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THE SEMIOTICS OF SORELS

When another big snow storm hit Toronto mid-afternoon, my girlfriend and I were walking home from Kensington Market.  Intense accumulation had overtaken the sidewalks, narrowing them to one person wide with snow banks and slush pools along the curbs and at the crosswalks.    

We were almost home, when we came across a shoe store around the corner from our place.   Outside, on display stands, were several pairs of winter boots, that were weathering the storm that had by now, scaled into dinosaur extinguishing proportions.  Inside the store, girls and boys were clawing at boxes stacked four high in the arms of sales clerks.  Everyone wanted Sorels.

In Canada, winter boots bring up numerous connotations, evoking memories of childhood and, in the present, an evolving image of sexual and intellectual appeal.  As kids, we were bundled up in snowsuits and trudged ten miles in the snow to school and back, rewarded with hot chocolate upon our return.  Our Sorels, with their warmth assured to -40º, faux fur lining and Inuit aesthetics, gave us comfort and made us feel invincible.  

Today, every other Toronto adult girl and boy is again wearing Sorels to get to and from the office, the art opening, the gig.  And for good reason…  They imply practicality as much as they make a fashion statement.  With my Sorels, I can reclaim the entire breadth of the sidewalk; I can wade almost knee deep into the banks of snow while others have to sequester themselves to the single shoveled strip.  I can go up, around and over other pedestrians.  I arrive to my destination feeling fresh as a husky.  On big snow days, I look forward to going out on long walks, traversing the city’s snowy expanses under canopies of leafless skeletal trees, my cheeks rosy, my breath visible.  Sorels make winter fun again. 

And my girlfriend looks hot in hers.  She says girls are into these boots because they make calves look skinny.  On a busy downtown intersection I examine the footwear of well-dressed girls and notice that yes, totally, clunky winter boots accentuate the slender form of girls’ legs. 



If that’s not smart dressing, what is? And, smart is a trait that we should look for in potential mates…  Smart is the girl who dresses sensibly, choosing to wear what will allow her to be comfortable.  It suggests a women who will take on adventure, go snowshoeing or attend avante-garde cinema, either way, it’s all good. 

 

That afternoon, when my girlfriend and I bought our matching Sorel Caribous, we wore them out of the store.  We neared Clubland, Toronto’s equivalent to NY’s Bridge-and-Tunnel denizens.  A gaggle of girls were on the corner in skirts shorter than sunlight in an Arctic winter and open-toed Christian Louboutins.  They looked ridiculous.  They looked like women who had very short life spans.  Any man who would take them home, could only possibly conceive of it as a one night exclusive engagement.  Why?  Well, it comes down to natural selection: who in their right mind would want a women out of synch with survival instincts mothering future offspring? 

Now, a girl in a puffy parka and a pair of Sorels – you’re onto something there.  Such girls remind me of being in elementary school and pulling girls’ hair to indicate my crush.  It’s nostalgic.  And now, in the present, where I am all grown up, I can imagine myself going to a nice new restaurant, maybe afterward some ice-fishing, and in those cosy little huts, who knows what will develop.  Maybe we’ll even leave the boots on.   

Images courtesy of Justin Ridgeway.