Snow Pant “Chic”

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Unless you live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, you probably missed the snow pants controversy last week. And even if you live here, you might have missed it. I almost did.

Seems that Shannon Proudfoot, who writes for Maclean’s magazine, started the whole debacle by tweeting that she thinks Ottawa is a great place to live, and doesn’t deserve its bad rap for being “dorky and provincial”. Except, she says, when she spies grown ups wearing “snow pants to work.”

That tweet unleashed a veritable storm of yeahs and nays with respect to the merit of wearing ski pants or snow pants when you’re not skiing, or tobogganing, or rolling around on the school playground, but are in fact navigating the streets of cold, snowy Ottawa on your way to work.

woman wearing ski pants, jacket, toque, and face mask near Lac Morency, Quebec, winter 2015
Not on my way to work in Lac Morency, Quebec 2015.
Let’s be fair to the snow pants wearers, Ms. Proudfoot was talking about commuters wearing the dorky apparel while on their way to work, on the bus (and one presumes on the sidewalk after they get off the bus), not while actually AT work. Wearing snow pants at work, well, that would be dorky.
I had to laugh at the vehemence of some of the replies on Twitter. The debate, the quippy rejoinders, the commiserating, even. There were lots of  defenders of dressing appropriately in what has recently been declared the world’s coldest capital city. Wearing snow pants makes the time spent waiting for your bus, or the time spent navigating slippery sidewalks, snow banks, and salty slush-puddles after you get off your bus, more bearable. One reply went so far as to say that snow pants are part of Ottawa’s winter heritage, like skating to work on the canal. A couple of people even sidetracked the conversation by complaining about women wearing running shoes with skirts, or socks with sandals. One wonders where they’ve been the last couple of years, style-wise. Ha.
These two replies were my favourites:
Snow pants may be dorky but they R warm & practical! Also the BEST part of being an adult is finally being ok with being dorky, wearing whatever you want and not trying to fit into someone else’s definition of “cool”! Prime time for snow pants!
Just Kathleen @KitKat70169329
I wore snow pants on the bus in Ottawa! Not cool ski pants, dorky snow pants. I was embarrassed for 5 seconds the first time then I saw a woman rocking a 70’s one piece, red ski suit. Carrying a briefcase. Fantastic.
I love those two comments.
woman in rain pants and jacket in front of a historic bridge near Richmond, Tasmania
Dorky maybe, but also warm and dry in Tasmania 2003

All this discussion of appropriate cold weather wear started me thinking of the times I’ve happily worn dorky outfits. Hubby does not believe that we should let weather stop us from doing what we want to do, within reason, of course. So when we travelled to Australia and New Zealand in 2003, we packed our heavy hiking boots, our canoeing rain gear, and our ski long-underwear. And we were glad we did. In Tasmania, above, we encountered lots and lots of rain, and cool temperatures. I pulled on my ski underwear, then my jeans, and then even resorted to wearing my Gortex ski pants over that. When you’re out in the weather all day, it’s amazing how cold 15°C can be.

We did the same in Yorkshire and Scotland in July of 2005. Even though the UK was having a record hot summer, we packed for every weather eventuality. I have a shot of me under an angry sky, on windy Top Withens, near the home of the Brontë sisters in Haworth. I’m grinning broadly, my hair standing on end, my fleece top and Gortex jacket and pants flapping. It was frigging cold… but I was in Brontë country, and I was NOT going to miss any of it because of a little weather. And when we were hiking on the Orkney Islands two weeks later, we were very glad of our rain gear. Very glad.

And as you can see, below, not all of my dorky outfits have been worn in cold climates. This is a shot of a walk we took in Costa Rica in 2013. Good thing my pants and tee were quick drying even if the jacket wasn’t. And in our little cabin in Santa Elena, up in the cloud forest a few days later, we were very glad of our long underwear. The wind at night roaring over the continental divide sounded amazing, like a pounding ocean surf, but it was also pretty darned chilly. We laughed, then, at how I’d scoffed when we’d tossed our ski underwear into our suitcase at the last minute. “Like we’ll need it in Costa Rica,” I’d chortled. “Best to go prepared for any weather eventuality,” Hubby had intoned. And of course he was right. Again.

woman in wet pants and jacket on a trail through the rainforest, Costa Rica
Wet walking in Costa Rica 2013

So I was pretty entertained by all the recent palaver over ski pants. All the rolling of eyes at the dorky, terribly uncool, but warmly clad people, and all the counter rolling of eyes at the silly, chilly, but oh-so-cool snow pant naysayers. Where else do snow pants cause a controversy? Seriously, this could be one of those “Meanwhile in Canada” Facebook memes.

