Gayle Macdonald of The Globe & Mail approached the Canadiana Connection for opinions on why plaid has had such an enduring appeal to Canadians. We contacted our list of subscribers, and many replied. (Read the Globe and Mail article)
Deborah Knight, one of our readers, and expatriate Canadian, was quoted extensively. Here are her comments reprinted in their original form:
“Flannel is an integral part of our national heritage. It’s — literally — the fabric that binds us together. From the tunderin’ coast of Newfoundland to the groovy waves of B.C., it’s THE Canadian fashion statement. Flannel screams, “It’s cold. It’s f-ing cold. And I’m not gonna die!”
To hell with the Yves St. Laurent silk chiffon evening gown. Damn that Hugo Boss tuxedo. Canadians wear flannel to the opera. We wear flannel flannel to church. We even wear flannel on our wedding night!
As a matter of fact, I buy flannel pajamas because my cat — who was never weaned properly — likes to suck on my flannel-covered shoulder while I sleep. (Okay…so maybe that part’s a little weird.)
Not only is flannel the ultimate Canadian fabric, the ultimate of ultimates is…plaid flannel! It’s so perfectly, non-committally Canadian . It isn’t blue. It isn’t red. It isn’t black. It isn’t white. It’s red AND blue AND black AND white. It’s the most politically correct fabric money can buy! And the stripes don’t simply go up and down or side to side. They go every which way imaginable…just because they can. That unbridled wanderlust is Canadian!
And worn with blue jeans…nobody knows if you’re from Forest Hill or Regent Park. It’s the great North American equalizer. Is it Eddie Bauer or is it Bi-Way? Who knows? Who cares? We’re all the same in our flannel. We’re all created equal…except maybe those guys whose plaid shirt pockets have been precisely matched to the plaid front of the shirt. To be truly equal, the plaid on the pocket MUST be running diagonally. We don’t want any smarmy Harry Rosen type of flannel. It’s got to be manly and rugged…just like the women who wear it!
Flannel keeps us warm. Flannel keeps us equal. Flannel keeps us constantly aware that we aren’t basking in the warmth of a southern ocean breeze.
And that’s why flannel is the enduring Canadian fabric.
Well…that’s what I think.”
Deborah Knight, Ohio
Perhaps Deb should have received a little more credit!
Katrina Somers was also quoted:
“I love flannel. I wish I could wear it year-round; I welcome winter because it allows me to wear flannel pajamas and have flannel sheets on my bed. There’s something so smugly satisfying about encasing yourself in fuzzy cotton-ness and defying the cold, and I think that defiance may be part of the flannel appeal: Canadians don’t like winter; rather, we like feeling proof against it, and flannel is to us in winter what chain mail was to a medieval warrior.”
More thoughts on flannel:
“Being up in the Great White North there are many things that our Flannel is used for… Seeing each other in the white snowy grounds of Canada, the symbol of Lumberjacks, the TRUE Canadian jacket that no one wants to copy cause they think it looks silly, if it was long johns we wear instead it would look plain and bland… and tacky, but I feel the true reason why we wear it cause WE ARE CANADIAN!!”
Dan Crocker, Calgary, Alberta
“Whaaaaaaat? The ongoing Canadian obsession with flannel!?! National costume? I’m laughing out loud right now. Yes, the guy from the Red Green Show sports a flannel, but one fictitional character’s wardrobe is not an adequate basis for sweeping generalizations on national dress. I watched Frasier last night – and my sneaking suspicion that Americans are obsessed with tweed was confirmed…
Considering our latitude, it’s probably safe to say that the average Canadian owns a few items of warm clothing. But please, do not portray all Canadians as “flannel-obsessed.” It will confuse everyone that pictures us in mounty uniforms…”
“What other reason do you need to wear flannel, I mean 6+ months of Winter…”
If you take the time to watch the slideshow below, there are some great shots of people and their plaid flannel: