Trip-Knits Are Your Accidental Covid Getaway (and an Enduring Menswear Thing)

Murray Clark
·4-min read
Photo credit: Mr Porter
Photo credit: Mr Porter

From Esquire

I've lived lockdown like Howard Hughes with a Bravo subscription, and in all honesty, I'm not that upset about it. I'm fine spending most weekends in bed watching telly. Have you ever watched Southern Charm, the reality TV show about seven grossly privileged socialites in South Carolina? I have. It's great.

But, at the close of season six, everyone lost their minds when Austen finally revealed whether he had made up those rumours, I recognised that I was slowly going mad, too. I remembered that I wasn't always so cosy and pallid and reclusive. I used to spend time with people who didn't scream 'uhhmaageeerd' in Charleston. I used to be busy. I used to go on actual holiday.

Now that Lockdown III has lost its extended Christmas vibe, it's really boring. And while I still can't take any of the trips I'd originally planned (lockdown is really running down the clock on those BA vouchers), there is a trip to be had, on multiple levels. It's in the wooded graphic of a jumper by LA-based brand Pleasures.

Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

The image, of tall firs illuminated by a strange glowing light (police cars? Demons? The divine aurora borealis?), is fit for the cover of a Stephen King novel, especially with a bit of gothic font, and it's just one move in menswear's ongoing two-step with trip-knits: jumpers, and sometimes sweatshirts, that transport the wearer to a really weird locale.

It's been happening for a while. Back in 2017, long before he was handed the keys to Prada, our father Raf Simons announced his (brief) stint at Calvin Klein by remixing Milton Glaser's 'I <3 NY' logo on an oversized knit, reimagining the iconic heart as if it was glimpsed from a taxi cab window. It was classic New York merch, but with a melted, end-days feel. A$AP Rocky, Harry Styles and IG-adored stylist Bloody Osiris all got one. It was quickly anointed a Grail.

Since then, the appetite for slightly mad woolies has touched down in four continents, and the fourth dimension. Wacko Mario, the cult Japanese label beloved of scumbros and serious collectors alike, set out on a strange alternate-reality summer holiday in a collaboration with DJ Harvey, also known as "the Keith Richards of the crossfader" (oh sweaty nightclub, how I yearn for thee). The standout piece was a shirt and jacket emblazoned with the silhouette of a city skyline framed by palm trees, done up in Calpol colours. It was a trip, in every sense.

As the sunny season turned miserable and contagious, the trip veered wilder, zeroing in on various places that we cannot visit. Like Pleasures, ascendant menswear brand Casablanca took flight in a printed merino wool and cashmere knit. Instead of Eighties horror, the label channeled Liberace on an ayahuasca pilgrimage with a cruise liner steaming away from a tropical island, bathed in the glow of an impossibly vivid rainbow. All-American outfit Coach gave the New York skyline an Atari overhaul, with Empire States and Lady Liberties embroidered in the blocky graphics of an early arcade game. Loewe paid homage to late artist Ken Price in a knitted version of downtown LA, black and bold and realistic and surreal all at once. The same sort of thing has happened at Rhude, and Versace. It's even there in Gucci's meme-worthy 'Mon Petit Chou' jumper, which could well be the merch of the Grand Budapest's garden centre.

Rather than stare into the abyss, then, stare at the sweatshirts and knitwear that can offer some reprieve. These fabulist scenic postcards, be it a bear catching a salmon, or a constellation you only ever seem to spot at music festival, are a much-needed ray of light when everything's a bit dismal.

That's not to say you should be done with the usual comfort blankets. Sadwear, the stuff sad boys enlist to get happy again, has its place. We all want to be settled and cosy. (Online Ceramics, the light-hearted doomsayers of the coronavirus age, has made genuinely cool stuff that gleefully says what our brain tells us four times a day: "we're all gonna die <3".) But in an age of grounded flights, and another long summer spent in an exotic corner of the Peak District, trip-knits are the quarantine-ready balm that gets your wardrobe off the ground, and out of its mind. Close the laptop and have a nice trip. You deserve it.

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