You can read the Maclean’s article which put me onto the whole story here, if you’re interested.

And if you’re up for it, you can read this article in the National Post. That is, if you think you can get through it without rolling your eyes in exasperation. I know I couldn’t. The writer energetically agrees with Ms. Proudfoot’s original tweet, and then goes on to list what she calls “winter wear abominations.” Sigh.

When I read it, I initially thought, “Maybe the young writer should be packed off on a trip to South America with Hubby, and try to get by wearing only chic and fashionable outfits.”

Then I remembered my very first trip to Algonquin Park back in the day, and the look Hubby gave me when I asked him if I should bring my blow dryer.

Ha. How I’ve grown since then, my friends!

Now, when I stroll a fashionable, but rain soaked and chilly foreign town with Hubby, happy and warm in my dorky, Gortex pants, I always hold this thought in my mind: “My other pants are uber chic, and they’re leather.” 🙂

man and woman in winter jackets and hats standing in front of snowy background mountains.
North Carolina 2016 when we were very glad of our emergency toques and gloves.

Now it’s your turn my friends. Have you ever been happy to be warmly clad, even if you did look dorky?

Linking up this week with: Visible Monday#IwillwearwhatIlikeThursday Favourite Things#ShareAllLinkup.

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35 thoughts on “Snow Pant “Chic””

  1. Long time ago,when I was much younger,winters were snowy and long. Couple of times,or more,it has snowed more than 50 cm snow over night-and I have worked from 7 AM. Streets were far from seeing the first plough (winter street service was usually "very surprised" with the situation),it was impossible to drive and trams couldn't come through either. So,we used to walk through snow for kilometers – 7 in my case! I was neither warm nor happy,but without snow boots and pants I would be seriously ill (although I always like to be chic- and one of chic rules is to be dressed for the circumstances))
    And,if trams were going- after street snow service has recovered from surprise-you never know when would they stop. It is nonsense to commute in high heels and hosiery,if the weather conditions are cold and snowy
    I haven't read the article,but the fact of fashion gurus shaming hosiery,too (apart from opaque)and promoting nude legs fashion during winter…..Frankly,my dear…..
    Our dress code was to wear nude,sheer tights during summers in hospitals or practises (and still is-and it has its reasons)
    Dottoressa

    1. I remember all the negative press that pantyhose received in the early 2000s. Like they expected women to go barelegged in January? Our mums had the right idea when we were kids when they made us put our snow pants on over our school dresses; we could play in the snow at recess and still look nice afterward. Love your comment about your street services being surprised each snowfall. Everybody forgets that some people (like doctors) absolutely have to get to work.

  2. All I can say is I’m glad not to live there anymore. I remember the ugly heavy boots…but warm. I worked close to the canal, and did skate on it. We used to run on the ice part way during our daily run in the winter. It boggles my mind to think that I did that even at well below 0°F.
    I think if I still lived there, I would be wearing so many layers that the Michelin Man would look skinny.
    Ali

  3. I have never experienced the extremes of cold that you get but Fashion would definitely take a back seat outdoors. Nothing stylish or chic about feeling or looking frozen. Didn't get to comment on earlier post Sue but you must have a good sense of what readers love about your blog. Concur with comments. I first discovered your blog via a comment you had made on another blog ( can't remember which) but it was interesting and I was intrigued by "High heels in the wilderness" One click later… Good luck with the tagline! Iris

    1. Thanks Iris. You don't know how much I appreciate your comment- on my comment(as born,raised and living in Croatia all my life Croatian)
      Dottoressa

  4. Constantly, as I get older. We had a couple of very severe winters a few years ago, with very heavy snow which meant that the moor road I drove to school was closed. So I would get a very early train in thick fake fur coat, woolly hat, mittens, running leggings over my tights and then add my heavy walking boots or even a pair of wellies. How some people at school laughed when they saw me. How warm and safe I was as I trudged along. Even then, some women were trying to wear stilettos and ordinary coats, men their normal lace-ups and a short jacket. In minus 3 degrees, snow, ice.

    1. Warm and safe is so much nicer. I laughed at one Twitter comment when woman said the only downside of wearing her snow pants on the bus was the day she forgot her "pants pants at home."

