Farmers and Other Outdoorsmen

Men and a woman filling their pail with water at a spring on their camp Dawson Yukon

Men and a woman filling their pails with water at a spring on their camp in Dawson, Yukon 1900, Photo © CMC

The majority of people in Canada worked hard on the land, or laboured in factories and as domestics. As such, their clothing had to be both practical and protective. Clothing worn by working men such as farmers, lumberjacks and fishermen was comfortable and sturdy, while also providing protection from the extreme Canadian cold and rain and remaining breathable in the summer heat.

Men’s clothing in rural areas was often knitted or sewn at home by the skilled women of the family, using durable homespun yarns or handwoven fabrics. Especially during hard times, even modest scraps were reused, and the most threadbare garments were often repaired until they became little more than a collection of patches. For example, a pair of combinations or long underwear, made in Newfoundland, was created with an old sweater attached to the top.

Photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Hawn, weavers, standing in front of their house in Newington, Ontario

Photograph of Mr. and Mrs. Hawn, weavers, standing in front of their house in Newington, Ontario Aug. 1918, Photo © CMC

Shawls were valuable garments worn by working men. They were very long, and could easily be wrapped around the body while walking or riding. One from the McMaster family of Dunvegan, Glengarry County, Ontario, has an intricate red, black and white tweed-like weave, demonstrating the fine craftsmanship that went into hardworking clothing.

For those living in rural communities, more formal dress was required for church or other community occasions. In 1898, Madame Jovite Limoges of Pointe-Calumet (Deux-Montagnes), Quebec, and her niece, Hélène Limoges, made a three-piece suit out of homespun purebred Leicester sheep’s wool that came from the family farm. Madame Limoges wove the rich brown, red and yellow dyed wool cloth, and Hélène did the sewing. Monsieur Jovite Limoges proudly wore this suit for special occasions.