Canada doesn’t have an official “costume” the way Germans have lederhosen and dirndl or Scots have kilts. But I’m puttin’ it out there: a parka comes close.
A parka is a “hooded coat extending to the thighs or calves,” pronounces the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, succinctly. Wikipedia goes to town with a detailed history of how this hooded coat style was first created by caribou-hunting Inuit who lived in Central Canada, west and north of Hudson’s Bay, and then was copied and adapted for anyone facing bad weather conditions, including military personnel, flight crews, and children growing up in Ontario. OK, Wikipedia doesn’t talk about the latter. But it should.
Our memories are fickle things. I do remember that (non-hooded) coat of my mother’s: it was a creamy-beige fake fur with a zipper up the front. But the blue parka with the fake-fur lining on me? Total crickets. I only saw this image recently after I got a box of old slides scanned into digital format. I know that’s me – my mom, my childhood home. I just don’t remember the coat.
However, it’s had successors since. One from earlier this decade was the same shade of blue but knee length and with Muppet-inspired blue fur trimming the hood. In that coat, I earned a new nickname: “The Blue Yeti.” Its successor, from the great Toronto coat store Lorne’s, is purple. For whatever reason, though, “The Purple Yeti” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well.
Need more proof parkas are indeed our national costume? Quick, name what’s in the “welcome kit” prepared by the Canadian government for the 25,000 Syrian refugees accepted here in 2015/16: Snowsuits for kids and parkas for the grownups.
There may be stylish urban folks who scorn parkas, although Canada Goose Parkas is trying its darndest to make them hip enough for the young and fashionable. Hey, if your life never involves exposure to the outdoors in winter for more than 10 minutes at a time, you can live in Canada without a parka. For the rest of us, it’s hoods up.
Photo: David or Ted Teahen