21 Jan 2011

Tuque

Fashion stops at freezing point. Or so it appears these days, with Montréal presenting itself in its winterly cover of snow, sleet and slush. Waking up to a clear and sunny winter's day this morning, a glance at the outside thermometer indicated a balmy temperature of -19C, which served as a strong incentive to bring out that thick down jacket, the thermal underwear and ski gloves. Once properly mummified, I stepped outside and immediately felt the cold arctic breeze in my face. The wind chill factor made the temperature feel like a cozy -27C, according to MetéoMédia.

These conditions are not unusual, and the locals have learned to live with them. They have also come up with some very sophisticated gear to cope with the cold, including brands such as Bula, Kanuk, Arc'teryx and Canada Goose (a parka of which is now worn around a certain Swiss mountain resort...). The winter equipment produced by those specialists is excellent, but it does make you look a bit like Michelin Man.

But by common consensus, even the fashion-conscious Montréalais are ready to abandon good looks in favor of staying warm during the winter months. People routinely arrive at work with heavy winter boots before changing into moccasin house shoes, and I can even get away with wearning pants that have slush stains up their lower back - the unmistakable proof that I have braved the cold and walked to the métro.

If there is one thing, though, that makes Canadian winter dress unmistakable, it has got to be the tuque. Its very name is a compromise between French and English (no separatism with cold ears), and its fur-clad interior protects Canucks from snow, while its extendable ear and forehead flaps keep the entire face warm. NZZ Folio may claim that Finnish and Soviet soldiers first came up with the idea, but surely must have been the Canadians who have civilized and immortalized the item. Practical, unpretentious and warm, it perfectly resonates with their national identity - and climate!

High time, then, that I'll go under cover, for I intend to spend large parts of next weekend out in the cold. And while I am looking for a tuque, you can look for how many different types of headgear you'll find in this little clip of a typical Canadian winter activity. Stay warm!

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