Tuesday, July 25, 2006

How to keep cool in hijab

The mystery is solved... prepare yourself. The best way to stay cool if you happen to be wearing hijab this summer (like me), is to.... (drumroll please)... stay inside!

No, I'm not kidding. Most buildings have fully functional air conditioners, keeping the temperature nice and cool, making it comfortable if not more practical to be fully covered in the first place.

Since I spend most of the day inside, I don't have to worry too much about the heat. Since I work so late (6pm is late, in my estimation) in the afternoon, it has started to cool off by the time I need venture outside anyway, and mornings are fairly tolerable. I haven't actually had to spend very much time outside, walking long distances in the heat, at all this summer. The a/c in my car was out--and that was the biggest problem I had, really, and alhamdulillah it has now been remedied.

The only time the heat has really stifled me was while I was stuck in traffic with the dysfunctional air conditioner. At this point, the car is just getting hotter from the sun even though the windows are open (practically no cooling from the a/c), I was on fresh pavement (which seems to radiate heat even when the sun is not glaring down on it), surrounded by other cars with hefty exhaust, on an extremely humid day, without even the slighest breeze (and car of course stationary.) Oh, that was torture.

But that was a single, isolated incident. The humidity here makes the heat much worse than it could be--and that's the case in hijab or not. Sweat, the body's method of cooling, doesn't evaporate... so there is no cooling, and you just become hot, wet, "sticky," and other adjectives that aren't particularly appropriate for polite conversation.

But on occasions where the air is not saturated with moisture, the body is actually pretty effective at cooling itself, if you let it. When people are in the desert, it's reccommended that they wear loose clothing. Part of hijab is that clothes not be form-fitting... I try but haven't perfected this, but in general my clothes this summer are looser than they have been in past summers. The way the loose clothes work is that as you sweat, and the sweat evaporates, the air between you and your clothes is cooled, and you have a little bit of a protection against the heat. In tight clothes, the sweat just soaks the layers and then the fabric gets cooled off, but not your skin. Or so I've read... and certainly seems to be the case.

So I've been able to wear loose pants, even a skirt, but also loose shirts and light jackets, that really don't make the heat intolerable. And since there is some protection against the direct sun, that also helps to stay cool, I think.

As to the hijab, specifically, somebody told me that putting something on your head lowers your core body temperature... I have yet to find that scientifically verified, so I think he was making it up. But anyway, as long as it's not soo humid to make the fabric cling around my neck, the scarf itself hasn't given me much trouble. The key is to wear lighter and breatheable fabrics.

If it's really hot outside, people are going to be hot no matter what they are wearing, and there are advantages to wearing light, loose, clothing that covers the entire body. So if someone asks, "Are you hot?" the only sensible reply is "Well yeah, aren't you too?"

But I don't do much, especially on the really hot days, outside. I typically don't walk further than a couple of blocks outside at a time, and have no real reason to do any very strenuous activity outside (being in an apartment, no lawn to mow!)

Wearing loose clothes is actually very beneficial I think to helping the body stay cool, and so is drinking plenty of water--but that should be obvious anyway.

So anyway, this summer has been very tolerable so far, as per the heat. That might change when I go back to school in a month and have to haul myself and a ton of books around the new campus that suffers from a dearth of trees (and consequently, shade), but it's not like I would be cool or comfortable not wearing hijab while I did that.

My point in summary: heat is a poor excuse for not wearing hijab... the scarf itself (assuming it's a good fabric) doesn't seem to make the heat any more noticeable, in my opinion, and the number of advantages in covering fully and wearing loose clothes make it worthwhile. :-)

1 comment:

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