All fashion comes from the minds of coked-up clothing designers, right? Bizarre ideas they dreamed up in Italian villas, out of their minds on stimulants and exotic hams. But not always. Sometimes a clothing trend develops outside of the fashion world and catches on with the last people you'd think. For example ...
If you've ever seen a hip-hop star wearing a T-shirt that went on longer than Infinite Jest, you're familiar with the "tall tee" trend. But maybe you'd seen them before -- on your tween sister during a sleepover. Yep, tall tees were originally dorm shirts for girls -- long-hemmed so they could be worn as pajama dresses to sleep in.
The dorm shirt was huge fad in the 1990s, but as with all fashion trends, it fell victim to entropy. Then in the mid-2000s, Henry Abadi, the clothing entrepreneur responsible for the shirts, got a surprise call from a business acquaintance at a clothing store in Newark, NJ. They said that street fashion had suddenly shifted toward unnaturally huge T-shirts, and in order to keep up with the demand, they requested a cool thousand of Abadi's 40-inch tees -- the industry name for the dorm shirt.
Sensing an opportunity, Abadi shipped the tall tees ... and put in an order for a whopping 60,000 more. This proved to be an excellent move, as his Galaxy-label white tall tees soon became the thing to own for hip hop stars and people with unnaturally long torsos alike.
Also great for keeping movie ushers from spotting that your pockets are full of snacks.
But why did the huge plain T-shirt become a thing in the first place? Simple economics. Nobody wanted them at first. You could buy 10-15 dope-ass tree trunk tees for the price of a normal T-shirt. Then those poor and/or sensible shoppers went and pulled off the look so hard that they could no longer afford it themselves. It's the circle of fashion.
The muumuu was never intended to cover up the horizontally challenged when no other clothes would fit them anymore. It was designed to cover only the sexiest bits of the sexiest people, because they were being too damn sexy.
Ray Jerome Baker
'Would you mind wearing some gloves too? Your weaving is a little ... suggestive."
The muumuu was first developed to cover the bare breasts of the natives of Hawaii during their "overtly sexual" (by old-timey Christian standards) hula rituals. In the 1820s, Christian missionaries arrived on the Hawaiian Islands looking to convert the natives, but were shocked and appalled by all the casual nudity. In their moral panic, they cobbled together a hasty covering to bring the place from late-night Cinemax to midday PBS. The result was a ground-length, high-necked, and above all cleavage-covering dress called a holoku, beneath which the Hawaiian women wore a shorter, loose-fitting dress called mu'umu'u.
So it began as the world's least sexy underwear.
By the mid-20th century, the holoku became increasingly rare for reasons that probably had something to do with the fact that it was a full-body-covering dress in freaking Hawaii. But strip that sucker off, and what do you find? Yep, the loose and comfortable muumuu evolved from a modest undergarment to a common casual outfit. Though it probably should be said that none of it will ever be as comfortable as good ol' fashioned nudity.
The person behind the leotard was a famed French trapeze artist, coincidentally named Jules Leotard. What are the odds?!
Later we'll tell you about Bartholomew Brassiere and Georges G. String.
In 1860s London, Jules was the talk of the town. If a man brought a pretty girl to a Jules Leotard performance, there was a very decent chance he was going home alone. That's because Jules Leotard invented his namesake clothing item specifically to get some. Sure, sure, it was also to freely move around during his trapeze act, but it was no accident that it also showed off his toned body and bulging muscles.
via Wiki Commons
Please, do try to contain yourselves.
We're not making up the ladykilling aspect of this story. Leotard is noteworthy for inspiring the song "The Man On The Flying Trapeze" -- a piece that is entirely about a guy who loses his girlfriend the second she catches a glimpse of Jules and his muscles. Here, allow us to quote the lyrics:
Oh, this maid that I loved she was handsome, And I tried all I knew, her to please
But I never could please her one quarter so well, As the man on the flying trapeze!
He floats thro' the air with the greatest of ease, The daring young man on the flying trapeze
His actions are graceful, all girls he does please, And my love he has stolen away.
We're going to go ahead and assume the rest of the song is nothing but elaborate profanities and sobbing.
Culottes hail from the early decades of the 20th century, and finally let women play sports, as well as ride horses and bikes in a straddling position. As you can probably imagine, this sudden burst of female freedom was met with utter disdain by the sexist societies of the era. In France, culottes were flat-out outlawed unless the user was currently riding a bicycle or horse. In the 1930s, a female tennis player wore a pair at Wimbledon and The Daily Mail wrote that she should be "soundly beaten."
Lumi iori/Wiki Commons
At least The Mail has stayed consistently terrible through the century.
In the 1960s, society thought about letting women wear pants, maybe -- purely in theory, of course. However, some high-end restaurants still fought the tide with their dress codes, which would not allow ladies to wear trousers. So once again, hybrid bottoms came to the rescue. Palazzo pants were technically pants, but so wide and billowing that even the most snobby maitre d' would have a hard time denying a lady entrance for wearing them.
And now, years later, we all just look forward to not having to wearing any pants back at home.
UGG boots were not originally meant for girls standing in line at Starbucks. They were first worn by Australian surfers, of all people. In fact, they made the comfy sheepskin boots by themselves, for themselves, and the boots were never intended as anything but totally utilitarian. Surfers wore the well-insulated shoes to warm their feet once they got out of the often-ice-cold water.
Not pictured: the UGG codpiece prototype.
But of course, surfers are pretty cool, and we pay attention to what they are wearing. So when an Australian surfer named Brian Smith brought the boots to California in the late 1970s, they spread like wildfire to the local surfers and shops. Surfers' girlfriends, as is the girlfriend way, started "borrowing" their boyfriend's boots, and noticed that holy hell, those things were comfortable. Eventually the crudely built, purpose-based boots became trendy for even the most landlubbin' Californians, and hack comedians everywhere were gifted with another easy target.
"I've got this great one about the sound you make when you see someone wearing UGGs!"
James Kinneen is a huge fan of sweatpants, because most fans of sweatpants are huge.
For more fascinating stories about clothing trends, check out 5 Ridiculous Modern Fashions With Badass Historical Origins and 6 Weird Fashions From History (With Weirder Explanations).
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