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John Lamb, Published January 17 2012

Lamb: Celebrating sweater weather

Winter is here, and despite months of unseasonable warmth, some people are complaining.

Not me. I’ve actually been waiting for Mother Nature to snap off a couple of cold days. The reason is simple – this is sweater weather.

You see, I come from sweater people. My mother is Norwegian, and my father was Irish. Name two cultures that have done more with wool.

When it was time to bury my father, we skipped the jackets he never felt or looked comfortable in and sent him off in his favorite cardigan – fitting for a librarian.

I have a number of very nice suits, but they are only pulled out of the closet for funerals, weddings, gala events or the occasional dress-like-your-favorite-corrupt-politician party. Hello, Huey Long!

Sweaters are my preferred approach to looking presentable. No muss, no fuss. Maybe a little fuzz, but nothing you need a stylist or tailor to fix.

And while suits are impressive in their complexity – buttons, folds, vents, pockets, hidden pockets, hidden pens in pockets that will eventually leak and ruin the suit – there is a stoic simplicity to sweaters. Suits may look sharp, but that’s all for show. Sweaters get the job done.

Think about it. In any movie where someone is dropped in the wilderness and needs to get back to civilization, they are always wearing a sweater. Survivalists don’t wear sport coats.

Suits may be more stylish, but sweaters have more personality. Put a man in a cable-knit turtleneck and he’ll either look Hemingway-esque or like someone who got shanghaied onto a fishing boat. But nobody says their friend in a double-breasted gray flannel suit looks “positively F. Scott Fitzgerald-ish.”

The converse is also true. If a suit doesn’t look right, it’s “ill-fitting.” When a sweater doesn’t work, it’s “Cosby-licious.”

Of course, sweaters aren’t just fit for men. The fairer sex makes pullovers far sexier. Lana Turner earned the label “sweater girl” for being a knockout in a knit top. Though, truth be told, Turner could make a Snuggie look sexy.

But a disturbing trend in sweaters is emerging. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum made news sporting sweater vests with his name printed on the breast.

I have a beef with sweater vests, specifically: Tubby fellas, don’t wear them – it makes our arms look like they are oozing out of our body like a sausage extruder.

Santorum credits his “style” with helping him gain momentum during the recent Iowa caucus, saying, “the vest gave me this power.”

What power? He looks like a bad golfer or a league-average bowler. He does not look like a president. If you have your name embroidered on the front of an article of clothing, that’s a work smock, not a sweater.

Santorum’s not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes. If he wants to look presidential, he should arrange for his plane to go down in a remote, wooded area, where he, in a sturdy Woolrich sweater, must fight his way through the elements and packs of wolves – or other Republicans – back to the campaign trail.

If that doesn’t get him elected, it should at least get him a movie deal.

A sweater vest? That will only get him a call-back for a job at Walmart.

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533