Why Don't Teenagers Wear Coats?

A quest to find an answer to this universal concern.


Is anyone else’s kid blue? Not Smurf blue, but just kinda tinged in blue? If so, it’s because not only do many kids refuse to wear a coat, but they go to school in shorts and t-shirts when the temperature has dipped well below freezing.

We all like to think we are bringing up our kids to have more common sense than the common fruit fly, but when I see them in shorts and hoodies shivering at the bus stop in an ice storm in February, I have to wonder.

This week a reader emailed me asking how she can get her teenager to wear a warm coat. My first thought was, “Good luck with that sista, because it ain’t gonna happen.”  Then I thought, “This misguided woman sincerely believes I can help her. I should try to find an answer.” And so began my quest.

First, I googled how to get kids to wear winter coats and found The Today Show actually did a piece on this, as well as the NY Times. People were blogging about the anti-coat issue from England to Canada, where they have serious winters. Clearly, it’s a universal issue.

Do you want to know what I didn’t find? An answer.

Furthering my quest to understand and therefore formulate a solution to this issue, I did a very scientific study on teenagers and their coat-wearing habits. By this I mean I asked my kids and all the students I saw this week why they don’t wear coats. 

As for my son, I stopped buying him coats years ago. He never wore them, so what was the point? Since I have never seen any of my students in anything heavier than a hoodie or North Face jacket, I wanted to hear what they had to say.  Every single one of them, boys and girls, said some variation of:

  • My locker:
  1. Is not convenient
  2. Is too small for a coat
  3. Will make me late for class by going there
  4. Is in an unknown location 
  • I’m never really outside for more than a minute.
  • I go from a warm house to a warm car to a warm school 
  • I don’t get cold
  • Coats aren’t cool

This is a “pick your battles” kind of situation because non-coat-wearing is the social norm and isn’t changing anytime soon. In one case, I was telling a student that I went to a really big high school yet I wore a coat, put it in my locker in the morning, and got it after school, to which she looked me dead in the eye and said, “Sue, kids are just lazier now.”

And so ended my quest.

Sue Schaefer is a student advocate, academic coach, and certified teacher. We encourage you to visit her website: Academic Coaching Associates. You may email Sue at susan.schaefer@academiccoachingct.com.

You can also follow Sue on twitter: @sueschaefer1

Lisa Lenkiewicz December 12, 2011 at 10:39 PM
I may be remembering this wrong, but I seem to recall my kids saying coats weren't allowed to be worn inside their high school and there was no room in their locker. (Plus, the locks on their lockers never worked.) That said, when they go from their car to school, they don't feel they need to be encumbered by a coat. It just seems to be a pain for them. For those who walk to school, I suppose if they get cold enough, they'll do something about it. As one child told his mother, "Just because you are cold doesn't mean I am."
Perry Robbin December 13, 2011 at 02:23 AM
As someone closer to my youth than my burgeoning adulthood, the "warm house to warm car to warm school" argument was always how I felt about it. I just didn't need a coat every day. I didn't want to misplace it and possibly lose it at school because I really never wore it inside. On days when I knew I'd be outside for a while, or if I was going to shovel snow or something, I'd wear a coat. I never really understood the battles my mom (who, if she's reading this, I love deeply) and I would have over it – I never found a reason for having a coat if I was spending maybe 5 minutes of my entire school day outside. Even as an adult, if I'm not going to be outside for a while, I just wear a sweatshirt. I'd rather have something light that works for the trip from car to building that I can stick in my bag, rather than a big bulky coat I have to cart around once it serves its short-lived purpose.
Skip Cashwell December 16, 2011 at 08:25 AM
One has only to peruse the latest reports on the level of learning achievements our union teachers imbue in our teen students to understand why teens don't wear coats: they don't know whether it is spelled "cote" or "coat" - perhaps we should, as parents, take an active role in the education of our teens and call things to keep one warm, JACKETS.
Jack R. January 08, 2012 at 12:10 AM
I was thinking of your column the other day as my daughter refused to wear a coat to the bus stop. It was a bit chilly but I didn't make a big deal about it. Next day when temps were in the teens, she's all bundled up. Turns out they do wear coats when it gets cold enough. Had a chuckle thinking about it.
Susan Schaefer January 09, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Thanks Jack, you made my day!


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