Fashion is a product of its environment, so it’s unsurprising that when we think of Canadian fashion, most trends cater to the colder seasons or clothes that support outdoor adventure. Beginning in the early 1900s, Canadians craved the cutting-edge styles of designers who quickly became household names: Jeanne Lanvin, Coco Chanel, Christian Dior, and Elsa Schiaparelli.
The Blanket Jacket
The blanket coat was often labeled in the press as a national costume that represented the Canadian identity. The “noble snowshoer in his striking blanket coat” was a popularized image that migrated quickly into society’s elite.
Coincidentally the official uniform of 2020, although the tracksuit was championed and popularized by Adidas in the 1960s, something a little different was happening north of the border. Born out of a love of sport, streetwear, and Canadian imagery, Roots created a sweatsuit that was not only comfy but also an icon of the ’80s and ’90s, which romanticized Canadian culture and adventurism.
Another functional form of Canadian fashion, this warm winter jacket dates back to First Nations culture in the Canadian Arctic, where humans needed warmth, protection from the wind, and a waterproof shell. The style of the parka changed from a pullover design to an open front to accommodate different activities, and eventually manufacturers such as Quartz Co.
Although winter boots certainly didn’t originate in Canada, many styles and brands have, and Canadian boot companies have integrated warm boots with ready-to-wear street styles around the globe. Canada became a manufacturing hub for engineering luxury all-season footwear with a timeless design and made with superior quality to withstand extreme climates. The ’60s and ’70s popularized the classic Cougar Pillow Boots, as well as First Nations-styled moccasin footwear from Bastien Industries, Kamik boots, and Sorel’s waterproof cold-weather boot. Styles may have changed, but the overall design of all these boots still has recognizable nostalgic features that nod to our Canadian lineage in footwear design.
It wasn’t until I started traveling that I realized “toque” (referring to a winter hat) is a Canadian term. Although the concept of a knitted cap to keep your head warm is not unique to Canada, the term is, and a sea of pom-poms—the distinguishing difference between a toque and other winter headwear—is a stereotypical sight Canadian winters have become visually known for. Originally, toques were worn for tobogganing or snowshoeing. Their warmth and iconic look eventually caught on with the mainstream, and today even luxury brands, such as Mackage, Canada Goose, and Moncler, have taken an elevated approach to this effortlessly chic, warm, winter look.
Athleisure got a push when Lululemon entered the scene in the late ’90s, integrating yoga and casual athletic wear that was elevated in style yet still accessible. Born in Vancouver, Lululemon initially offered yoga-inspired athletic apparel that quickly revolutionized the purpose of leggings, giving them a chance to shine on the street as well as in the studio. Today, it is one of the top-selling and most influential athleisure brands in the world as it continues to produce technical materials in leggings (and other athletic wear) targeted toward function in various sports but also worn as casual streetwear.