It may be one of the oldest, most chivalrous moves in the gentleman’s playbook, but the act of sacrificing your jacket – and comfort – for the sake of a shivering girl is fraught with more unspoken rules and risks than you know.
We can’t all be Walter Raleigh, throwing our coats on the ground to protect women from puddles, and the difficulties don’t end there. Does she actually want your jacket? Is it cold enough for you to offer her it? Will she feel obligated to politely decline the offer?
Will she feel obligated to politely decline the offer?
The etiquette in this sticky sartorial situation is baffling, so make an effort to learn the steps to this particular dance, and you’ll never get caught up in the jacket racket ever again.
Gauge the weather
This is the big one – the factor that precipitates the process. A good indicator of whether it’s cold enough for you to be offering up your outerwear is your breath. If it mists into the air, you should ask if she’s cold, and offer your jacket.
Similarly, if you see her shiver, your coat should immediately come off. Rain, on the other hand, is a tricky one. You should be carrying an umbrella you can whip out in times of trouble – but, if you’ve left it at home, you jacket will be cover enough.
If you see her shiver, your coat should immediately come off
But remember to throw it around her shoulders the moment you feel rain – this way she’ll interpret your urgency as kindness, and there won’t be time for either the socially obligatory refusal of your offer or her clothes to get wet.
Gauge your relationship
Offering your jacket to a woman has unavoidable romantic undertones. You’re protecting her, looking after her and making sure she remains comfortable. Unfortunately, gallantry and chivalry are commonly misconstrued as come-ons these days – even if they’re not intended to be. So be wary of the implications before you offer up your jacket.
On anything from a first date onwards, it is generally considered safe to whip off your jacket at the first signs of a shiver. But jump the gun with a friend or casual acquaintance and your act of kindness could very likely be misconstrued as a ham-fisted attempt at flirtation. Either clarify your intentions, or wait to start offering her your jacket until you’ve made your romantic intentions clear.
Gauge the consequences
This may sound selfish, and the complete opposite of gentlemanly, but you must think about your own needs in this situation. Don’t always put yourself first, but complete selflessness is moronic if it’s going to lead to hypothermia.
Don’t always put yourself first
Will you start uncontrollably shivering if you give her your jacket? How many layers does she have on already? And is she likely to spurn your offer in the name of equality? These are all very important questions you must ask yourself before exposing yourself to the cold.
And, if you end up ill, looking like a fragile flower, or being branded a raging – yet magnanimous – misogynist, you’ll wish you’d left your jacket firmly buttoned-up.