Opinion

What did Count Dracula er, Karl Lagerfeld, know about style anyway?

Picking a bone with high fashion's beef with comfort

24 February 2019 - 00:11


Once upon a time a man who spent decades dressed like a bodyguard for the Illuminati said: "Sweatpants are a sign of defeat. You lost control of your life, so you bought some sweatpants." That man is dead.
Earlier this week, aged 85, Karl Lagerfeld went gently into that good night and in doing so unleashed a torrent of chic tears that have and will continue to coalesce into deserving tributes for a man who left an indelible mark on the fashion world.
There are undoubtedly clever people who will tell you how an elderly German man with a penchant for dressing like an assassin that moonlights in a Gothic rock band came to be so highly revered in the fashion world, but I am here to pick a bone.
What's wrong with sweatpants? Sweatpants are comfortable, they have pockets to put stuff in, come in a wide array of colours and, if you're Jon Hamm, can be uber flattering. More importantly, what's high fashion's beef with comfort?
From the looks of it, Lagerfeld led an uncomfortable life. Not in the financial sense - by all accounts even his cat (Choupette Lagerfeld, with over 260k followers on Instagram) is more financially secure than most of us will ever be - but in a day-to-day sense.
Herr Lagerfeld's fashion sense was revolted by the idea of comfort, opting instead for something resembling the uniform of a luxury undertaker. That may have been all good and well for him but as almost anyone who has worn suits like that will attest, it's very difficult to go about your day-to-day business dressed like a modern-day Count Dracula.
That is not appropriate attire for grocery shopping at your local Pick n Pay and you're definitely going to creep some people out if you arrive at a children's party like that.
Sweatpants, on the other hand, provided you wear underwear and a suitable shirt, are perfectly fine at a braai.
Comfortable clothes in general are not a sign that life has defeated you, they're a sign that you have things to do other than keeping Coco Chanel's crypt.
The bigger problem with haute couture's war on comfort is much more socio-political. (Oh I can hear the eyes rolling as you realise this won't just be a string of tortured jokes about Karl's clothes.) High fashion hates comfort because it's classist.
Ostensibly what the Lagerfelds are saying about people who need to own sweatpants is that they don't have taste, and taste, as a general rule, is an attribute of the blue-blooded. A sign that you have the kind of "superior" breeding that exempts you from such common tasks as grocery shopping or playing with children. The staff do that kind of thing.
If that is who you are or who you aspire to be then live your truth, but remember that many of the blue-blooded European individuals who think like this are currently related to themselves. Moreover it's just a disappointingly narrow view of the world.
Imagine if Lagerfeld had tried on a pair of sweatpants or a Nigerian agbada. Genius that he was, it's undoubtable that he could've fused his brand of Transylvania couture with African flair, or clothing that normal people would appreciate.
Oh well, what ifs are pointless and Karl Lagerfeld was truly an icon who will be missed for decades to come. RIP.
PS. No matter how comfortable they are, say no to Crocs.

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