Home / Fashion / This Is the Unofficial Uniform of Winter 2021

This Is the Unofficial Uniform of Winter 2021

The formula: a coordinating leisure set comprised of a sweatshirt and sweatpants or knitwear; a long, menswear-inspired duster coat in navy, black, cream or camel; and minimal sneakers along the lines of gray New Balance 993s or white Nike Court Royales. A dad-worthy baseball hat and expensive bag are recommended but not required. And that’s the unofficial uniform of the fashion conscious in the curious year of 2021.

Ladies on Instagram and TikTok have been sporting the look for months. As the weather turned, influencers in the wild weren’t ready to abandon their sweatpants, but they were down to add a little polish.

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Anine Bing recently launched a new Sport collection filled with key pieces like knit sets and biker shorts with this type of styling in mind—which makes even more sense considering her label is already synonymous with oversized blazers and coats. “I wanted the collection to be very versatile, where you can put a blazer over the sports bra or coat over the sweatsuit,” Bing explains. “I found inspiration from ’90s paparazzi images of Princess Diana. … To me, this type of styling just makes sense. It feels comfortable yet effortless.”

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The trends that truly define an era are derived from what’s happening in the world at that very moment. Powersuits emerged in the ’80s when women were ready to take up literal and figurative space in boardrooms across the country. Calvin Klein’s minimalism defined the sobering recession-era early ’90s after so much of the glitz and glamour that proceeded it. Our current experience of life in a pandemic and widespread social unrest is about dressing for comfort above all else. But we are also still in the social media age, so make it fashion.

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This aesthetic is not entirely novel. Which actually fits perfectly into how the style narrative has been going in recent years. Fashion has never been as cyclical as it is now. Arguably, two of the most looked-to celebrities for clothing inspiration are Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner. Both borrow heavily from classic ’90s and early-2000s fashion hallmarks. Cue: high-cut Levi’s, tiny sunglasses, the aforementioned New Balance, and Carolyn Bessette-inspired coats. So why wouldn’t a look that’s taking off now also be a look that’s vaguely familiar?

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Emily Oberg, founder of the sweat suit-heavy brand Sporty & Rich, whose playful use of logos draw inspiration from such ’80s and ’90s institutions as the New York Health & Racquet Club and the Beverly Hills Hotel, leans into the throwback mentality of it all. “This style is not at all new: women and men have been dressing this way for decades,” she explains. “I think we are now seeing it come back into popularity, but it’s really just a functional and practical way of dressing, which, to me, is the best kind of dressing. It’s casual, easy, and chic, elegant and sporty, all at the same time.”

The trick, of course, is in the styling. “A sweat suit can be seen in so many different ways, and I think it’s our job to elevate it,” Oberg continues. “It’s JKF Jr. on the way to the gym, or Jerry Seinfeld off duty, Princess Diana running errands, or a young Denzel Washington at the airport.”

And it’s Michael Jordan coming off a playoff game. Or your favorite Dutch, French, or American influencer hitting the abandoned streets of Copenhagen, Paris, or New York for a street style shot circa now. It’s fashion in one of the strangest times in recent history. Take a pic for posterity.