Canada has surprisingly few official “things.” It has an official motto, “From Sea to Sea,” and that may be the only official “whatever” that Canadians willingly embrace, except perhaps people in Saskatchewan who’ve never seen a sea. But you know how those Saskatchewanians are.
The rest of our official stuff is generally tied to unofficial acrimony. Take the official animal, for instance, the beaver. Some see it as an industrious, hardy creature. Others see it as a beady-eyed parasite destroying everything in its environment, the Conrad Black of the animal world.
The maple leaf, as well, has been troublesome from the get-go. It still generates grumbling from people who point out that the basis for the design, the sugar maple, doesn’t grow west of Ontario. “Typical,” you can hear those Saskatchewanians say.
And then there’s Canada’s official sport. Actually, we have two. The official winter sport, hockey, and the official summer sport, lacrosse. For whatever reason, lacrosse has been Canada’s unofficial sport since before Confederation, even though these days it’s played only by people who want to draw attention to themselves. (“Look at me, I’m playing lacrosse.”) In 1994 Parliament tried to adopt hockey as Canada’s official sport but ended up adopting a winter and a summer sport because of pressure from the lacrosse lobby. Which raises the question: we have a lacrosse lobby?
Come to think of it, Canada’s official motto shouldn’t be “From Sea to Sea.” It should be “Agree to Disagree.”
But if I may, I think there’s one thing all Canadians can agree on, and I put it forward for adoption. That is, the official Canadian garment: the long john.
Consider the long john. What other piece of clothing has contributed more to the comfort and well-being of Canadians as they forge an existence in these northern climes? Now don’t say the toque. Toques are why Canada has a worldwide reputation for hat head.
The long john, on the other hand, is perfectly true to the Canadian character: discreet, practical, humble and a little bit embarrassing but in an endearing kind of way. It’s a highly democratic undergarment that can be worn by men and women, young and old, fast and loose. It can be worn under any kind of clothing, from casual wear to business attire. I put mine on in November and I don’t take them off until March. Not the same pair, of course… I imagine even Prime Minister Stephen Harper wears long johns. I also imagine them made out of itchy wool, but that’s just me.
Thanks to the long john, the Canadian winter is that much more bearable, offering welcome heat on a frigid day. It’s like a Florida vacation in your pants.
Now lest you think this official underwear pitch is too much of a stretch and just an excuse for me to keep saying “underwear,” I’d like to point out that the long john not only feels Canadian. It is Canadian.
The one-piece union suit had been around since the 1860s, and if you’ve ever negotiated the rear flap on one of those, you know they were designed more for comedy than practicality. Finally, someone had the brilliant idea of dividing the one-piece into two. That person was Frank Stanfield of Stanfield’s Underwear in Truro, Nova Scotia in 1915. Why this man isn’t on a postage stamp is beyond me.
So, it’s time to give long johns their due. I don’t know who you have to talk to officialize something in this country. (If there’s a lacrosse lobby, there’s got to be a long john lobby.) But I think we should all get together to give long johns the exposure they deserve. To that end, I’ve written some lyrics to what I hope will become the “Long John Song.”
Let’s all now praise the long john
Which secretly we slip on
When summer’s heat is long gone
Something for socks to grip on
So snug, so warm, so long john.
Now if someone can just write a melody for those lyrics we can get this campaign
underwear under way.