It started innocently enough as a trip to Best Buy to pick up a few electronics gifts for my teenage son. By the time I left the store, I was equipped to conduct secretive raids on Taliban strongholds while enjoying hands-free comfort and warmth.
I impulse-bought a Snuggie while standing in line at the check-out. Not just any Snuggie, mind you, but one printed in a classic camouflage pattern.
Like the entire civilized world as well as several adjacent planets that get cable, I was familiar with “The Blanket That Has Sleeves!” from its ubiquitous and intentionally corny television advertisements. Long before I joined the trend Friday, more than 4 million Snuggies and another million or so “Slankets” — a bastard relative that you can wear without becoming dehydrated by excessive perspiration — had been sold. Marketing gurus who realized that combining a desire to stay toasty while making a kitschy fashion statement was a formula for success in these ironic times have made manufacturers millions of dollars since the product was introduced in 2008.
(It is important to note here that, while additional knock-offs go by the name “Snuggler,” “Toasty Wrap,” “Cuddlee” and “Freedom Blanket,” do not make the mistake of ordering a “Snugli.” This is a completely different product that also requires the purchase of an infant, who is hung on display from your chest. I suppose you could use the baby-hauling Snugli as a Snuggie for a small amount of warmth, but would not recommend vice-versa usage unless your baby is really tiny and can fit in the small Snuggie pocket reserved for the TV remote.)
For those of you trapped in a Chilean mine or holed up in an deep-woods lair for the past several years, the Snuggie is a body-length blanket with sleeves, usually made of fleece, and similar in design to a bathrobe except worn backwards. Models pictured on the box I bought show that you can enjoy a hand-held game, answer the phone or even play cards while wearing the Snuggie, tasks that would be otherwise impossible while wearing other cold-weather gear. More vigorous activity — rodeo events, scaling Mt. Everest, chairing the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee, or going to the kitchen for a drink — are not recommended, despite my above-stated desire to assist in the War on Terror.
Proclaimed the “ultimate kitsch gift” by the Associated Press, consumers have (wink-wink) fallen in love with the Snuggie. The cast and crew of NBC’s Today Show all donned the Snuggie for a segment in which they were described as looking like a gospel choir. Mass Snuggie-wearing has appeared in pub crawls and at large sporting events. Earlier this year, over 22,000 fans showed up at a Cleveland Cavaliers basketball game to claim the “world record for sleeved blanket wearing” (and they wonder why LeBron left), which was broken a month later when 40,000 spectators wore the outfit to a Los Angeles Angels baseball game. And just last week, the lame-duck session of Congress passed the massive tax-cut compromise while wearing Snuggies.
The display I selected my purchase from offered two designs: the camouflage print I chose and another version covered in pink and yellow peace signs. Seems both warmongers and peaceniks alike could make a statement about their politics and worldview, in addition to the statement that they are complete idiots for spending $19.99 on what is basically a slightly thicker, slightly furrier, slightly larger plastic dry-cleaning bag.
Later that evening, after I smuggled the Snuggie into my home past a spouse whose respect I had hoped to maintain, I began to feel a slight chill and wanted to try out my new purchase. I reminded Beth there were several items we needed at the grocery store and, as I watched her drive away, I broke open the box. The Snuggie was a massive swath of fleece (a.k.a. 100% polyester, according to the fine print in the corner of the box), measuring four-and-a-half-by-six-feet. I flung the piece about like a manic matador, trying to figure what was up, what was down, and what was that static crackling sound that was lighting up my bedroom like a late-summer thunderstorm?
I finally found the armholes and donned the garment. My first impulse was to break into a Gregorian chant, since I felt suddenly monk-y. The next impression I got was that I was in a military hospital and had just put on one of those backless hospital gowns. Drafts swirled up my back as I did my best to gather the voluminous drapery that hung from me on all sides. I cinched and tucked the fabric as best I could, and settled into a favorite TV-watching chair, just waiting for the bliss to kick in.
What has made the Snuggie such a success is the fact that at first blush, it really is quite comfortable and warming. With just my head and hands protruding from the mound of camouflage I had become, I was a cozy camper, snug as a bug on a drug that gives you night sweats. But it only took a few minutes to realize the advantage of breathable fabrics versus the disadvantage of being virtually shrink-wrapped in plastic. What had started out as toasty comfort very quickly evolved into what I imagine yellow fever feels like.
I peeled the Snuggie off the front of my chest as it hissed in protest, and thought I might try wearing it like a conventional robe, with the opening in the front. Again, a few minutes of inviting comfort was quickly followed by a fast-forming prickly heat rash starting at the base of my neck and working its way toward my lower back. Pinning the synthetic fleece between my skin and a leatherette Barcalounger gave me a few ideas for possible nuclear-fusion-inspired energy research but little in the way of relaxation.
By now on the verge of heat stroke, I stripped off the Snuggie, gasped for air and slung it over the back of a nearby chair, never to be worn by me again. I may keep it around in case I ever need to start a fire, as I imagine it’s as flammable as a pile of kindling. Or maybe I’ll toss it in the back of my car, in case I ever get that job as ice-road trucker I’ve always dreamed about. Or maybe I’ll hold onto it as an investment, in case world polyester prices spike and I can cash in on the ensuing bubble.
Or maybe I’ll give it to a friend at work. Arnie is an occasional hunter, and would probably appreciate the camouflage design. He’s also a big fan of taking advantage of recycled merchandise, from out-of-date foods at the local discount grocery store to half-disassembled hi-fi’s from the Goodwill shop. And, he told me once, he absolutely loves to sweat like a farm animal in the noon-time heat of a South Carolina August.
My Snuggie can provide all this and more …