Canadian Beachwear Faux Pas: Fashion Crimes You Need to Avoid
There’s a chill in the air, and that means millions of Canadians are leafing through CAA “Sunny Destinations” brochures and checking out Travelocity for deals in Cuba. But before you go, I want to share this cautionary tale.
How do you spot a Canadian on a crowded Caribbean beach? The Maple Leaf umbrella hat, socks and sandals might be a tipoff
A few years ago my wife and I spent a pleasant week at an all-inclusive resort in the Dominican Republic. You know, one of those places that snaps a bright-red wristband on you as soon as you check in at the front desk, where between the guards at the gate and the bracelet you feel like you’re either in a luxury prison or a celebrity detox centre.
But the sun shone every day in an astonishingly blue sky, and the full moon cast long shadows as we walked along the palm-fringed beach in the soft evenings. And the ocean, displaying 600 shades of blue, was warm and gentle. Paddling in the surf was like swimming in liquid glass.
However, over the all-too-short week we spent at the resort, I became increasingly fascinated and appalled by a largely ignored national crisis — the Canadian penchant for breathtaking resort- wear faux pas.
While it is true that my sample was somewhat limited, I am prepared to state that Canadians, in general, are the worst-dressed resort goers in the world. Over seven days, after walking more than 16 kilometres of well-populated beach, and encountering thousands of tourists from around the world, I became increasingly distressed by my countrymen’s — and women’s — bad taste.
First of all, what’s with the Maple Leaf? It’s everywhere, and it’s not just because our resort area was full of Canucks. On the contrary, 90 per cent of the holiday makers were from Europe — Italy, Spain, France, even Poland. But did I see a baseball cap emblazoned with the tri-colour? Or a guy with a Union Jack tote bag? Nope.
Maple Leafs abounded in every conceivable (and inconceivable) size and application: tattoos, T-shirts, hats, backpacks. For sheer ubiquitousness, the Maple Leaf seems to have supplanted the Stars and Stripes (though Yanks aren’t particularly keen on places where folks don’t speak American or where they can’t get the latest episode of The Walking Dead).
But it’s not just the quantity of Canadian insignias, it’s their embarrassing sartorial display that is particularly alarming.
In seven days, I saw exactly one person wearing an umbrella on his head. The umbrella was made up of red and white panels with red maple leaves on each white triangle. While swimming, I saw only a single bather in the water with his hat on. The cap just happened to bear the Toronto Maple Leafs logo. How many of the thousands of people leisurely walking the spectacular beach wore socks with their sandals? One, and he also wore a white T-shirt with “CANADA” inscribed across the chest in bright red letters.
Or how about the guy who showed up on the beach with a backpack big enough to hold everything you need for a year-long hike in the Rockies and wearing a bright red document case around his neck. Did I mention that the neck bag had a huge white maple leaf on it?
And what about the young man at the Punta Cana airport waiting to board a return flight to Winnipeg who was carrying a winter parka with a fur-lined hood? (OK, he was going to Winnipeg, poor guy, but a parka?) And then there was the guy walking around the waiting area wearing a sleeveless “Canada Kicks Butt” T-shirt and a Calgary Flames baseball hat on backwards. All right, lots of people do that, unfortunately, but his hair was in a mullet and he wore his sunglasses on backwards as well. From behind, he looked very much like a Sasquatch on vacation.
When I noted these faux pas to my wife, over and over again, she, being far more tolerant and practical, had another perspective. At least, she observed, Canadian women weren’t tottering into the dining room on ridiculously high-heeled shoes, risking a nasty sprain. Or lying topless for hours in the broiling sun until their breasts looked like traffic cones. And the guy wearing the socks? Bet his ankles, she said, looking at the top of my blistered, swollen feet, didn’t swell up like watermelons. And while she agreed the Winnipegger looked ridiculous with his bulky parka, as she pointed out, he wouldn’t look as silly when he arrives as the Americans flying into icy Minneapolis in their shorts, sandals and Hawaiian shirts.
OK, maybe she’s got a point. We may not be the hippest resort dressers, but we may be the most practical. The guy in the umbrella hat? He didn’t return to Halifax with his pate scorched fluorescent pink and a mild case of sunstroke. Nor did the Maple Leafs fan wearing his cap in the waves. Maybe I was simply seeing the best of Canada played out on Caribbean beaches — practicality over style, comfort over couture.
But could we try to be just a tiny bit cooler? Maybe ditch the Maple Leaf umbrella for a Tilley hat? And please, even if you do live in Winnipeg, leave the parka at home, eh? It’s just a short sprint to the car.