'Hate-wear' and 'sadwear': fashion's new names for lockdown dressing

NYT and Esquire coin terms for the ways people are expressing frustration through clothes

With online sales booming but retail in sharp decline, the pandemic has changed shopping for ever. Practical, comfortable items suitable for a lifestyle of working from home and occasional trips outside – such as Ugg boots, Crocs and trousers with elasticated waistbands – have seen rising sales.

But with many of us grappling with our emotions during lockdown, the way we feel and speak about our clothes has altered too.

Last week, two new words were coined to describe our new attitude to fashion; portmanteaus that articulate the stresses and mundanity of lockdown, but also the changing relationship we have with our clothes.

The New York Times’s “hate-wear” refers to clothes that are “neither stylish nor particularly comfortable, yet constantly in rotation”, items worn for their utility rather than their style.

“Not knowing how to dress is the least of anyone’s problems,” says the NYT writer Reyhan Harmanci, “but we still do (mostly) have to put on clothes. For those of us who now work from home, that has resulted in some weird choices.”

Matt Hancock wearing a zip-up top at a vaccination centre
Is Matt Hancock’s zip-up top ‘a symbol of stress and sadness’? Photograph: Dominic Lipisnki/EPA

Examples in the article include a sweater with holes in, jogging bottoms in the wrong size and a jumper worn so regularly it “suddenly became a symbol of stress and sadness”. You could argue that Nancy Pelosi wearing the exact same dress for Trump’s second impeachment vote or Matt Hancock’s zipped, gilet-like top, worn during visits to Covid vaccination centres, were sartorial symbols of “stress and sadness”.

Esquire, meanwhile, came up with the term “sadwear”, “our collective term for clothes that make us feel better when we’re sad, specifically born out of the existential ennui of lockdown”, according to Charlie Teasdale, the magazine’s style director.

The list of “comfort-blanket” clothing included pyjamas, hoodies and, of course, jogging bottoms (ideally with a matching hoodie). But it could, equally, encompass something unexpected or luxurious, depending on how it makes the wearer feel.

Celebrities mirrored this trend, with Harry Styles being photographed in a dressing gown (Marks & Spencer reported a fivefold increase in nightwear sales over the pandemic period), Justin Bieber in an ill-fitting sweatshirt and Jared Leto in a beanie. “It might be a stupid hat or novelty jumper or even a pair of joggers that feel great, but are laughably unflattering,” said Teasdale.

According to Teasdale, these words are part of a new lexicon, articulating the “various sartorial sticking plasters people can employ to alleviate the gloom.” He concedes, though, that sadwear “could never really compete with succour of a night at the pub”.


Priya Elan

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Boohoo booms as Leicester garment factories are linked to lockdown
Exclusive: Fashion brand profits from ‘stay home’ clothing supplied at speed from city now experiencing Covid-19 surge

Archie Bland and Annie Kelly

04, Jul, 2020 @7:00 AM

Article image
Sweatpants out? Savile Row tailors predict end of the lockdown look
Suit makers say there will be a ‘desire to dress up’ after latest Covid lockdown in England

Priya Elan

25, Nov, 2020 @11:43 AM

Article image
Waistcoat sales up as Gareth Southgate sets trend at World Cup
England manager said to have sparked an increase in sales of formal wear

Martin Belam

01, Jul, 2018 @12:46 PM

Article image
Music videos replace runways as Covid halts fashion shows
Pop promo looks from BTS, Beyonce and others are driving designer sales through increased screen time

Priya Elan

08, Nov, 2020 @2:44 PM

Article image
High street stalwarts turn their backs on 'must have' fashion
Style rather than slavishness are in John Lewis and Marks & Spencers’ minds

Hannah Marriott

13, Jul, 2018 @3:54 PM

Article image
Clothing and make-up sales surge as Britons scrub up after lockdown
Consumers start to srtyle up and splash out as handbags, high heels and makeup fly off the shelves, retailers report

Zoe Wood and Sarah Butler

24, Apr, 2021 @7:00 AM

Article image
M&S's sorbet coat and an on-trend kilt – perfect outfit for last-chance saloon
After years of falling clothes sales, new collection is make or break for M&S boss Marc Bolland

Jess Cartner-Morley and Sarah Butler

14, May, 2013 @7:20 PM

Article image
M&S's autumn womenswear line to be first under new management

M&S chief executive Marc Bolland under pressure from shareholders to show improvement in clothing sales this autumn

Sarah Butler

24, Jul, 2013 @7:33 PM

Article image
Burberry launches £90 coronavirus face mask
Designer face covering is available in brand’s signature beige check as well as pale blue

Hannah Marriott

20, Aug, 2020 @2:51 PM

Article image
Paul Smith design showcase is 'absolutely not a retrospective'
Second Design Museum homage to veteran British designer focuses not on trademark designs but all aspects of the business

Jess Cartner-Morley

14, Nov, 2013 @5:02 PM