Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to Vox.com, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.
Even if you don't know it yet, you probably have a groutfit. Chances are it's pretty ratty — an old college sweatshirt paired with pants you mysteriously acquired three relationships ago, or some hole-riddled boxers along with a T-shirt that, a dozen wash cycles in the past, used to be white. Whatever the components, it's meant for slouching around in, and it is 100 percent gray.
Technically, “groutfit” is a portmanteau of “gray outfit,” but I like to think that it’s also got undertones of “grouchy” buried in that first syllable, or even “grumpy” or “grumbly.” Like a bear that has just woken up from its hibernation, or a mountain made sentient. Groutfits are for letting your hangover or your ennui claim you, for practicing defiant coziness, for admitting you just don't care about how you look and may never care again. Groutfits are uniforms for giving up, but on purpose.
The house is the groutfit’s ideal natural habitat (specifically the couch, more specifically while chewing and staring blankly at a screen), but it takes on its real power when worn in public. That’s another component of the word right there in the center: You can’t spell “groutfit” without “out.”
It’s even more heightened than just wearing normal sweats because of the weird uncanny deliberateness that comes with matching. Wearing your groutfit where people can see you is one of the most efficient ways to broadcast your ambivalence about living in the world, with all its rules and restrictions — yeah, I’m here, but I left my cute, compliant self at home. I’ve chosen to take my cozy-ass, disgusting-ass one-man-fort with me wherever I go, and the rest of you can deal.
I first heard the word “groutfit” in college, when my friends and I would gather daily in the dining hall for not-quite-breakfast, not-quite-lunch. Calling it “brunch” would be a serious overstatement, since our meals largely consisted of cereal eaten out of plastic cups we would proceed to steal, and so we called it “elevensies,” because that’s when it was and because we were a little insufferable.
Some of us were coming from or going to class or rehearsals, and so we would wear regular outfits; some of us were still running on fumes from the night before, and so we would wear a melange of Going Out Clothes™ along with whatever sweater we had pilfered from our hookups or roommates. And some of us, especially those drained by hangovers or all-nighters or both, would rock groutfits. A groutfit is a lot like college: comfy, safe, slightly shapeless. And sometimes, it’s just the easiest thing to grab from the pile on your floor.