Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Fashion at 40 Below

The perfect storm descended upon our house last week, when the snow-filled winds blew in off Georgian Bay and met up with a stubbornly eighth grader, causing power outages, road closures and subsequently several arguments and no less than 3 trips to the mall.

The non-parenting translation is as follows: Snow falls and parents discover boy has no boots. All parties go to town. Parents point out several pairs of sensible boots. Boy becomes teenagerly and is not receptive to fashion suggestions placed forth by uncool parents. All parties go to a new store and repeat process.

I use the term boots loosely, because to me that defines something that comes at least halfway up your shin and will keep your foot warm and dry. The boy, on the other hand, has a more liberal acceptance of what classifies winter footwear, which apparently includes flimsy hiking shoes and high top sneakers.

Those of you who own a teenager can back me when I say that one’s social status is hopelessly and inexorably dependent on one’s choice of boots. Yes, it’s a real life adolescent problem that rivals the horror of like, totally slow Wi-Fi or only getting three smiley faces on your Instagram post. As such, it makes sense that the possibility of losing a couple of toes to frostbite is a small price to pay to avoid the un-coolness of clumping around the school yard in massive snowmobile boots.  So off to town we went, in search of a new pair of boots, where after several unsuccessful stops, things came to a head at the Work Wearhouse. 

“How about these insulated rubbers? It says they’re good to minus 40.” Says I.

“Really dad? I guess it’s fine if you want your only son to be shunned by his peers and have to spend all lunch hour standing under the monkey bars with Gordon Lewinsky.”

“Is he the one with the scab collection?”


“Okay then…how about these?”

“You want me to look like a ski lift operator?” 

 And so it went until a compromise was reached. A leather hiking boot of sorts – cut well above the ankle with a decent insulation value. I bought them a half size too big so he can wear them next year and God help us if they fall out of favour.

To be perfectly honest, I knew this day was coming, because of course I went through the same thing in grade 8 when I needed new boots. Back in the day there was only one acceptable option and that was the coveted Greb Kodiak work boot, which had absolutely no tread and zero insulation but I knew they would pair nicely with my Lumberjack coat. (Usually I had to wear this over my ski coat, but whatever - it preserved the look). The girl’s version was the Cougar boot with the red tongue and the brown imitation leather that would start peeling off after they were exposed to air. In the tough world of early teen fashion, anything else was completely unacceptable. So…imagine my surprise when my mother went shopping without me and then came to the school to drop off a pair of Sorels - the very largest, warmest, most unhip boot ever. Jesus Christ mom… I’m not going on an Arctic expedition, I’m just trying to stand around and look cool. What’s next?  You want me to wear a hat and cover up my wicked feathered hair? (Which by the way I was growing out so I could look exactly like David Lee Roth).

The boots and the hat are simply the tip of the stupid “fashion over comfort” iceberg we all rode as teens such as the open coat look, only bested by the slightly more asinine no coat look. Or the “I’m too tough for mitts” stage. Oh yeah, and you know what the most non-waterproof piece of footwear on the planet is? Desert boots, which I diligently wore outside in the slush until they built up that crusty salt stain and became ruined.

 To the fully formed adult brain, it seems daft to suffer needlessly under the name of fashion, but clearly I get it. We have all been there in various forms, depending on the era you came up in. I’m pretty sure back in 1981, my sister and her friends had those jeans where you needed to use pliers to get them zipped up. Combine that with a pair of high heels and it’s a wonder more of them didn’t pass right out in the front row of the Hall and Oates concert. So the next time your teen refuses to wear a coat in November, let them go out confident and looking stunningly cool. If they come back shivering and with wet feet and you can tell them about the time you stood outside a club in the middle of winter, in a t-shirt, smoking a cigarette and waiting for the band to come back on. Coats are for sissies. 


  1. I'm still traumatized that my mom bought me imitation cougar boots...white tongue! WTF?!

    1. Wow! imitation Cougar....that is low

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  2. I took Natalie, 13, shopping for jeans recently. She tried on jeans that could barely, I thought, get past her knees. Somehow she got them on. Just as I was going to say, "They're too small/tight." she said, "They're too big."

    "And how can you tell that, Natalie?"

    There was a tiny tell-tale "fold" at the hips when she bent.

    Lesson learned.

    1. I see that you feel my pain....
      Only five more years until we are out of the teens

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