Toronto has long been under the radar for the average American. However, with NBA All-Star Weekend here, the world is finally watching the (41)6.
As a Torontonian, I’ve seen attitudes change about my hometown in the six years I’ve been traveling for work. Toronto has gone from being known as Kardinal Offishall’s “T-Dot” to Drake‘s “6ix” with countless Instagram captions about running through my city with your woes.
For awhile, it was hard to peg what Toronto’s style identity was because so many artists and athletes go south instead of repping and staying home. Toronto had a reputation as the “screwface capital” for years (even Stussy made a collection about it) in which you had to leave and prove yourself in a major market to matter. But then you’d get hate for abandoning Toronto.
The city has come a long way not just stylistically but also culturally, thanks to the explosion of artists like Drake, along with The Weeknd, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Majid Jordan, Justin Bieber, and the rise of Canadian athletes like Andrew Wiggins, Cory Joseph, and the resurgence of the Toronto Raptors. We may not have the sneaker reputation of The Bay, the style history of New York, and we can’t claim the GOAT like Chicago can. However, we’re a city on the come up.
Toronto is very metropolitan. We are a trend-sensitive city. That’s partially because it’s a world city; it’s more diverse than New York with over half of our 2.8 million people being immigrants. There are 140 languages spoken in Toronto along with plenty of neighborhoods that rep their native country but still call Toronto home.
Something that’s really bonded the city is social media, as it allows people from all over the city and suburbs to celebrate the city with other Torontonians and worldwide. Chances are you’re actually already following a style influencer from Toronto–the city has one of the largest social media user counts per capita. Young photographers like Visionelie and Jayscale have set the standard of clean, visually arresting images while working with high-end department stores like Holt Renfrew to sneaker mainstays Livestock. Their clean, highly saturated photos really reflect the color palette that dominates the city.
Neutrals are all over Instagram and the streets of Toronto as well. Heather grey is a Toronto staple, partly in thanks to the amazing quality of Canadian fleece. Brands like Reigning Champ and Wings and Horns take the cozy look to an elevated level while Nike Tech Fleece and OVO hoodies are accepted on nights out in the city.
For awhile, it was all about the olive army jacket in Toronto, for men and women. As the weather and trends have changed, it’s now onto the bomber jacket in various lengths. Olive is still the preferred shade, but blush pink, tan, and navy are also hot in the streets.
Layering is key in the city (word to DJ Khaled), but doing it in a way that isn’t bulky is necessary. Classic clean style has always been a Canadian signature thanks to hometown brands like Club Monaco (now owned by Ralph Lauren) as well as upstarts like Muttonhead, who do all their manufacturing in Toronto. Iconic heritage brands are big too; the Roots beaver and the three stripes of Hudson’s Bay Company, are sported on overcoats and sweatsuits alike.
Being Canadian is finally cool, and thankfully, very cozy.
[RELATED: The City: Universal Sneaker Culture]
The biggest sneaker moment in recent Toronto history was the launch of the Nike Sportswear “6ix” sneaker. Featuring both Toronto touches (the CN tower, the mostly black chic upper) and Canadian influences like the Northern Lights insoles and red and white maple leaf, Toronto finally made it as a Nike city. For years, other major centers like New York, Paris, Milan, and Tokyo had their own versions of classic silhouettes. Now, Toronto finally has an Air Max.
Much like other major cities, the minimal sneaker is trending on the streets of Toronto. Right now, adidas is doing well with the Stan Smiths and Superstars as expected and the Yeezys always get looks. Bringing out the early Jordans are also a good move when you’re visiting Toronto, as the Jordan I high-tops and the black and white Cement IIIs are a staple among Toronto’s stylish. When it comes to boots, it’s hard to go wrong with Timberlands. The six-inch wheats are a staple for all Torontonians as they hold up to the slush, snow, and ice.
This All-Star, basketball fans, tourists, and sneaker buyers alike are coming to Toronto to want to know what’s cool and Canadian so they can be affiliated with the growing creative movement and the energy that Toronto is generating. There’s no more comparing the city to New York or Chicago–Torontonians are really celebrating what’s unique about the 6ix.
What a time to be alive–and be from Toronto.
image via Michael Gil/Flickr Creative Commons