Nipigon is now home to our much loved Nipigon Nylons
by Brian G. Spare
It’s not certain when the name Nipigon Nylons was coined to describe those thick woolly grey and white work socks. What is known is that they have been around for generations. The socks were associated with the people who forested and mined the rugged lands north of Lake Superior known as the Nipigon. Naturally, Nipigon, ON became their namesake. These heavy socks not only provided insulation from the harsh cold of winter, they gave protection from the rough gum boots they wore called Gull Bay Oxfords. The socks were dubbed nylons over a century ago when women, living in poorly insulated houses, wore them over their nylons or even right over their shoes.
They found many uses.
Over the years, Nipigon Nylons have become a mainstay. They found many uses. For those of us who left the land of the Nipigon, these socks kept them close to their roots by giving them a sense of nostalgia and home. “I wear them when I miss home.” “I have a pair my Mom sent me.” ‘I wear them when I visit Thunder Bay.” “I remember my grandmother saying, Get them Nipigon Nylons.”
Nipigon Nylons have medicinal purposes too. “My parents rubbed Vick’s on my feet when I was sick and put them in Nipigon Nylons.” “Mom heated Nipigon Nylons in the oven when I had an ear ache, and it helped.”
Rugged as they are, Nipigon Nylons do wear out. When they can’t be mended anymore, they make great liners for leather mitts.
Nipigon Nylons have been a staple in families for years. “I wear them every day.”I wear them all year. “I wear mine when I go cross country skiing.” “I wear them instead of slippers. They’re cozy and they keep my legs warm.”
Now it’s official.
Nipigon, ON had been the namesake for Nipigon Nylons for over a century until 2008 when three women entrepreneurs from Skandia House B & B in Nipigon obtained the Industry Canada trademark for Nipigon Nylons for $500. Now it’s official. Nipigon, ON is the home of our much loved Nipigon Nylons. These socks have many manufacturers, and are worn the world over, but their home is where it should be in Nipigon.
So, are you wearing your Nylons? You can always do with another pair. Christmas is coming and maybe there will be a pair of Nipigon Nylons for you under the tree. Maybe even a pair hand knitted specially for you. No doubt, Santa will be sporting his. And when the Jolly Old Elf finds the stockings hung by the chimney with care they’ll be … you guessed it. Nipigon Nylons, those humble and beloved, thick and woolly work socks that warm our toes as well as our hearts.
Thank you to Skandia House and Thunder Bay Historical Museum for their assistance with this article.
Brian G. Spare is a local author and freelance copywriter who is a regular contributor to Bayview Magazine. Contact him at https://BrianGSpare.com
*Previously published in Bayview Magazine*