Greg Koelker


Ah, sweatshirt weather! Cool mornings and evenings, and even some crisp and breezy afternoons, framing those last days of summer and the first days of fall where a sweatshirt gives way to a T-shirt only at lunchtime as Ma Nature warms us up. The sweatshirt is just right, warm but not too warm.

It was 45 degrees outside at 5:30 a.m. one morning last week, and I left a window open in the kitchen — brrr! Fortunately for me, my slightly used Packer sweatshirt was the stair railing. I am wearing two sweatshirts now; the morning’s chill is settling it. It is 49 outside this last Friday morning in August — full disclosure, I am still refusing to give in to putting my shorts away or to wear socks. I put on my heavy Warrior Dog Foundation black hoodie that our soon-to-be daughter-in-law, Christine gave me. I should be good until the rays start peeking through the oak tree by the tobacco shed and I can at least roll up my sleeves.

While I never thought about it much, after some Googling, I found that the term sweatshirt allegedly comes from “Loopwheel,” a traditional knitting machine. Back in the day, the loops on the back of the fabric were originally designed to allow the sweatshirt to absorb sweat from your body and pass it into the garment to keep you cool, sort of a really old school AC. The sweatshirt as we now know it is made with sweatshirt fleece, designed so the air trapped by the nap will help retain body heat. I have heard that some people wear them to create sweat when they exercise, too.

I sometimes feel that I am older than dirt and I have worn sweatshirts for as long as I can remember. Hey, I see that smirk about my memory. However, a couple decades before I was born, the Champion Products company, which began as the Knickerbocker Knitting Company, claims to have made the first hooded sweatshirt. Champion began making sweatshirts in the early 1930s once it developed methods to sew thicker underwear material. The hooded sweatshirt, or hoodie, originated in the 1930s for workers in cold New York warehouses. I always wondered why Champion was on the front of so many shirts. Anyway, if one happens to see a group of teenagers or watch any music awards show, they will see that the hoodie was adopted by hip hop culture as a symbol of what one reporter termed “cool anonymity and vague menace.”

Not to overlook sweatpants, that according to one source, were invented in France in the 1920s by Le Coq Sportif. Considered legitimate sportswear, athletes everywhere and even NASA astronauts trained in sweatpants.

Sylvester Stallone wore a hoodie and sweatpants while training In the iconic film, “Rocky,” back in the ‘70s. When I run up our ridge, I raise my hands in the air and run in place at the top, imagining the rock anthem, “Eye of the Tiger,” thundering in my head. OK, if I ever run anywhere, I’ll maybe do that (most likely to celebrate that I didn’t expire on the way to the top).

I am ready if I ever do decide to run. I have De Soto Athletics sweatshirts, Wisconsin Badger sweatshirts, Green Bay Packers sweatshirts, Gundersen Lutheran sweatshirts, camouflage sweatshirts, anonymous blue and red sweatshirts, a gray Cover Rock hoodie and the aforementioned black hoodie, and I even have a Champion sweatshirt and sweatpants. El and I almost always have a couple ready at hand during the day and evening. Who doesn’t?

Until next time, get out — this will be an exciting and rich week for us here at Grouse Hollow. In a week, Mountain Kids, Ben and Christine, will tie the knot here at Grouse Hollow farm. There will be food, drink, and music and twinkly lights all over the place. There will be family and friends from all over the nation here too, and much love. The wedding has been looming large for over a year now and I suppose the days will vaporize like a morning mist. Well, I had better go out and turn off the dog alarm in my cool anonymity and vague menace aura. Maybe I should take him for a run. Nah. Too cold out. Enjoy.

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Greg and his wife Ellen Koelker are retired and live on Grouse Hollow Farm near Stoddard.

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