To wear or not to wear thermal underwear is the question

By Wang Han Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/11 18:43:39

Illustration: Chen Xia/GT

Thermal underwear, or qiuku in Chinese, has long been part of Chinese culture. In late autumn and winter, when temperatures drop, many middle-aged and senior citizens wear long underwear to insulate themselves.

During British Prime Minister Theresa May's recent visit to the Forbidden City in Beijing, her image of wearing a long black coat without any leggings raised heated discussions on Sina Weibo.

Many bloggers commented, "Dear Auntie May, don't you feel unbearably cold without wearing a qiuku in Beijing at the moment?" Some also commented with pictures and even links to qiuku shopping websites.

So why are Chinese such big fans of qiuku? The main benefit is very simple: to keep warm. We Chinese firmly believe that if a person doesn't wear qiuku when he or she is young, that person's leg joints will feel painful when they become old.

Interestingly, discussions and debates over whether to wear qiuku or not has continued since I was a middle school student. While many health-conscious Chinese individuals are strong supporters of qiuku culture, other style-conscious people, especially the younger generation, are challenging the tradition.

I myself am not a fan of qiuku, and resist wearing it as long as the temperature is still bearable for me. My dislike for qiuku goes back to my middle school years.

My school didn't have a uniform at that time, and students could wear their own clothes on campus. As a teenager, my self-consciousness about beauty and style were beginning to develop.

My thermal underwear at that time were chosen by my mother, and she preferred bright colors such as yellow and orange, usually with cartoon patterns on them. These made me feel embarrassed and I felt that, when worn underneath my jeans, my thighs looked even fatter. Ever since then I have resisted qiuku.

But as a university student in Xi'an, capital of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, I had to compromise on qiuku culture as the winter temperatures there were much lower than in my hometown. My classmates told me that if I don't wear qiuku, I would absorb coldness into my body and suffer from dysmenorrhea and arthralgia.

My compromise ended when I went to the UK for postgraduate studies. During my year in Edinburgh, I found that many British females only wore black silk stockings or jeans in the winter, and protected their upper body with thick sweaters and coats.

I rarely saw any British people wearing thermals, nor did I ever see them being sold in stores. My British roommate told me that she has never worn qiuku, as thick leggings under the pants are uncomfortable. Influenced by the local style, I also adopted the habit of wearing black silk stockings or just jeans in the winter.

Additionally, my exposure to Japanese culture has also made me believe that qiuku is not a must. In Japanese movies and fashion magazines, many young girls only wear knee-high socks or silk stockings in the winter with their miniskirts. This kind of risque style is now becoming popular in Shanghai.

But to survive the clammy Shanghai winter, wearing only silk stockings or jeans is not practical, especially as my body is no longer as young and strong as it used to be. Fortunately, there are other substitutes to qiuku.

For example, if you type in "leggings for winter" on Chinese shopping websites like Taobao, you can easily find various kinds of fashionable winter leggings. Many are made of materials with better heat preservation ability than traditional qiuku. With a thin layer of leggings, you can have a similar level of heat preservation and also stay stylish.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Global Times.

Posted in: TWOCENTS

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