The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Wednesday March 3rd

Column: Don’t sweat the back sweat


Henry Gargan is the Opinion Editor. He is a senior journalism and global studies major from Chapel Hill.

What do you wish you’d known about college before you got to UNC?

Some wish they’d known how to drink responsibly. Others would have liked to know that eating pizza three meals a day wouldn’t be sustainable. But me? I wish someone had told me about all the sweat.

In fact, a module on how to deal with it would have been among the more helpful parts of freshman orientation. But until UNC decides to give this important issue the attention it so desperately needs, I will carry this burden.

The back sweat is almost as uncomfortable to talk about as it is to endure, but it afflicts most of us. Know this, fellow students: You are not alone. We all sweat — and I sweat a lot. I worked for the housing department the summer after my freshman year, which meant I often had to traverse campus several times a day in triple-digit temperatures. I spent those two months feeling like a sponge.

Of course, Tuesday’s 80-degree temperatures were a blessing any way you slice it. But for the perpetually moist among us, the change in weather was also a reminder of the sticky dampness to come.

As you learned this fall, underclassmen, from your walks between south campus and the quad, no T-shirt is safe once temperatures top 85 degrees. Many of you have already divined the secrets of mitigating or hiding the results, but they bear repeating for the rest.

Your approach will likely depend on whether your objective is comfort or presentability. If it’s presentability, wear dark colors. This is a bit of a gamble, though. Darker shirts will hide your sweat, but they’ll also absorb more heat and make you sweat more. The undershirt strategy carries the same risks.

Tank tops are also great. But if you’re wearing a tank top to begin with, you probably don’t have any reason to care whether it ends up sweaty. That’s the awful logic of it all: The more important it is that you show up looking put together, the more likely you are to be wearing dressy, sweat-prone clothes.

Another tried-and-true tactic is to simply carry an extra shirt with you at all times — you’ll just have to leave yourself a couple of extra minutes to change before class. Granted, anyone who sees you multiple times a day will probably cotton on (ha!) pretty quickly, but they’ll still look like a used tea bag, so they won’t be able to judge too hard. If you’re still worried, though, you can always tell everyone you just came from the gym. Gym sweat, for some reason, is far more accepted than walking-to-class sweat. Whatever. Use that to your advantage.

Your backpack is also a frenemy. Like an undershirt, what it sacrifices in ventilation it can make up for in its ability to trap the sweat where it is. The trick is managing to slip off your backpack and into your seat in one fluid motion so as not to expose your dampened shirt for even the slightest instant — your classmates would surely recoil in horror.

This final recommendation is certainly easier said than done, but it’s ultimately the most rewarding: Stop caring. Own it.


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