Canadians and Americans have had an antagonistic relationship for ages now (just google Canada vs. America and you’ll see what we mean), but the basis for this beef is largely unfounded and silly. Although both countries are located in the Northeast and have English-speaking inhabitants, Canada’s population of roughly 35.2 million is bite-size compared to the estimated 316 million people living in the United States. That and the differing climates—American winters have nothing on Canada’s—makes pitting the two countries against each other pretty nonsensical.
However, because we’re in such close quarters with our Northern friends, we’re still really curious how their style compares to ours and have found the coverage on that front to be seriously lacking. So, in an effort to remedy this and get some answers, we set out to talk to the people who know Canadian fashion best—the country’s editors, designers, and bloggers—about what we share in style as well as what sets theirs apart.
Scroll down to see what we discovered about Canadian vs. American style!
Although there’s a notable dearth of Canadian street style—especially when compared to that of the U.S. and Europe—the photos we could find show outfits that prioritise comfort and versatility above all else, with the occasional edgy accessory. Solid colours seem to far outweigh patterns, too, while flat sneakers and boots appear to be the norm.
However, Zeina Esmail, the fashion editor at large of Canada’s Fashion magazine, does not believe that being Canadian has really affected her style. “I think your eyes always learn from external sources [that aren’t] specific to the country you live in,” she tells us, although she does have to use her imagination more, “due to limited resources and brand availability.” And because the country’s fashion industry is so small, she says many editors also opt out of buying clothes from local brands in order to avoid constantly wearing the same pieces. Diana Di Poce, the editor in chief of Dare, which caters to the plus-size market, echoes this desire to stand out, noting, “We love unique pieces that are one-of-a-kind and will take every opportunity to express our personality through our outfits.” Of course, you could probably say the same about numerous American style tribes. According to Jillian Vieira, an associate fashion editor at Flare, "If there are any huge differences, they're sparse."
Not all differences between the two countries are that subtle. In browsing for Canadian style blogs, it quickly became clear that there’s a much smaller pool to choose from. Our favourites included the punk-chic Brunette Salad, the übergirly Ania B., and the trendy-with-a-twist Emilie Etc. Emilie Nolan, of the latter site, explained to us that because of such intense winters, Canadians have to get pretty creative for most of the year. “With bone-chilling temperatures, it’s hard to look good,” she conceded, though she’s learned to manage with expert layering, investing in suitable shoes and “finding the perfect balance between a warm and aesthetically pleasing coat.”
Summer style isn’t all that different between the two countries, although Nolan points out that there are more instances of “cottage wear” due to Canadians love of heading up north to Muskoka, which she compares to the Hamptons. So what does that mean, exactly? Living in the perfect bikini and high-waisted shorts, paired with a cardigan for cooler nights. Vieira concurred, comparing the laid-back, outdoorsy vibe of the area to that of California. And as Di Poce acknowledged, Canadians have good reason to strip down to the bare minimum whenever possible: their much shorter summers.
And, when it comes to shopping, Poce notes that Canadians “want to hear the story behind the brand, boutique, and designer—they want to know exactly what they’re buying and who they’re buying it from.” Luckily, they have some wonderful homegrown talent to choose from. The high-fashion favourite Erdem is expertly crafted by Erdem Moralio?lu, who was born in Montreal and received a B.A. in fashion design from Toronto’s Ryerson University. Though he's since moved the brand's headquarters to London, there's no denying his Canadian roots.
Mackage, who we turn to for some of the greatest outerwear in the game, is also designed by Canadians. Eran Elfassy, who is co–creative director of the line with Elisa Dahan, tells us that as Canadian designers, “functionality is of utmost importance.” So how does that play out in their brand? “We want [our jackets] to be closet staples that you’ll rely on and wear for a long time." Considering the aforementioned street style trends, this is not surprising. As for how their Canadian and American customers compare, the duo has noticed one major difference: Canadians rarely opt for the shorter winter coats that we Americans often prefer—it’s simply not practical.
A more recent Canadian discovery is Markoo, a minimalist brand perfect for the girl who finds herself frequently perusing Need Supply and La Garçonne. Mona Koochek, one half of the design team with Tania Martins, joked to us that, as designers from Canada, “fall/winter” is their favourite season. As for any customer differences between the countries, Koochek notes that Americans “seem to take more risks with new designers, [while] Canadians tend to stick to the bigger, more commercial names.” So, although they love being surrounded by a support system in Toronto, she acknowledges that it’s a very small market: “Establishing yourself outside of the country is pretty crucial.”
Scroll down to shop some of our favourite pieces by Canadian designers!