On this cold day, God bless you, Mr. Stanfield

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.

long johnConsider 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.


Guess what he’s wearing under the fancy pants?

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.


A version of this piece originally aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway” and will appear in the upcoming collection Don’t Everyone Jump at Once, to be published this spring by Blue Ice Books.


About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
This entry was posted in Canada and/or Quebec, Reading? Ugh!, Turn that radio on! and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to On this cold day, God bless you, Mr. Stanfield

  1. letizia says:

    Love the long john song and am sure it will catch on – stay warm!

  2. Had to dig ours out today – it’s -10F (-23.3C) here. I don’t mind the discreet long johns, but damn those Scandinavians for the ear flap hats – Minnesota winter wonderland turns into dorkland at these temps. Usually accompanied by freezing snot….

    • rossmurray1 says:

      -16C here in Southern Quebec with a wind chill of -29. Weird how Canada is perceived as “the north,” whereas a good chunk of the population is south of, well, Northern Minnesota! Stay warm.

  3. I’m pretty sure Stompin’ Tom would take on the song challenge. Send it to him forthwith.
    And woollen longjohns would go a long way toward explaining Dear Leader’s disposition…in the winter, at least. Maybe he wears them year round? Under his sweater?
    Stay warm!

  4. Amanda Fox says:

    I have on my long johns as we speak. My dad does wear his all year round. But then, he’s weird that way. He also wears rubber boots everywhere he goes, and I do mean everywhere.

  5. It occurs to me that probably Saskatchewanians have something to do with Long Johns not being the official Canadian garment.

  6. daterofboys says:

    Long John personification – genius 🙂

  7. Ziggy Smallz says:

    I was pretty positive that curling was a national sport. I mean, there was even a Leslie Nielsen movie about it!

    • rossmurray1 says:

      If we were to use Leslie Nielsen as our yardstick, our national anthem would be the theme from “Mr. Magoo.”

      (Moment of silence for Leslie Nielsen.)

      Leslie Nielsen fun fact: his brother was a prominent Member of Parliament (which is not, by the way, an oxymoron).

  8. peachyteachy says:

    I suggest KC and the Sunshine Band’s song that can be sung with any other song: “Boogie Shoes.” You will have to sing the “long” seven times each time they come around. I wrote a time-waster of a post around this concept several months back, but can’t bring it up to share right now. Which is the universe saying not to go there. It was about “Boogie Shoes,” not long johns. Long johns, to me, are a variation on the doughnut.

  9. peachyteachy says:

    I nominate Stanfield for currency.

  10. The Hook says:

    This post warms my frozen Canadian heart!

  11. Thank you for sharing to us.this is fantastic.

  12. Long johns are a tradition, a must have. And though you wear them in secret, you can still get a pair that are stylish. I think that every Canadian has at least a few in his closet.

  13. Pingback: The Polar Vortex, and other reasons to blame Canada | Drinking Tips for Teens

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