Saturday, September 19, 2009

Same As It Ever Was

There seems to be quite a bit of misunderstanding as to what makes a real Cowichan sweater~ it isn't just a keyword that should be thrown around in hopes of hocking your random vintage cardigans. Many zip-up cardigan sweaters that were made using Mary Maxim patterns are spammily being called "Cowichan" which is, in fact, completely wrong and doesn't reflect much intelligence on the seller's behalf. That's like calling an AMC Pacer a Cadillac: just because they're both cars doesn't make them the same kind of car. I'm sure the Cadillac would be piiiissed.

While Mary Maxim and Cowichan sweaters share alot of the same characteristics, their quality and history are vastly different. Authentic Cowichan sweaters have been handmade (ie: no factories, no mass-produced corporate lines--And don't even get me STARTED on all the repros out there being made by the Eddie Bauers and L.L. Beans of the world and being called "vintage style Cowichan") for almost a century by the Coast Salish Indian knitters of southern Vancouver Island by generations of only women using handspun, natural sheep wool. Their techniques and styles haven't changed much over the years, with instructions being passed down to each new generation of girls.

The designs on the sweaters were one-of-a-kind and carried meaning and importance to their culture, revolving around nature and animal themes- as opposed to the much more kitschy and whimsical designs of Mary Maxim sweaters like motorcycles and bowling balls. Don't get me wrong, Mary Maxim sweaters are fantastic, in fact, I collect them myself and am trying to get as many of the designs as possible! But confusing a fun, make-it-yourself fashion craze of the 1950's-70's with a long-standing cultural tradition is just...gross.

I've been very fortunate to get my paws on one recently, and it may sound cheesy with all the drama of a Tori Spelling Lifetime Movie, but I gotta say, it's pretty awe-inspiring to actually have one in my hands. Care to see a real Cowichan sweater? Just listed to Fast Eddie's Retro Rags is this exceptionally rare Vintage 70's AUTHENTIC Cowichan Indian Elk Sweater:


  1. I've got a sweater that might just be one of the ones you're talking about- it has that shawl type collar and square dancin' folk on the back, with musical notes on the front. Thanks for the info, I'll have to learn more about Mary Maxim style sweaters now. Thanks for the info! Always good to learn something new!

  2. Hey there. Great post. I hope you've been having a wonderful weekend. Take care. Cheers!

  3. It drives me crazy to see things mis-labeled or called "vintage-like" or whatever. This doesn't just happen with vintage stuff; it's quite common with semi-precious stones and vintage jewelry.

    Some people mis-label things because they honestly don't know better, and some unscrupulous people do it deliberately in order to make more sales.