TV & Movies

An Open Letter to the New York Times, re: Canada

The provocative NYT feature attributed Canada's "sudden" coolness to the rise of Justin Trudeau. But, as Courtney Shea points out, Canadians are the original hipsters

New York Time Canada

The New York Times gives all the cred to J.T. and co. (Photo: nytimes.com)

Dear New York Times,

Last weekend you published a now infamous article about how we Canadians are finally, in your estimation, hip. Or rather, we might be “hip?” (Can you at least admit that the question mark was a little condescending?).

The piece, while popular, was mostly discussed in terms of what it got wrong.

Our friends at Maclean’s explained why true coolness evaporates the moment its existence is acknowledged. The smart babes over at Chatelaine offered a crash course in why it’s hip to be unhip. (Is “Smile Back At Me” charting yet?)

And now it’s our turn to pick our very own beef, or perhaps the better expression is pick our very own moose meat. Because while you, NYT, seemed so intent on using certain emblems of Canadian culture against us, here in Canada, we are nothing but proud to be the land of hockey…and poutine…and politeness. (It is our innate politeness that has moved us to pen you a letter, rather than leave a pile of yellow snow on your front doorstep—another classic bit of Canadiana, BTW).

This notion that we should be so pleased to have escaped our previous state of uncoolness was there in your “praise” of our newfound chicness. Now: we have Justin and Sophie in Vogue, a coltish Quebec film director who appears in Louis Vuitton campaigns and a print-happy designer who has dressed Michelle Obama. Then: we were a bunch of hockey-obsessed “beer-swilling hosers,” (your words), who wouldn’t know chic if it kicked us in the jock strap. And that’s where you’re wrong, eh? (Unlike you, we’re allowed to say that.)

The idea that Canadians have become a stylish population by abandoning our hoser roots is patently (never mind demonstrably) ridiculous. What is a “lumbersexual” after all, but a hoser as endorsed by Anna Wintour? You Americans may think that it was Ryan Gosling who pioneered the whole plaid and scruffy look, but in fact, the Goz was simply subscribing to a tried-and-true north national aesthetic—one that hipsters have long been pilfering (maybe even appropriating) without proper credit.

Here, for your edification, are 10 hallmarks of hipster culture that come directly from the hoser you so swiftly derided. We’re pretty sure you owe us an apology, and we accept gifts in the form of fries, cheese curds and gravy. (Because really, NYT, who in their right mind wouldn’t?)

1. Parkas Parkas and puffy coats are all the rage this winter, as seen in Drake’s “Hotline Bling” video…and Drake’s collaboration with Canada Goose. There are also a bunch of other tastemakers who have embraced the chalet-chic solution to staying warm, but with a double thumbs up from Drizzy, do we even need to mention them?

2. Plaid shirts Today plaid button-downs are the official uniform of the celebrity who is totally off duty. But still wants to look cool. And secretly hopes somebody will take their picture. They are basically the giant sunglasses of bodywear, but you don’t have to take them off when you go through airport security.

3. Vests Both the puffy kind and the kind that has your favourite rock band’s logo stitched on the back. The only difference between the hoser version and the hipster version is that the hosers saw Guns and Roses play years ago in Winnipeg. (The hipsters will see them this summer at Coachella.)

4. Trucker hats Nobody said hoser fashion didn’t involve some notable missteps, but if you were young and hip in the aughts, this fashion crime remains on your record regardless of citizenship.

5. Toques The fact that Americans can now pronounce this word shows how successfully Canadian headgear has made its way south of the border. Taylor Swift and her #squad are often pictured wearing woolly hats that would warm any hoser’s heart. And head, for that matter.

6. Jean on jean Or “double denim” as this quintessential and frequently-jeered staple of hoser chic-dom is now being referred on the covers of fashion mags the world over. When the look was uncool, you called it “the Canadian tuxedo.” These days, we don’t even get credit.

7. Extreme facial hair The hoser grows a long beard to protect himself from the harsh climate of his home and native land, while the hipster seems to make most facial growth decisions based on ridiculousness… razorphobia… the desire to turn off his girlfriend and disappoint his mother? We’re still not sure.

8. A love of (nay, an obsession with) low-rent beer Hosers stand by Molson Canadian, hipsters prefer PBR, but really what we’re talking about here is watery, unremarkable beer that has become pretentious in its lack of pretension…which is sort of a larger conversation about hipster culture on the whole, but let’s save that for another day, eh?

9. Miscellaneous antlers Pendants, chandeliers, wall-hangings, tattoos. If you’re going to ink a set of animal parts on your forearm, you should at least know what actual animal they came from.

10. Classic Canadian rock  The fact that Spotify has a “Hoser Rock” playlist pretty much proves this point. For further evidence, pop into any hole-in-the-wall hipster dive bar and watch what happens when “Summer of ’69” comes on at 1:00 a.m. Yeah, yeah, yeah—they’re dancing ironically.

11. Extreme outdoor activity If you’ve been to a hipster stag or b-day bash in recent years there’s a good chance that axe-throwing/ice-fishing/snowshoeing was on the agenda. Hipster culture embraces out-of-the-box activity, and not every man can ride a unicycle.

So there you have it. Maybe next time you’ll remember that, even in Canada, coolness doesn’t just leap from an igloo out of nowhere. And yeah, we know we said 10 reasons and we listed 11. We Canucks always like to give a little extra, which maybe isn’t so hip, but we totally don’t care—and that is.

xoxo,

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