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Why Are Earmuffs So Ugly?

Please, sir, my ears. They’re cold, but earmuffs are boring and beanies are played out. What do I do?

In the 2003 film Old School, Bernard (Vince Vaughn) loses his shit at Mitch (Luke Wilson) for losing his shit about Bernard holding a fraternity rush event in his living room. Mitch is pissed that his friends want to turn his home into a fraternity house. “The fact is I got 40 strangers out in my living room, and all I want to do is get some fucking sleep,” Mitch laments.

Bernard, accompanied by his son, doesn’t want to hear it. No, not Mitch’s complaining: He doesn’t like him swearing in front of his son. “I don’t know why you gotta do it in front of the kid… with the effing,” Bernard says, frustrated. “All you gotta do is say ‘earmuffs’ to him. ‘Earmuffs.’”

This line has played on a loop in my head all winter long. Whenever I step outside for a pandemic walking date (don’t ask) or run to the local plant store to buy yet another succulent in hopes it’ll cure my depression (they never do), I keep catching myself mumbling, “Earmuffs.” Not because I’m swearing, although yes, my cursing is probably up in the pandemic: Rather, because my ears are *earmuffs* fucking cold as shit

In a year where we’re spending more time than usual outside, it’s just our luck that it’s snowing like crazy. My quiet Brooklyn street is boisterous with kind neighborhood men shoveling the sidewalks, while not-so-nice cars blare their horns at the cars stuck in snow and double-parked. This, of course, is nothing compared to the Texas winter storm emergency with freezing temperatures, power outages and shut-off water, but it’s all part of the shared winter misery.

So we’re all decked out in our winter best, part out of necessity. However, for us fashion-minded, we’ve had to step up our game in the pandemic, where all social events are taking place outside. Curiously, among this year’s winter sartorial trends  — Carhartt beanies, Uniqlo heattech and ASOS ski suits — there is no mention of the humble earmuff. You know the kind — those two big puffballs on either side of your ears that remove any gravitas from even the most handsome men. Moreover, Canada Goose, Patagonia and Orolay have all had their moments in the winter sun as the premier brand of cozy, but never do any of these brands warm us up to a pair of enviable earmuffs. 

Although perhaps the most efficient of all winter warmers, earmuffs are considered the dirty sludge of pristine snow gear. It’s understandable why earmuffs aren’t cool: They warp the size of your head, either exaggerating it by way of two bulbous fur mitts, or Van Gogh-ing it with a wraparound band. Even The Strategists list of the 10 best earmuffs is a series of uninspiring gray and black mitts. 

The only good press earmuffs have received in recent years is thanks to Billie Lourd. The actress wore a baby pink pair on the short-lived Ryan Murphy show Scream Queens to honor her late-mother Carrie Fisher. However, the show was quickly canceled, and so too was the goodwill for the humble earmuff. 

It’s telling that dudes will go out in a downpour wearing their Beats Solo3s but won’t allow flat wool circles to cover their ears. Really, it’s a missed opportunity: Earmuffs simultaneously keep our ears warm while not messing with our perfectly coiffed manes. Why go to all the trouble of sporting an undercut or mullet if you’re just going to hide it all under another wool beanie? 

The problem is that earmuffs just don’t come in interesting designs. You either have the big puffball version, which can feel juvenile, or there’s the ergonomic black band designed for runners and tailgaters. Neither makes me want to stop and ask for your Instagram handle. We need a pair of earmuffs that won’t get soaking wet in snow, but without looking like we’re about to do color at an NFL game

If cool earmuffs exist, they probably look like a fuzzy pair of the aforementioned Beats: sleek and understated. That’s why the Carhartt beanies work so well — they prioritize simplicity and a singular saturated color over frills or exaggerated shapes. These faux sherpa earmuffs aren’t a bad place to start.

Perhaps this is the next frontier for the hustle culture bros and Etsy salespeople. Pause on the scarves, the hats and the quilted everything: Instead, put your focus toward a dope set of earmuffs that are also heat-retaining and water-resistant. You’ll have two guaranteed customers — me and 2003-era Vince Vaughn. And if that’s not an enticing duo for you, well honestly, I understand.

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