Jan 20, 2022
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The After Calendar: 2022, the post-ugly era, or how 'ugly' became the coveted aesthetic

Jan 20, 2022

Crocs, bucket hats and sweatpants have relegated suits and little black dresses to the closet, taking a well-deserved revenge on elegance, sophistication and chic.

The pandemic reshuffled the cards, reviving certain once reviled or mocked pieces, and spurring the luxury world to reinvent the codes of what was previously considered ugly.


In what seems like a click of the fingers -- or, at least, a year of the pandemic -- all things ugly have suddenly become even more desirable than the truly beautiful. They have now become chic when worn by the great and good of this world, in turn bringing these pieces to new heights of fashion. Anna Wintour, for example, made a major impact when she was photographed wearing jogging pants in her plush library, elevating a piece popularized by athletes and then appropriated by the street, to star fashion status. Sweatpants became 'THE' must-have piece of 2021. Previously associated with a more street thug, lowlife style, sweatpants were now suddenly sporting the logos of the world's biggest luxury fashion houses.

From fashion rejects to catwalk stars

Collaborations pairing luxury with ugly have continued to multiply, propelling pieces that were once frowned upon to ever greater heights. Christopher Kane and Balenciaga are some of the fashion houses that have 'dared' to collaborate with Crocs, making the rubber clog immediately more desirable -- as Justin Bieber showed when he had the audacity to wear them with socks. And the clog-sock combo has also shone on the catwalks this year.

Everything that has long been considered kitsch, tacky, vulgar or old-fashioned has seemingly been transformed into beautiful and desirable.

"This can be explained by the fact that a certain chic has become extremely mainstream. This is the basis of Pierre Bourdieu's "La Distinction," which explains that the day the masses have access to the codes of the bourgeoisie, the bourgeoisie will reject these codes and will even do the exact opposite," explained Alice Pfeiffer, last May, on the occasion of the release of her book 'Le goût du moche' [A taste for the ugly].

Just like Crocs, the bucket hat has been invited into the collections of luxury fashion houses, along with the sleeveless down jacket, dad shoes, bling jewelry, and other pieces previously attributed to the working classes, to the street.

Vulgar in vogue

The phenomenon grew throughout the year to the point that these pieces once considered ugly have slowly but surely become attractive -- or at least desirable -- in the collective imagination: low-cost retailer Lidl has also become highly desirable and -- whether or not it's down to marketing -- the idea that Lidl's fashion collections are being snapped up like hotcakes proves that the codes of the street have now risen to the top of the ladder.

The late Virgil Abloh is among those who helped propel these codes of the uncool onto the luxury scene via a host of collaborations, taking in names from Ikea to Nike to Levi's to Champion. Then there's Balenciaga -- a fashion house known for its non-conformism -- which designed a parka partway between a construction worker's jacket and garbage collectors' garb, as highlighted by many social media comments. And all for the modest sum of €2,990.

Times have changed, and the cyclical system of fashion has moved on, giving a new dimension to clothes -- less aesthetic, more functional, and above all, more centered on self-expression and self-affirmation.


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