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A Santa suit is a costume worn by a person portraying Santa Claus. The modern American version of the suit can be attributed to the work of Thomas Nast for Harper's Weekly magazine, although it is often incorrectly thought that Haddon Sundblom designed the suit in his advertising work for the Coca-Cola Company. Sundblom's work did standardize the western image of Santa, and popularized the image of the red suit with white fur trim. This has become the image of the American Santa, while in some European countries where Saint Nicholas remains popular, the outfit worn is closer to religious clothing, including a Bishop's mitre.
The first appearance of a modern Santa Claus, complete with what we consider to be the Santa suit was in drawings by Thomas Nast. Nast's original drawings were of a small Santa who could slide down chimneys, but his later works made him full size. He was also the first to draw Santa wearing a red suit with fur lining, a nightcap, and a black belt with a large buckle.
Prior to Nast's work, Santa's outfit was tan in color, and it was he that changed it to red, although he also drew Santa in a green suit. This change is often mistakenly attributed to the work of Haddon Sundblom, who drew images of Santa in advertising for the Coca-Cola Company since 1931. Although Sundblom's work certainly changed the perception of Santa Claus, the red suit was shown on the covers of Harper's Weekly at least forty years before his work for the soda company was published. The Coca-Cola Company itself has attributed the red color of the suit to Nast's earlier work. Prior to the Coca-Cola advertising, the image of Santa was in a state of flux. He was portrayed in a variety of forms, including both the modern forms and in some cases as a gnome. It was Sundblom's work which standardised the form of Santa to the earlier Nast work, including the red suit outfit.
There are regional differences in the type of suit that Santa Claus wears. Typically in the United States, he wears a white fur trimmed red jacket and pants with a broad buckled belt, a matching hat and black boots. In European countries such as Austria, with Saint Nicholas still remaining popular, the outfit is closer to that of the saint, being a long robe and a Bishop's mitre.
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- Barker, Stan (29 November 1991). "The Real Thing: The World's Most Famous Santa Claus". The Pittsburg Press. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
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- Santino, Jack (1995). All around the year: holidays and celebrations in American life. Chicago, IL: University of Illinois Press. p. 195. ISBN 978-0-252-06516-3.
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