Canada – Best Dressed at the Olympics

by MaxPower

Canada has a short but well defined history as being one of the best dressed teams at the Olympics. Yes, our team is under funded as amateur sport (still) doesn’t get the respect it deserves and yes we really only dominate some sports in the Winter Olympics but dammit our team looks good doing it. Since the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino are less than two months away, I wanted to check out the latest crop of Canadiana wear. As an aside, do you notice that most people call it Torino even though the English bastardization of the Italian Torino is Turin? Must be because Torino comes off the tongue so much better than Turin.

Roots (which was founded in 1973 in Toronto) started the trend in 1996 but only really came to the fore at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics (remember the Roots poor-boy hat?) and 2000 Sydney Olympics. The fact that “root” is an Aussie slang for “sexual intercourse” and often replaces the F-bomb in sentences may have somewhat helped its popularity in 2000 Down Under. Who doesn’t want a bag that says “Roots” on it? In 2000 and leading up to the Salt Lake City Olympics the Americans started noticing that the Canadians knew how to do winter fashion up. Roots co-founder Michael Budman described the 2002 Canadian Olympic wear as being “influenced by the off and on-ice uniforms of the 1952 Edmonton Mercuries and other teams such as my boyhood heroes the Detroit Red Wings. We’re confident that our collaboration with the COA has resulted in the coolest looking uniforms and clothing”. For those not in the know – the Edmonton Mercuries won the Gold medal in Hockey at the 1952 Oslo Olympics.

The U.S. had Roots do their 2002 and 2004 Olympics wear and then signed up with Roots for the 2006 Olympics in Turin and 2008 in Beijing. Then the British also jumped on board and had roots do their 2002 uniforms and casual wear as well. Even that staunch defender of the British left and all that is good with the British Empire, the Guardian newspaper, had an article claiming that “Wrestling matches were reported at two stores in the Salt Lake City area, and queues to get in and by Roots gear were longer than those for some of the sporting events”. Not to simply compliment Canadians, the British have to feel superior to their colonial cousins and thus the Guardian’s pronouncement that “for the first time in Olympic history (and perhaps ever) it was cool to be a Canadian, or at least to look like a Canadian.”

And this was all because of our Olympic clothing. So what do we have in store for the world (and especially those bitchy British) for the Olympics in Torino in February 2006? Well it isn’t from Roots. What? Didn’t the world try to beat a path to our door over the trend setting nature of our Roots clothing? Did I not just give examples of how two big countries come crawling to our sense of fashion? Well yes, and maybe because of that the Canadian Olympic Committee took a risk (a big stupid risk) and awarded HBC the contract to make Olympic clothing for the 2006 games and gave Roots the boot. Well, I am glad to report that in my personal opinion the 2006 edition is actually pretty good looking and should be well represented on the streets of Torino in February. HBC has old school ties to the Olympics as well – the Hudson’s Bay Company started clothing the Canadian Olympic team at the 1936 Olympics at Garmish-Partenkirchen, Germany. I like the font that the clothing has on it and appreciate the fact that it is available in other colours than red and white. The fuzzy sheepskin trapper style hat will undoubtedly be a big hit as those big “Russian-esque” hats are “in” this season. Don’t believe me – listen to fashionistas who say “On international runways, comrades in design, ranging from Miuccia Prada and Roberto Cavalli in Milan to Anna Sui and Oscar de la Renta in New York, all joined the Russian revolution. Key elements, such as Cossack-inspired military coats, extravagant furs and old-world folkloric embroidery play to fashion’s new manifesto.” See? Along with the trapper hats, I predict toques will be big sellers. Because come on, if we can’t do a toque up right who can? Will these new looks be as big as the Roots fashions were? Don’t count on the media and fashion police for your opinions – no one was complimenting the Roots fashions before they got popular. In fact I remember a rather stinging criticism of the famous 1998 “poor boy” hat prior to the Olympics, but the fact that people from all over the world wanted those hats instantly made them an Olympic fashion icon. Time will tell, but if we’re going to be competing in winter sports we may as well look like the fur trapping, hockey playing, polar bear dodging people we are.

And see my prediction for 2006 that Canada will win gold in Hockey. Get your toques now.

  • Canada – Best Dressed at the Olympics
  • by MaxPower
  • Published on January 1st, 2006

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