters influence our

casual attire


Published 3/14/2017

Lakeshore Weekly News

Minneapolis, MN


When those thousands of visitors came to town to see the Super Bowl, they were shocked by the Bold North — shocked not only by the subzero weather but how Minnesotan’s dress.

There we were in grimy, faded down jackets, ragged shawls, facemasks, boots and galoshes covered with salt stains, mismatched gloves and salt dust all over our sweatpants with catalog designs from brushing up next to our dented salt spray-covered SUVs. But we were warm. And the hardiest of us were sitting out on frozen lake ice fishing. Survival!

Au contraire! The visitors came in what they considered their temperate winter wear, and it quickly proved inadequate.

I met a fashionably dressed woman from Los Angeles standing in the lobby of Hotel Landings, new in Wayzata. She was dressed to the nines and was waiting for the hotel limo to take her one block away to a restaurant: “No way am I going out in that.”

Big deal. It was only 5 below.

I believe that our beyond frumpy winter garb spills over to influence of our dress the rest of the year. I grew up in Washington, D.C., where you had restaurants that would not let you do any paperwork on the dining tables and you were handed a tie to put on if you weren’t wearing one.

And at The University Club “members and guests staying at the club’s overnight accommodations are asked to pass quickly through the lobby when not wearing appropriate clothes … if you plan to visit the club only to use the athletic facility and you are not dressed in accordance with the dress code, a convenient casual entrance is at the rear of the clubhouse.” Translation: next to the garbage cans by the back door.

And at Georgetown University where I went school, guys had to wear coats and ties to class and dresses were a must for the ladies — who were not allowed to sit on the grass. But on weekends you were allowed to dress “properly dishevelled” on campus. And in Lexington, Virginia, where I used to live, students and teachers have to wear uniforms at VMI.

Now living in the Twin Cites off and on for 40 years, I have only seen one instance of a dress code being enforced in a public restaurant. A bunch of Green Bay Packers fans were staying at the Nicollet Island Inn and came into the dining room wearing those ubiquitous soiled baseball hats. The maître’d told them no hats are allowed in the dining room.

OK, we do have private clubs like the Minneapolis Club for the power elite and the county clubs where dress codes are enforced. And for those wishing for the good ol’ days, we have the dance clubs where black tie (meaning tux) and gowns are required. One invitation-only social club meets at Minikhada in September, Woodhill in December and at Interlachen in May. And many of the cruises Minnesotans vacation on offer formal evenings.

A professor at Notre Dame teaches a course called “Nation of Slobs.” I think we Minnesotans lead the way. Even our president wears a baseball cap. The professor states “there has to be a happy medium between wearing a burka and running round half-naked.”

She adds “that style moved toward simplicity and eventually slipped into stupidity.”

I mean, during the Super Bowl, women thought it was fashionable to parade down Lake Street wearing jeans that looked like they were ripped apart by Godzilla. And men get their fashion hints from outdoor stores whose headquarters are near the Nebraska-Wyoming border. Enough said.

So I bet my wife that in the Twin Cities there is not a public venue where I would be turned away if I wore only cutoffs, floppy sandals, a stained T-shirt and a grimy baseball hat — with the brim turned backward, of course. In Minnesota we really have only one dress code restriction:

No shoes. No shirt. No service.

John Freivalds is an author, commodities broker and opinion columnist. He lives with Linda his wife, a flock of turkeys, a herd of deer, a family of foxes, many raccoons, two mallards, two pheasants and innumerable songbirds.