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My obsession started, as they always do these days, with an Instagram picture. Sara Hiromi, a model I follow mainly because of her aspirational and impossible haircut (dark and waist-length with uneven baby bangs and bleached eyebrows), had posted a photo from a shoot she did for the Tokyo-based brand Perverze. In it, she’s wearing high-waisted jeans, a white crop top, and the most wonderful red sweater I had ever seen.
Perverze’s product page calls it a “half coat,” but it’s a wool-mohair blend and looks squishy and soft, so I think it qualifies as a sweater. Its sleeves are built wide and envelop the hands. Though it’s oversized, it’s far from shapeless because it only falls to the hips, balancing the exaggerated arms, and because the fabric is thick enough to give the appearance of structure.
The sweater looks fashion-y and intentional in an Acne Studios kind of way. It also looks incredibly cozy. What I’m driving at is this: You can dupe people into thinking you’re cool while, essentially, wearing a security blanket to work and social gatherings.
2016 was a banner year for the pursuit of comfort and warmth as interest surged around the Danish concept of hygge, which roughly means “coziness.” That certainly didn’t happen in a vacuum. As the Financial Times architecture and design critic Edwin Heathcote wrote in December, “Untranslatable or not, hygge, along with Brexit, coulrophobia (fear of clowns) and alt-right has become one of the words which apparently describes this dismal year. Which, frankly, sounds about right. The natural reaction to events and personalities this year, from Farage to Trump, might well be to curl up on the sofa and lock the doors.”
All this hygge talk was, of course, followed by hygge backlash. By year’s end, numerous books had been published on the subject, turning an intangible feeling into a vehicle for selling a lifestyle and its attendant products. A salve for an onslaught of harsh news became just another way of getting us to buy stuff.
Still, that red sweater.
Hygge aside, 2017 is shaping up to be full of unignorable political conflict. Over three million people attended Women’s Marches to protest Donald Trump’s presidency the day after his inauguration. The White House has begun pushing the concept of “alternative facts,” rendering a cohesive understanding of reality tenuous. So yeah, you might feel inclined to swaddle yourself for comfort, much like that anxious rescue goat who only calms down when she’s put in her duck costume.
Since Perverze’s sweater would have cost about $250 after tax and shipping, I set about looking for another version. Uniqlo, with its laser focus on ultra-thin, ultra-compact outerwear, was a no-go. I needed a thick knit and roomy fit. Acne, a leading purveyor of weird knits, was also way out of my price bracket.
Eventually I found myself on the e-commerce site of the LA-based Coast to Coast Vintage. And there it was. Black, with big plastic buttons. Burly in the forearms, but not the shoulders. A week later, my sweater was waiting in the entryway of my apartment.
To my delight, it was so thick and warm that I couldn’t fit it under any of my coats. Now I carry it around in my backpack, giddy to take off my jacket and slip into something a little more comforting — at work, at parties, at home. Wherever news alerts can reach my phone, really.