As I wiggled into my tights in preparation for an end-of-term night out, I was faced with the perennial clubbing question: should I take a coat?
Logic, and my mum, would say the answer was obvious. My outfit was hardly cosy, and a tipsy walk home at 2am in December is an adventure best braved from within my wardrobe’s most wind-proof, water-proof and fur-lined offering.
But the question wasn’t just one of insulation – I had a financial decision to make. The cloakrooms at most Oxford clubs cost between one and two pounds: what did I want more, healthy circulation or a Jägerbomb?
A few years ago, the Daily Mail explained some pictures of scantily-clad girls heading off on a night out in Newcastle on aesthetic grounds: ‘the possibility of a coat ruining their revealing outfits was more frightening than freezing to death.’ But the Mail was wrong — Newcastle’s partygoers probably just didn’t want to pay the cloakroom charge.
The girls in the Mail’s photos look like they’re having a good time despite the weather, but for some women the decision go to coatless proves tragic. 25-year-old Bernadette Lee, for example, died of hypothermia last January after going on a night out in the Kentish snow with no coat.
Female binge drinking has increased exponentially in recent years, and the negative effects are noticeably more pronounced in the colder months. The number of alcohol-related hospital admissions of women aged 15 to 24 increased by 76 per cent between 2002 and 2010, from 15,233 to 26,908.
A recent study of admissions in London found that the average daily number of alcohol-related arrivals in A&E was above the annual average in November, December, January and February. (counting the cost of alcohol-attributable hospital admissions …)
Coats are especially essential on nights out, because alcohol, although it makes you feel warmer, makes you more vulnerable to hypothermia. When you drink, the blood vessels near the surface of the skin dilate. As well as taking blood away from the centre of the body and so decreasing core body temperature, the increased volume of blood flowing on the periphery of your body means that heat is lost more quickly than usual once you go out in the cold.
So if local councils are looking for a way to protect young women on nights out, they ought to make a free cloakroom a condition of a club’s license. On Monday night, only two of the seven girls in our group wore a coat. And even they didn’t pay the cloakroom change, opting instead to hide their coats in corners of the club – at risk of thieves, spilled drinks and the indescribably grimy floors.