For a winter nation, we certainly have a weird relationship with the season that others use to define us. Even those who pretend to like it slink away to Mexico at the earliest opportunity and there are entire colonies in Florida where you would be hard pressed to hear anything other than Quebec French between November and April.
One of the most pervasive manifestations of the cognitive dissonance we have with winter is how we dress for it. Once we move beyond the years when we have no choice but to submit to the indignities of the snow suit we start to rebel against winter wear. Come to think of it, this is probably a deep psychological reaction (post-snowsuit disorder). People suffering from PSSD have been traumatized by being repeatedly trapped in a one-piece pseudo sleeping bag that restricts all movement and denies the ability to perform essential bodily functions. This does not explain the subsequent popularity of jumpsuits, but that is not today’s topic.
Part of the problem is winter wear that is up to the subzero challenge is rarely a fashion statement. Once upon a time you were allowed to wear a fur coat which offered both stylishness and warmth. Thank you very much, PETA – an organization that is probably headquartered where the temperature never falls below 20 degrees Celsius. Next time you visit in January, I’d be happy to lend you a fake fur so you can become acquainted with the error of your ways.
Some would have you believe that the Canada Goose parkas with the fur coat price tags have solved the fashion versus function dilemma. This is not true because they have a version that ends at the waist, a style that seems to be a particular favourite of urban hipsters who want to make sure you can see what brand of jeans they are wearing. No coat that hovers that far north of the knees can claim to be up to the challenge of wind chill. And speaking of jeans, could there possibly be anything colder in the winter (with the exception of pantyhose)?
Headgear is another problem. It is nearly impossible to find an attractive winter hat that also effectively covers the ears. Yes it is true that the trapper hat has good head coverage and is having its 15 minutes of fame at the moment, but unless you are a super model wearing it with a sense of irony, you will typically end up looking about as stylish as Elmer Fudd. The other issue with winter hats is winter hair, or more correctly, winter hat hair. You can either decide to have frostbite or a decent coiffure. And if the rest of you looks like the Michelin man, can you really fault us for choosing to preserve the hairdo.
And finally, the body parts with the least ability independently generate heat end up encased separately in gloves because mitts are considered infantile or clunky. Of course gloves do offer more dexterity, at least for the first 10 minutes of weather exposure, after which you can no longer feel your fingers.
It is probably easier to tackle world hunger than to solve the sartorial obstacles of winter. So let’s embrace our nerdy bulk and keep putting one galosh in front of the other on the journey towards the Spring equinox.