Posted by: Feet Banks
It’s autumn in Whistler and as the snows of another great ski season slowly creep towards the valley our fashion sense begins to shift: goodbye sandals and cut-offs, hello toques and Gore-Tex. All across Whistler this month closets are being shuffled and storage bins unearthed as the locals prepare for another season of battling the autumn storms, then reveling in winter’s perfection. And the number one go-to piece of Whistler clothing this time of year has to be the hooded sweatshirt, aka the “hoodie.”
“The hoodie is the unofficial ‘Official Garment of Whistler’,” says Molly Andrew, a lifelong local and floor manager at Whistler's TNA/Aritzia. “It’s an essential piece of Whistler fashion because the weather changes constantly up here. It can be glorious one minute and raining the next. A hoodie allows you to protect your hair and face and it adds extra warmth. It’s about being prepared.”
Unlike more technical outdoor-oriented gear, the standard-issue Whistler hoodie is made of cotton and most locals prefer the variety with a zipper running up the front. “Personally I don’t like to pull a sweater over my head so a zipper is more functional,” Molly points out. “Plus if the weather warms up you can just unzip and feel less bundled up, you have a lot more versatility.”
Of course, while Whistler may represent the pinnacle of hoodie popularity the garment is not as accepted in other parts of the world. Australians will often consider the “kangaroo jumper” a garment more suited for children and in the United Kingdom hoodie-wearers are commonly known as “townies” or “chavs” and often associated with the criminal element. Ironic, since the UK is essentially where the hoodie originated.
The style and form of the hoodie can been traced to medieval Europe and the hood, or cowl, commonly attached to monks' robes or tunics. Many outdoorsy types of the era would also don a chaperon or hooded cape, for a day of fox hunting or a horse-ride through the countryside. Medieval knights of the era would wear hooded chainmail shirts under their armour in order to protect their necks and throats from an opponent’s blade. It may be a stretch but this means the Knights of the Round Table were essentially the first sponsored pro’s to rock a team hoodie.
The cotton sweatshirt-style hoodie of today was first produced in the 1930s as a means to keep labourers warm but the popularity of the garment didn’t escalate until the late 1970s when urban and hip hop culture began to appreciate the anonymity of being able to hide under a hood. Boxing and other sports jumped into the mix and high fashion was not far behind. These days the hoodie is a staple of both counterculture and outdoor lifestyles and, in Canada at least, Whistler is ground zero.
The best hoodies in the country even have their roots here. Sitka, Canada’s premier surf and coast lifestyle brand, was co-founded by a born-and-raised Whistler kid and Sitka hoodies are designed with west coast weather in mind. “Our company is based in the Pacific Northwest so we’re designing for the elements we’re accustomed to,” says John Hillifer, senior menswear designer for Sitka. “We’re also working to move all clothing production back to Canada. Our classic Hoodie styles are already made here (in Vancouver).”
And there’s no better time to shop for a new hoodie than right now. Locally made Sitka hoodies can be found in Whistler at Evolution, The Beach and the Sk8 Cave and almost every decent clothing shop in the Village will have numerous options of their own.
“For us, burgundy hoodies are really big right now,” Molly says, “and a lot of dark greens and camos. People are arriving for the upcoming ski season and starting to realize the hoodie is very popular here. People want to fit in and stay warm. A hoodie and a toque and you’re Whistler-ready.”
There is always a lot of great shopping to be had in Whistler but the biggest sale of the year is the annual Turkey Sale held October 11-14, 2013. From snowboards to ski boots to kids gear and even hoodies, the sales are everywhere and the deals are great. Pull up those hoods and get up here.