Birding is So Metal, Part III: The Fashion Scene

jimmy junk bird

Editor’s Note: This is the third and final installment of Vanessa’s Birding is So Metal series.  If you enjoy this column, check out “Finding the Scene” and “Scene Etiquette.”  

I am no fashion plate. I’ve been known to wear the same pair of jeans for weeks, until they get up and walk themselves to the washing machine. I dress for utility. I cover what needs to be covered and try to do so without spending any money. I’m part of a used clothing pipeline that rescues worn clothing from people with money to burn and rehomes it with people that hate to shop.

Since birding is a year round activity I’ve developed a system that keeps me dressed and prevents me from doing laundry as much as possible. Less time waiting for the dryer means more time in the great outdoors, and I’m good with that.


YakTraxAs I write this technically it’s fall, but the way the wind is whipping outside my window I feel it’s appropriate to begin with the coldest months. My dog Apollo loves the cold weather and since learning how to dress properly for the beach in 5 degree weather I have learned to love it too. Layers, layers, layers. Starting at the feet and moving up, I will wear two pairs of socks, one pair of cotton blend with a pair of fuzzy socks on top. I also wear winter boots and if it’s icy out I wear my YakTrax. I got this pair at Goodwill for four whole dollars. They strap onto your shoes and make make walking in the ice and snow a less treacherous affair. I also recommend keeping a large ziplock bag in your car to keep them in. They will get goose poop on them. Or worse.

I’ll wear a pair of leggings under my jeans, and if it’s really cold I’ll put on a pair of my husband’s sweatpants over my jeans. Then I’ll wear three or four shirts starting with thinner long sleeve shirts, then maybe a hoodie followed by one of my husbands sweatshirts. I’ll put on a scarf, maybe I’ll wear a cowl under it. Then my warm winter coat. My leather gloves with knit gloves over them and a warm hat with a funny hat over it. Because what’s life without a funny hat?

It sounds excessive, but on a cold winter day when the wind is blowing and the snow shifts to ice needles pelting your face you need the warmth of all those layers to make the walk home possible.


If the snow melt is giving way to mud you may want to keep those winter boots on. But now is the time to peel off those sweats and finally wash them after wearing them for three months. I’ll still dress in layers, because the temperature can vary greatly. The sun goes in and out and the terrain you’re on may be retaining cold. This is when I pay homage that classic 1980’s look of wearing a concert T-shirt over a white thermal. I don’t even know if they make thermals anymore, but I can still see my high school friend Jay sitting at the table with a beer in his hand wearing a white thermal and an Overkill shirt. Dreamy. I’ll wear a long sleeve shirt under a concert shirt, and since my shirts run the gamut between Jimmy Junk Bird and Jennifer Nettles the birds don’t know what to make of me. The element of surprise! I’ll also wear a hoodie which I can always take off if I need to.

jimmy junk bird

It’s important to wear a baseball hat at this time of year. The trees have no leaves on them and the sun will be irritating to your eyes without the brim there to protect them. I have my lunch lady swag “got milk?” hat for these months. Because what’s life without a funny hat?

got milk


no remissionOnce the sun is firmly out and warming the earth as it was meant to I can shed the layers and proudly flaunt my musical taste. My oversized No Remission and Taylor Swift shirts are great for turning heads. I just love confusing people without having to say a word. When the real sweat arrives I switch to tank tops which I’ll rotate pretty regularly. Thankfully they’re small and don’t take up too much room in the laundry. This past summer I had a jean skirt that I wore on flat terrain (climbing over fallen trees in a jean skirt is not recommended by 4 out of 5 doctors surveyed) and I had a pair of jean short overalls. Love the overalls! Pockets are very useful and they don’t touch your body as much as traditional shorts, allowing for breathing room when it gets stupid hot out.

Warning! You should wear sunscreen. I did in the beginning, but once the fear of burning was gone I didn’t keep up with it and I got some pretty ghastly tan lines. Thankfully I wasn’t wearing any strapless ball gowns to any awards shows. My dermatologist would have been extremely disappointed in me. Also, because the jean skirt and jean short overalls were different lengths I had some interesting tan lines on my legs. Ombre legs I called them. One tan line at the top of my thigh, a slightly darker one below that and from above the knee down I looked like Corinthian leather. Then my feet were white because I wore ankle socks with my sneakers all summer long. I may need to rethink my footwear for next year. Because funny tan lines aren’t as good as funny hats.

Speaking of which, I have a great wide brimmed hat from Dress Barn that said “Do Not Disturb” on the brim. Best 20 bucks I ever spent.

do not disturb


Back again are the days of layers. Sometimes spring-like and sometimes like winter, this fall in particular has been all over the place. It’s better to overdress and take stuff off than to underdress and have to leave the beach because the wind is altering your DNA. The leaves falling off the trees means it’s time to bring the baseball hat back out, and the sun going down so early really cuts down on birding time. I’ve found if I’m not out before 3:30 it’s kind of pointless going out at all. The lack of light forces this kind of hit-and-run birding where you go somewhere and take a few pics and then get back in the car to possibly see more birds somewhere else. The zen is sucked out of birding for the moment and I’ve found more joy in writing about it, at least for this weekend.

I hope you’ve enjoyed the Alternative Control Birding is So Metal series. If you have any questions feel free to comment and I’ll answer as best I can  If you’re interested in getting into birding I’d love to get you set up on a trail to success.


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