Hip-Hop Cardies


Written by Yusuf Laher
09 Monday 09th May 2011

Who would have thought the words urban and cardigan would ever come together? How about a New Era cardie? Or a Bathing Ape camo print? Brooklyn Circus valour, perhaps? Cardigans used to belong to old people, Kurt Cobain and more recently, vintage-obsessed indie hipsters. Now you’ve got websites like Hypebeast and Highsnobiety selling once-geeky, now-chic(y) back-to-school knitwear. And hip-hop moguls like Kanye West, Jay-Z and Lil Weezy are dressing up like they’re heading back to Hogwarts for another semester of unabridged wizardry.  

A few weeks ago, I realised the look might be reaching a crash-and-burn climax. Flicking channels alone in a hotel room one night, I paused on American Idols, hovering for a while in stunned disbelief. Dressed in a varsity cardigan, school tie, black-rimmed glasses and fake grin, schmucky judge Randy Jackson looked like he’d turned up for a fancy dress party as Just William. As usual, the ex-Journey bass player overcooked the look, swapping relaxed-casual-artificial-intelligence for desperate, try-hard academia. Still, looks like he’s fooled GQ. And people are even posting questions online, desperately trying to find out what Randy's wearing. Weird!    

It’s pretty amazing what people will wear to be cool. I still remember the classic Jasper Carrott sketch:
“Somewhere in your early 40s, you lose your dress sense. For instance, you’ll be walking down the high street and, just momentarily, you’ll pause outside Dunn & Co and go ‘Hmm... nice cardie!’”

Bathing Ape

Then trendsetting hip-hop stars strutted out in tight-fitting knitted sweater cardies and a new trend was born. Not old school, not new school, just school. Schoolboy chic? My how times have changed...

New Era Troy Cardigan

But just like any look, the ‘cool’ people move on long before it hits saturation. Long before it filters down (in a new extreme form) to fashion half-heads like Randy Jackson and Justin Bieber. So I guess it’s on the way out. Or maybe it's been toned down to a subtle, dorm room roar. Still, for a while, anyone worth their diamond-encrusted salt was rocking the nice cardie look - the louder the better. Still, you can't discount fashion faux-pas like David Beckham, Justin Timberlake and Justin Bieber.     

Here's what Adidas and the Dark Side's come up with.

Brooklyn Circus took Rockstar Games' Bully to all new levels of back-school-chic.

And lastly, here's Drop Dead and Criminal Damage's more 'alternative' geek chic take on the trend. From here on in referred to as varsity jackets...

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