We love workwear, and we love high fashion—but not always at the same time.
It’s no secret that all manner of utilitarian fashion—double-knee pants, construction-site neon, insulated vests—has entered the trend cycle. And while embracing workwear brands like Carhartt and Patagonia can scan as ironic posturing, we think supporting made-in-America brands can be cool and well-intentioned, rather than inappropriate or elitist. And so far, it’s worked like a charm: workwear has trickled up, and is now as ubiquitous in the blue states as red. But while it all started innocently enough, every so often, high fashion pushes things a little too far.
This doesn’t have to happen. Junya Watanbe’s excellent Carhartt collaboration, while on the pricier side, generally maintained the spirit of the original garments and drew from archival influences. Demna Gvasalia sending models down the Vetements runway wearing enormously impractical canvas aprons as part of a collaboration with Carhartt was a little odd, but those were ultra cool, too. Elsewhere, though, we’ve suddenly entered a post-utility phase of workwear fashion, and it’s…really something.
Consider one recent drop, a collaboration between Undercover and Full-BK. These cross-body bags play off the resurgent cool of the suddenly hot fanny pack, but things get weird and veer into tool belt territory. Tool belts boast a great number of pockets because they are designed to hold tools. What does the streetwear enthusiast’s toolbelt hold? An iPhone X (duh)? A Yashica? A wallet and keys and an inhaler and the keys to mom’s minivan? You get the idea: one or two pockets is a canny recognition that fashion folks can benefit from construction site style. A dozen pockets? That’s overkill.
But if the street-style cross-body tool belt is questionable, a new pair of shorts from Spanish label Loewe are straight up bewildering. These knee-length linen-blend pants take utility to another dimension—almost like if The Fly starred a pair of cargo shorts instead of Jeff Goldblum. The shallow, unsecured pockets are impractical by design—a reality underscored by the lack of traditional pockets. These shorts carry nothing. When you wear them, you pour small amounts of your dignity into the three dozen or so tiny pockets and hope most of it doesn’t spill out as you walk. This, friends, is what happens when utility fashion jumps the shark—when a love of Patagonia or Blundstone tips all the way into caricature.
This isn’t to say if you can’t wear Carhartt or Blundstones or Dickies if you work a creative job. But it is a reminder that high fashion is never beyond parody—and that some objects don’t need any more clout.
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