The Puffer Jacket, circa 2024
The Puffer Jacket, circa 2024
Image: Supplied

Oh, the unimaginable cruelty of asking a magazine columnist to write about winter fashion during a heatwave! As I sweat out these words, the sun is blitzing the orderly vines of Franschhoek, scorching the beachfront of Gqeberha, and casting its searing rays upon the pitted roads of fair Joburg. There is nothing like an unseasonal, late-in-the-summer inferno blanketing an entire nation to remind you to send a friendly box of Magnum ice creams to your favourite climate-change deniers.

By the time you scan this page — such is the production cycle of print — the weather should have stabilised somewhat. You may even be reading this issue of Wanted with your morning cortado, having recently considered unearthing those not-so-glamorous sheepskin slippers from the back of your cupboard.

If things are going according to schedule, a quick glance outside should confirm that the sky has taken on the thin, unnerving blue of autumn. Maybe late afternoons are calling for a cardy and, possibly, a mental migration to a season of soups over salads. With any luck. But, right now, our retailers are rigidly sticking to their seasonal agendas, despite the clear dissonance with what’s happening in this cauldron of a country.

I popped into Woolies earlier to stand near the cheese fridge for some respite from the hellscape outside and, across in the clothing section, spied a lovely black Melton coat, a sweet turtleneck jumper, and a rainbow array of puffer jackets. It was like stepping through the wardrobe to Narnia. Outside fiery weather blazed, inside we are all dressing for a fantasy land carpeted in snow. It is, of course, comforting to expect that we’re plodding predictably towards winter — a season that necessitates dapper kit fit for the cool. The science, though, suggests we shouldn’t be that complacent.

Where South Africa is concerned, the weather pundits say, the days of tweed jackets, cashmere scarves, and Chelsea boots seem numbered. Currently, average local winter temperatures run between -2 and 26 deg C. Sure, a Londoner might describe this as “a lovely summer”, but we all know how icy spells and a few freezing days courtesy of snow on nearby mountains can chill our Saffa bones.

Yet World Bank data confirms that this average is already up 1.5 deg C from the 1960s. And that’s not even the scary bit. This same data projects that, by 2050, our mean monthly temperatures will have risen by a further 2 deg C — and continue to heat up from there. This may sound minor, until you consider that this slow boil in South African temperatures is happening at twice the global rate. This isn’t just about a couple more sunny days on your Plett holiday.

Just like the fax machine and video cassette, one day your winter garb might be more profitably employed in display cases at our museums.

The trajectory, according to environmental campaigners Greenpeace, the World Bank, and our own Centre for Environmental Rights, makes Margaret Atwood’s and George Orwell’s novels sound positively upbeat. Droughts, fire, flooding, and all manner of unspeakable weather will come in-built with that package. And the knock-on effects include food scarcity, an increase in disease, animal species extinction — and more social inequality, to boot.

It’s a frightful picture that’s largely being driven by our high-functioning friends, the fossil-fuel producers. And the climate-change denialists in Parliament buildings all over the world — not least of which is the US Congress — are entirely complicit in pretending this isn’t happening as they lounge in their air-conditioned seats.

I’m sorry if this has put you off your coffee completely (you’ll probably need to switch to iced lattes anyway), and I recognise that there is no cold comfort in this glib statement, but it does mean you should enjoy your winter togs while you can. Just like the fax machine and video cassette, one day your winter garb might be more profitably employed in display cases at our museums.

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