  5. Long johns, furry boots, my old Kangol hat and an umbrella are always part of my winter travel wardrobe. Used all of them on a recent trip. Hard to get through the day if you're freezing to death or soaking wet. I've also lived in Minneapolis and spent winters visiting family in the NE Kingdom of Vermont where -30F can take your mind off looking pretty and focus it quite clearly on survival. I just don't think hypothermia or frostbite is all that fashionable. After all, it would be a bit difficult to squeeze into pretty little high heels if you are missing some toes.

  6. That made me smile to see that people were worried about snowpants. My favourite piece of clothing for Ottawa in the winter. Without a car, snowpants are a must! I love mine!

    1. All through my early twenties I had no car, and no suitable winter wear, just leather boots and lovely cloth coats that looked good and were cold as heck. So glad that Hubby set me straight.

  7. Hi Sue,
    Fashionable wear goes out the window when it’s cold and rainy. Whatever keeps you warm & comfortable.
    Good planning on your part to be prepared for weather when you travel. I’ll remember those tips. Poor planning on my part by leaving my winter gear in BC, thinking I would be returning this winter. I’ll be scrounging for warm mitts, long john for Winterlude.
    Love the first pic in your full snow gear…now those pants are cool.
    Wearing Roots cabin socks with your Birks as shown in the Ottawa Citizen photo …. so Canadian & comfortable. Truthfully, how many of us have been tempted?! Ha!
    Robin

    Sent from my iPad

    1. Those Columbia ski pants which Hubby bought me for Christmas about ten years ago are brilliant. They are lined with that silvery stuff which holds the heat in and they're slightly stretchy so they never looks baggy and saggy like my old ski pants. Enjoy Winterlude… and bundle up!

  8. Last year I traveled to Iceland for a week of sightseeing. Our guide said, "There is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing." My family and I came prepared and were glad we did – otherwise we would have missed out on so much! I brought along the Arcteryx Gamma pant – insulated and waterproof with stretch. They made me feel fabulous – warm and stylish. I found them to be perfect for almost any outdoor activity – from sightseeing to skiing. However if I lived in Ottawa, I'd stick with snow pants!
    I'm headed to the Middle East next month and I was trying to pack to look stylish while adhering to the cultural norms. Your thoughts and the comments have me now thinking more practically about the situation.

    1. I've learned that style matters less while travelling, than comfort and appropriateness. I think it's so much easier to layer to be warm then to do the opposite in extreme heat. Have a good trip to the middle east.

    1. Ha. We had that debate when I was still teaching. Very thin, very tight yoga pants at school can seem quite inappropriate, even though one is ostensibly "covered."

  9. I bundle up in lots of old, worn out, stained clothes to work in my garden in cold, muddy weather. But I would never wear gardening clothes, snow pants or yoga pants in public. This is not to say that I care if others do, or that anyone else would notice or comment if I did. In this metro area, you would have to walk down the street naked before anyone might be upset about your attire. Or lack of.

    1. I think I'd wear my ski pants over my good clothes if I had any distance to walk to work here in the winter. But I save them for the walking, hiking, ski trails otherwise.

    2. Yes, snow pants would be good for wilderness activities. But for wintery city life, high boots and a long down coat seem so much more chic, and practical. One would need to spend time changing out of snow pants – and then what do you do with them? Where/how do you dry them to avoid putting on soggy pants at the end of the work day? I just don’t understand this trend as city fashion.

    3. Definitely high boots and a down coat would look better, but I don't think it's supposed to be about fashion at all. And I suspect the pants that many people are wearing on the buses here in Ottawa, are of the waterproof kind, like my Gortex pants. After a storm when the roads have been plowed but the banks not cleared stepping off a bus is liable to have you stepping into slush and salt and dirty snow.
      I do think wearing waterproof boots and a skirt with a warm coat would be best, though. When I worked in pharmaceutical sales one winter, and had to trudge across mucky, slushy parking lots outside of medical buildings hauling my samples case, I wore skirts all winter. So much easier to hike one's coat with my free hand to keep it above the snow bank, wade through in my boots, then wipe the slush and salt off my boots before resenting myself for my appointment. Gad. I hated winter that year:)

  10. Similar to RueSue on my Florida college campus it is exercise pants and tiny short skirts. I have to say that I do have an opinion on the skirts since I hate knowing what color underwear (if any) my students are wearing, but the rest is just silly.

