STATE COLLEGE, PA—Overweight Penn State University freshman Kyle Norton cleared up any confusion about the future of his daily wardrobe Monday when he declared that, despite the recent drop in temperature, he will continue sporting the same mesh Penn State Lacrosse shorts and Birkenstock sandals he has worn since the start of the 2007–08 academic year.
The lunchtime announcement, which was made at Penn State's Pollock dining hall, followed a week of speculation as to why the 19-year-old failed to return from Thanksgiving vacation with essential winter clothing items such as pants, socks, boots, or closed-toe shoes.
"I know many of you are wondering if I will start wearing what many consider 'appropriate' clothing because the weather is getting more frigid," said the heavy-set, 5-foot-10-inch Norton, who has worn his signature outfit 106 days in a row. "I want everyone to know that I remain steadfast in my decision to wear shorts and sandals, and only shorts and sandals. I assure you that this decision is final and will remain as such no matter how severe conditions outside become."
"The cold weather just doesn't bother me," Norton added.
Norton, who has unkempt curly brown hair that detracts attention from his perfectly rounded figure, and a scraggily beard that sparsely covers his face and double chin, stated that he would also forgo a winter coat this year, and would continue to don the same loose-fitting, coffee-stained hooded sweatshirt he has been wearing since mid-October.
In addition, Norton dispelled rumors that he would be making any adjustments to his current rotation of the three short-sleeved shirts he wears underneath the half-zipped sweatshirt, which reportedly include an XXL plain white T-shirt, a black Monty Python Life of Brian shirt, and the shirt from his 2005 high school production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, for which Norton served on the build crew.
After concluding his announcement, Norton lumbered back to his dorm room to spend the afternoon "lying around and maybe practicing [guitar]."
According to Dr. Marie Stratton, a professor of sociology at Harvard University who observed Norton's behavior for several weeks, Norton's odd choice of wardrobe is not uncommon.
"You must understand that, due to Kyle's awkward and bulbous frame, the simple act of bending over to put on a pair of pants has become a daily ordeal," Stratton said in a telephone interview. "As a defense mechanism, Kyle will claim to his peers that his decision to wear loose clothing with elastic waistbands and no restriction around the ankles is not one of convenience, but rather a characteristic of his unique personality and 'laid-back' attitude. Kyle intends to use this strategy to divert attention away from his obvious and glaring obesity and become someone who is idolized by his peers for his ability to remain unfazed by bitter cold temperatures."
"It is a truly remarkable and valiant effort," Stratton added.
Though temperatures are expected to dip into the mid-20s this week, a shorts-and- sandals-wearing Kyle told reporters that not only will he keep walking at the same leisurely pace to his 9 a.m. philosophy seminar, but he will also continue sitting outside the building 10 minutes before class while he smokes a cigarette and does the crossword puzzle in Penn State's student newspaper, The Daily Collegian. Although there are no rumors to the contrary, Norton added that he would not cease eating ice cream during the walk from the dining hall back to his dorm room.
Upon being asked if his behavior was merely for attention, Norton balked at the notion, saying that the choice is "just who he is."
"I always hated when my mom made me wear shoes and pants in high school," Norton said. "Now that I am in college I am free to wear whatever I want, whenever I want. For the first time in my life, I don't feel so constricted."
Though some of Norton's fellow students are concerned for his well-being during the upcoming winter months, most have taken the announcement in stride.
"Oh, yeah, the fat dude with the shorts and sandals," Penn State sophomore Ryan Mullaney said. "I think I have a Spanish class with that guy."