Clothing for all weathers is essential in Minnesota. Parkas, mittens, sweaters, boots. Passion-killing nightgowns, knitted hats, snowmobile suits. Plus boogers in the shoulder seasons.

It was the Kolteses of St Joseph who named hooded sweatshirts boogers. Even they don’t know why.

Once you hear the term you can’t unhear it so for years I, too, have called the hooded sweatshirt a booger.

I have to be careful about the settings in which I speak this word in Aotearoa, New Zealand, for it is used beyond Stearns County to describe the dried nasal mucus also known as bogeys, boogies, or snot.

But for now let’s put this other meaning aside. Let’s stick to boogers that are hooded sweatshirts, with zips or without.

If you are Minnesotan, you already know a lot about boogers.

We’ll recap for those who haven’t fully clocked their own booger wisdom, and for those who have moved here from out of state or didn’t grow up in Stearns County. You may or may not agree with my analysis about what constitutes the perfect booger. Do leave a comment and share your own booger secrets.

I like my boogers soft, with a zip, and several sizes too big. This allows for maximum wardrobe flexibility. You can wear other things under or over a booger with a zip. You can wear it to the drive-in, or keg parties, on hayrides, or when you’re hunting for lady slippers in the woods. If it’s big enough, your booger can fit two, and maybe even a dog.

A booger is perfect outerwear for toasting s’mores at the lake. If someone’s s’more toasting implement adheres to your booger, any melted chocolate and charred marshmallow will just wash out in the hot cycle.

Don't wear a booger to play outdoor tagging games or to haunted Halloween experiences where something wicked may have infiltrated the cast aiming to catch and bleed dry thrillseekers just by grabbing their stretchy boogers. Don't make it easy - wear a slippery coat that night, sans belt.

I don’t like boogers that are too thick or made from close-woven fabric. This needs to be tested in-store, and always trust your instinct; if the fabric doesn’t feel right, it will never feel right. Like Goldilocks, you must keep searching for a booger that is just right.

Embrace that the booger is intimate apparel. You’ll wear it a lot, so the hood must be spacious and not too snug. A generous hood allows for ponytails, baseball caps, earmuffs, knitted hats with pompoms, headphones, and eavesdropping. You can’t stretch your neck in a tight hood, or relax while observing shooting stars or the Milky Way.

The hood shouldn’t be too spacious, as a neck gap will let in rain, sleet, insects, snowballs, and wandering hands.

Not everyone likes a booger with a zip. Many prefer an over-the-head booger with the full-width front pocket that has plenty of room for a wallet, phone, mittens, and maybe a small bag of Fritos®; it will also accommodate a sizeable book, a duck call, or a dry pair of socks.

I concede the constraints of a booger with a zip, which has a smaller pocket on either side. You can still store your keys and other items but the zipper is, yes, a hindrance for those who like the full-width pocket of a booger without a zip.

It’s a small detail, but always test the hood tie when shopping for a booger. It should be sturdy yet springy and generous in length, with a firm knot at each end so one side can’t retract into its rivet. This would require fishing for the lost end, and then you’ll get mad and swear and have to go to confession. Tighten the knots every now and then.

The quality of ribbing around the bottom and wrists of prospective boogers should not be overlooked. Lena, Mina, and my aunts and sisters (and no doubt all Kolteses, and maybe even all Minnesotans) know cheap ribbing when they see it. If you buy a booger with cheap ribbing it will soon lose its shape, and your booger will not last for decades as it should. Stretch the ribbing of prospective booger buys in-store; if it doesn’t snap back like hardy long john elastic, put that bad booger back on the rack and keep searching for one that is just right.

I never have liked stiff promotional printing on my boogers. But such things can be fun. Maybe I am too serious about my boogers. A booger with stiff promotional printing would not in general for me be just right. You will make your own mind up about this.

The inside of a booger should be cozy yet hard-wearing. If you buy one that pills, however fine its construction or outer fabric, you will come to hate that booger. Give the interior fleece a good rub in-store and if it is inclined to pill, put it back, as it will never be just right.

We now come to the final all-important consideration: booger absorption. If you are going to the biffy on a damp night, or necking in a field, or skating or sledding with roughhousing cousins, even if you wear a down vest over your booger it will get wet and you will freeze and this will ruin everything. So shop for boogers that are pliable but not too absorbent.

If you loathe ticks and bugs, this warrants special thought. And if you especially hate deer flies, like me, never buy a bright blue booger. Oh ja.

But we’re done for now.

Remember, boogers are not a fashion statement. They don't have to go with things. They don't come in or go out. They just are, like the annual quilt bingo at St Anthony's in St Cloud or the reliable swirl on all flavors of the Dairy Queen Dilly® bar.

My current booger is black with, I confess, stiff gold lettering promoting my daughter’s once favorite Australian band, Five Seconds of Summer. She didn’t want it after disapproving of band members’ perceived cavalier treatment of women fans, as described in Rolling Stone magazine. I needed a booger at the time, and while I hesitated about the stiff promotional printing and its subject, it is just the right thickness and ticks every other good booger box. It’s not just a castoff: I am myself a 5SOS fan and still listen to its songs on my Laurie’s Roadie Spotify playlist. Lily and I once went to a 5SOS concert and met the band before they were really famous, opening for One Direction in Auckland (she gave all of her 1D merchandise away too, but there was no booger). 5SOS lead vocalist and guitarist Luke Hemmings paused for a selfie and sweetly rubbed Lily’s back because she was sobbing and hysterical at the unexpected encounter with her idols at the pancake griddle of what is now the Cordis Hotel where we were all staying. Lily’s German Minnesotan blood sang for pancakes even then, but that’s another story and a future secret MN recipe. Lily’s hard stance about 5SOS and the band’s alleged bad boy ways are the same despite the passing of years but whatever – I got the booger.

In my first reference to the Kolteses I provided a link to an article about the family which was written by Cori Hilsgen. As my mother used to say about nearly everyone in Stearns County, “we’re related somehow”. My Dad Emil Hilsgen grew up on the farm next to the Koltes farm. It’s spooky how bloodlines, fates, and the authors and subjects of newspaper articles cross paths in Stearns County (kia ora Cori – we’re whānau). Some refer to this pattern as Stearns County Syndrome. But that’s just a nasty myth.

Nadia Read’s Heart To Ride latest booger design.

Footnote The time has come for a brand new booger. I have taken the rash step of ordering a Nadia Read Heart To Ride hoodie designed by Lily Paris West and printed in Dunedin, New Zealand sight unseen. This design is available in t-shirts too. I have no idea whether the hoodie will tick all of my important booger boxes – it is an over-the-head hoodie and has promotional printing, which normally I wouldn’t like. But I love Nadia, a Canadian singer/songwriter based like me in New Zealand. I await my new booger and if it fails any of the key tests, although I love Nadia and the booger looks pretty and it cost $80 plus shipping, I will give it away. Booger culling is an essential Minnesotan skill. Listen to Nadia on Spotify – you might love her, too.

Photos Rose Koltes and Photominus, istock

2 thoughts on “Booger!”

  1. Cherie says:

    I hate to tell you this, because it bummed me out too, there isn’t a swirl anymore on a Dairy Queen dilly bar! The swirl was the best part because it sure wasn’t the fake cherry, butterscotch, and chocolate flavors.

    1. Editor says:

      I’m pleased to report that in Stearns County, the dilly bar swirl is as it ever was. Love the fake cherry flavor! Everyone went for cherry around the fire pit.

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