THE BREAKTHROUGH aesthetic of the season? Cozycore. The term entered the lexicon in 2014 the way much of today’s slang does by appearing in a Reddit thread,and now the style is full-on mainstream. With its canon of ugly sneakers, plush pullovers, baggy track pants, and old school sweatsuits (a.k.a. groutfits), cozycore has hints of streetwear, athleisure, and, yes, normcore.
But it would be a mistake to dismiss it as a sloppier version of any of the above. in fact, cozycore isn’t actually about not caring; it’s basically the fashion equivalent of no-makeup makeup. Consider, for example, the ensemble Ariana Grande wore to walk her dogs in New York City in September: classic eighties gym-teacher-style sweatpants, a too-big fleece zip-up, and dad sneakers. It would have made for a relatable, “Stars, they’re just like us” moment had the fleece not been strategically oversize, with a chic cold-shoulder effect à la Flashdance. (Grande finished off the look with her genie-high ponytail and a subtly coordinating Fendi bag.)
Examples of the cultural embrace of cozycore are everywhere: Fila, the South Korean streetwear brand traditionally sold at big-box and discount retailers such as Walmart, is now available at Saks Fifth Avenue. in September, Paper magazine declared “looking like shit” at Fashion Week the ultimate power move. Not surprisingly, experts say cozycore is a reaction, in part, to the trends that preceded it. “Fashion is like physics—for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” says Emma McClendon, associate curator of costume at The Museum at the Fashion institute of Technology. “We’re witnessing a pendulum swing from hyperrevealing clothing to more modest and comfortable clothing.” in other words, say goodbye to the “hot girl uniform” of the aughts and early ’10s, from the Herve Leger bandage dresses and platform stilettos to the crop tops and second-skin leggings of athlesuirewear.
Our attraction to coziness is also a reflection of the times we’re living in. “How we dress sends a message,” says McClendon, “and it’s not surprising that at the moment the message many women want to send is about rejecting traditional power structures by dressing comfortably.” We may feel more empowered when we don’t have to consider the unsavory repercussions that sexy dressing often entails: perpetually blistered feet, embarrassing nip slips, and overall a heightened sense of vulnerability. But there could also be a deeper reason for our gravitation toward all things comfort-driven—maybe it’s, on some level, a primal reaction to our dystopian times: The world is about to end! It’s a thought so bleak it kind of makes us want to go home…and put on a pair of sweats.