  11. My biggest laughs are for those who don't dress appropriately for the weather….in Winnipeg that is much more important than looking chic. It is fine to wear tights, high boots and a coat if you are able to drive everywhere you need to go in a 'warm' car…BUT if you ever are in need of catching a bus or waiting for a friend to pick you up being warm is paramount. Fashion is out the window…you look far sillier shivering when wearing spring/fall fashion when it is -42C with the wind chill! Snow pants, parkas, mitts, toques and scarves are the most fashionable items owned in cold weather. We walked (what is hoping to be) the world's largest snow maze about 10 days ago and almost everyone was wearing snow pants…the foolish ones were inside the warming shed and not outside enjoying the maze, the sleigh ride and the other sights and sounds of winter like children sliding. Winter is such a beautiful season and I'd hate to miss it by not having appropriate gear to wear when outside. Cheers and stay warm, Alayne in Winnipeg

    1. I totally agree about the tights and boots and the warm car. When I worked in sales, I drove everywhere. And my new car has heated seats and a heated steering wheel. Utter luxury!

  12. Mrs Burpee! It’s been a little while since I’ve had a moment to read and comment on your blog, but I saw you share this one and pinned it in my mind that I just had to read it (and comment)!! Well…back in my youth, I used to make fun of my older sister for always wearing her dorky snow pants. But my sister mostly travelled by bus and walking, and she never cared how dorky she looked she would wear her snow pants, snow jacket, and multiple layers of our old childhood neck warmers, hats, and mitts! I’m sure she was always warm and very content with her choices! I do have a very specific memory while I was in a university, I went back to Ottawa to visit her and go to Winterlude and there I was crawling back to my sister who I had once (or many tines) called dorky desperately asking (begging really) for an extra pair of snow pants… After that day I think I realized, wow, she’s been the smart one all along!!! We had a great day in the freezing cold, barely feeling frozen at all!! Now, flash forward about 6 years or so, I work outside in the winter, in fact I have been working outside every week day for the entirety of January. I have most certainly flushed any idea of looking “chic” or “cool” out the window, and underneath pairs of long underwear, pants with warm thermal layers, rain pants, construction coveralls, thermal shirts, sweaters on top of sweaters, full face balaclavas, hats, and hoods is where you will find me! I do my best to leave nothing exposed except for my eyes – although then my eyelashes and eyebrows freeze!! The next step for me is using those little packs of toe warmers and hand warmers underneath my layers, and finding a ski goggle spray to stop my safety glasses from fogging up so I can cover my eyes too (do you have any recommendations?).

    My last comment on this brilliant post is that this past week I was working with a crew of 3 drillers who had travelled from Ottawa to work with us in London. They had left -40 degree weather to join us in about -25 degree weather; however, come Wednesday, all of a sudden it was +3 degrees and raining!!! They really needed a talking to from your husband, as none of them were “expecting” rain at the end of January, so they were left wearing their sweaters they deemed suitable for -25 degree weather in the pouring rain… I think they are still alive now (not sure how as I was wearing full rain gear and still frozen and miserable!), but maybe have learned their lesson…

    Can you tell this post hit very close to home for me??

    1. Oh, the glamour of adult life as an engineer! Full on rain gear is a must in our winters, even in Ottawa. I shall dispatch Hubby to give those "boys" a talking to. I have no recommendations for defogging goggles, since when I wear my ski goggles, I spend half my time unable to see where I'm going. Not good at my advanced age! Ha.

  13. You know, this reminds me of a funny thing i experienced a few days ago…It had been raining heavily and recently just stopped as i was walking, i got up to this giant puddle blocking the path. Two ladies stood there, just trying to figure out how to get across. They were both very elegantly dressed and of all the footwear they could have worn that day, they were both wearing high heels! All i could think of, was honestly their choice of footwear that day…I jokingly asked if i should be a gentleman and lay my jacket out for them or something, like that old story about chivalry back in the day…They said "How about if you just lay on your back in it, so we can walk across on you!" I laughed and said that would probably be a little TOO gentlemanly for me…! They teased me and said "Oh, noooo…You wouldn´t want us to ruin our high heels, would you?! That would be terrible!", pretending terrified while laughing. I thought it was quite funny, cause if the weather had been better or they haven´t been wearing heels in the first place, i probably never would have spoke to them! Amazing how these little things in everyday life makes people speak to each other. I never asked them about why they didn´t choose any other footwear though, haha…;)

    Interesting blog!

    Love, Thom.

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