timberland mens a look at boots around the circumpolar world

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Iglulingmiut seamstress Leah Okadluk made these men’s kamiit in 1987, complete with an intricate fur inlay of two polar bears gazing at each other. (PHOTO BY SARAH ROGERS)

TORONTO There an Inuit saying that goes something like man is what his wife makes him. a walk through the newest exhibition at Toronto Bata Shoe Museum could easily convince you that hunters in the circumpolar world are among the most sophisticated and best dressed, thanks to the skilled Inuit, Saami and Chukchi seamstresses they partner with.

Art Innovation: Traditional Arctic Footwear, features a range of circumpolar attires boots, parkas and tools that illustrate both the beauty and the science in dressing for an Arctic climate.

The exhibit takes visitors though the thigh high, colourfully decorated kamiit of Greenland or their S equivalent, to the monochrome fur designs crafted by Canadian Inuit.

It not all good looks, notes the museum senior curator Elizabeth Semmelhack: Inuit footwear is incredibly innovative.

Take the design of the kamik in what we now know as Nunavut Inuit women developed tailoring techniques that distribute heat to the entire body.

For the coldest months of the year, inner and outer boots were layered to make the most use of the skins. Semmelhack points to the liners of one pair, which are made of baby seal and caribou. These were worn underneath inserts made of furred seal, with sealskin boots over top.

The design helped funnel hot air up around the legs and torso, which eventually came out from the parka hood to keep the hunter face warm.

layering in this manner, the feet really generate a lot of heat, she said. labour that goes into these is incredible. design doesn end there. Adorning one pair of men kamiik are two sets of two polar bears gazing at each other,
timberland mens a look at boots around the circumpolar world
crafted by Iglulingmiut seamstress Leah Okadluk, originally from Arctic Bay, in 1987.

While it might look like the white bears have been dyed that way, this is an impressive example of fur inlay, a technique used by Inuit seamstresses to create patterns on clothing and footwear by using different pieces of fur, pieced in different directions.

From 1970s until the 1990s, University of Manitoba researchers Jill Oakes and Rick Riewe did fieldwork to document traditional boot making in the circumpolar world, including western Canada Arctic, western Greenland, coastal Alaska, eastern and western Siberia and S returned with the riches of the North: sealskin, caribou and reindeer fur, delicate beading and the bone based tools used to make clothing.

one hunter in Arviat explained, his skin clothing was more important than his skidoo or gun, the researchers recalled. research focuses on facilitating the sharing of northern peoples stories that their clothing tell and documenting diversity throughout the circumpolar region. are some of the other pieces featured in the museum collection. Photos are all courtesy of the Bata Shoe Collection.
timberland mens a look at boots around the circumpolar world