Chooks. They started with the French voyageurs who explored the UP as early as the 1600’s. This hardy lot of men wore hats called “touques” (pronounced “tew-ks”). Over the years, Canadians and Yoopers have tweaked both the style and the pronunciation of the touque and made it their own.
A majority of Yoopers grew up with our chooks and never called them anything else.
I’m a seamstress. I love sewing. But hats? Never crossed my mind. Then…
In 2009 two of my brothers asked me, in the same week, to make them a practical and warm hat to help them cope with snow blowing. They dreaded the chore and felt I could help out. What’s a sister to do, eh?
So I got to thinking—always a dangerous endeavor—and that got me to drawing and sewing. Within a week, I had made 15 different hats…yet found myself always going back to the very first prototype from the very first attempt.
In true Yooper fashion, I kept saying to myself, ‘It can’t be that simple’. I kept trying to improve it. Surely this hat has to be somewhere in the world…so why haven’t I ever seen one? Could it really be that simple?
The answer was Yes.
And so, the Yooper Chook was born.
Friends wanted theirs immediately. Relatives quickly picked out their choices and, soon, I was making over 300 and labeling them with a huge front label that pronounced YOOPER CHOOK! Stretching 7 inches across the forehead, they were bold, like the people that wore them. To this day, those first Yooper Chooks are still proudly worn.
From there, I sold them at ice festivals, Christmas bazaars, out of my van, at the Trenary Outhouse Run, sled dog races and even during the summer. The stores in the Upper Peninsula readily saw the promise of the Yooper Chooks and my inventory grew steadily.
A few thousand later, I figured we were on to something and, like the good Yoopers we are, it was time to share them with everyone. The label has changed and of course the patterns, but it’s the same hat from the start and still as unique and warm as the people who wear them.
Here’s to many good years of safekeeping, reliable warmth and protection from your Yooper Chook.
Feel free to share your Yooper Chook photos with us for the website’s Chook Lover Gallery. We love seeing them in action. Everybody does! Send us your photos of the Yooper Chooks in use and let us know when it saves your face. Contact us with your submission for consideration.