That's a Wrap: How the Humble Robe Became the Sleeper Hit of the Season

·2-min read
Photo credit: Paul Harris
Photo credit: Paul Harris

Of the many hangovers of lockdown, the adoption of loungewear as everyday clothing has perhaps been the subtlest. We’ve all griped (or gloated) about working from home, lamented the faff of pre- and post-holiday testing and cringed at the awkward shuffle of limbs that has replaced the handshake. And yet we’ve kept shtum about the loss of hard collars; when we see that neck-tie dangling on the back of the bedroom door, we look away in embarrassment.

Photo credit: Tekla
Photo credit: Tekla

“We have seen an incredible reaction to sleepwear, with sales growth of 60 per cent since 2020,” says Damien Paul, head of menswear at Matches Fashion, the online retailer. “As we spend more time at home, our customers are looking for luxurious items, such as a cashmere robe, which can be used as a tactile knit to add texture to an outfit.”

Tekla is the definitive brand of this new laidback epoch. Best known for its bedding and towels, it recently released a classic bathrobe, designed to be worn in and out of the house. Could/should you really wear a bath robe over jeans and a hoody? “Yes, most definitely,” says Tekla co-founder Kristoffer Juhl. “You can and must do exactly how you feel. Even though a strong focus for us is functionality when developing products — and even though we think of the robe’s main uses as swimming, after-bath, leisure, relaxing at home - nothing prevents you from enjoying it as you wish.”

The robe, it seems, is the sleeper hit of the season. Matches recently collaborated with Parisian shirtmaker Charvet on a capsule collection featuring a handmade shawl-collar robe in mid-blue linen, while Charvet’s British equivalent, Turnbull & Asser, this year released a pair of kimono gowns that were designed to look as good over a shirt and tie as they do over pyjamas. But this season, the robe isn’t even necessarily a robe. There are thick wool robe-overcoats at Louis Vuitton and Brioni, while both Fendi and Dolce & Gabbana have created vast quilted takes on the garment. There is robe maximalism at Bottega Veneta (bright green, shearling, north of £6,165) and robe minimalism at The Row, which has found space in its ascetic aesthetic for a coat that many might describe as “cosy”.

If the robe suggests too much exertion — as in actually getting out of bed — then idle aesthetes will be glad to hear that pyjamas are in, too. There are silky co-ords at Études and Dries Van Noten, and even onesies at Prada. Could you wear a robe over your onesie? Why ever not? At this point, as Kristoffer Juhl has it, you must do exactly as you feel.

This article first appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of Esquire Magazine

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