‘The dry clean-only sweatshirt, like the artisan bacon roll, is the new version of a once-common object scrubbed up to become a lifestyle statement’
Today I am wearing a posh sweatshirt. It is expensive and has sequins on it. So, like I said, posh. The posh sweatshirt is a category that didn’t exist five years ago. The dry clean-only sweatshirt, like the artisan bacon roll, is the new version of a once-common object scrubbed up to become a lifestyle statement.
I could spin two stories about how the posh sweatshirt came to be. The first is the more classy: the posh sweatshirt is the next logical development in fashion’s makeover of utilitarian sportswear. Tracksuit bottoms, which for years were the definition of anti-fashion, became A Thing. They appeared on catwalk models wearing extraordinary make-up and very high heels, which made people look at them differently and wear them differently. It is now acceptable to wear posh tracksuit bottoms as smart daywear. And fashion, flushed with success in transforming the tracksuit bottom, has moved on to the top half.
There is another, rather less high fashion-minded interpretation, however. If you’ve come across any teenagers recently, you may have noticed that the humble sweatshirt isn’t that humble any more. The glam-yoof brands of Jack Wills and A&F put a hefty price tag (as well as a massive advertising slogan – seems a bit cheeky to me, that, but there you go) on their bestselling sweatshirts. But are those of us who roll our eyes at astronomically priced teen sweatshirts as immune from influence as we like to think? Could it be that the grown-up posh sweatshirt – which started out as reissued retro grey marl at Gap and has evolved into sequined, leopardprint and even fake fur – is about us grown-ups secretly wanting to get down with the kids?
To be on the safe side, I suggest we stay away from hoodies. What you’re wearing is still a sweatshirt, rather than a crew-neck sweater, even if it is in a fleece-lined cotton material, or has a raglan sleeve (so that seams run diagonally upwards and inwards, from underarms to collarbone) – or both. The non-hooded sweatshirt is less brash, more streamlined. Just don’t assume it is more grown-up.
Photograph: David Newby for the Guardian. Hair and make-up: Celia Burton at Mandy Coakley.