The Cosy Boy: a comforting aesthetic seeing you through tough times
Getting wrapped up has became both a trend and a balm; meet the style successor to normcore and gorpcore
words Murray Clark
Is the impractical world of fashion tapping our parents for trends? While people herald post-pandemic party extravagance - with fashion’s runways and rails answering the call - an opposing, more comforting aesthetic is evolving: enter, the Cosy Boy.
Preemptive to the pandemic, The Culture had plugged into something that wasn’t at all new - stuff that brands like The North Face and Patagonia had been making for years. Practical stuff. Outdoorsy stuff. Puffer jackets, utility vests, liner coats and cargo trousers. Stuff that had always been amputated from the world of fashion. But that then got cool, and thus the world of gorpcore was born. Think Frank Ocean in Swiss climbing rope turned clothing brand Mammut, and A$AP Rocky rocking Arc’teryx, a Vancouver-based mountaineering brand. ‘Gorpcore’ is shorthand for “good ole’ raisins and peanuts”, as coined by The Cut writer Jason Chen in 2017 - high performance wear was hitting the pubs, camping gear was in the clubs.
Gorpcore caused us to take the great outdoors into our wardrobe just at the right time (the word ‘right’ being applied very loosely here). We came to appreciate open spaces and nature in lockdown, and realised that we took it for granted. If gorpcore was losing steam on the eve of Covid, it was given a sudden shot in the arm. Peak District-adjacent gear was positively booming. More puffer jackets, more utility vests, more liner coats and more cargo trousers. Puffer jackets are of exceptional note here.
Just as all fashion movements see their cells mutate and break away into new species entirely, gorpcore delivered a son. He’s a little madder and a little more left-field, and he’s called the Cosy Boy.
This term isn’t new in menswear’s lexicon, but it has grown both literally and figuratively. A few years after the fabled arrival of Frank Ocean at a Louis Vuitton show in Arc’teryx, brands and celebrities alike leaned into the comfier, cushiony end of gorpcore. Yes, Vuitton too. As of last season, the French house released enormous zip-up fleeces with a collar tall and big enough to hide behind completely. Justin and Hailey Bieber followed suit, and went supersize on puffer jackets with silhouettes that were huge, almost monstrous. More recently, A$AP Rocky performed at a special screening of the new Kanye documentary, jeen-yuhs, in an actual balaclava. Gorpcore is practical. Walking around in a duvet coat is much less so. Gorpcore is simple. Cosy Boy silhouettes are almost abstract. And, most strikingly, gorpcore is outward-looking, and expeditionary; this stuff is insular, cocoon-like and a means of going incognito in climes that do not demand such Siberian levels of protection.
Fashion, as we’re so often told, is ‘whimsical’. It’s not a serious reflection of The Times In Which We Live like music, or film, or art. But au contraire! Fashion (yes, even men’s fashion) has replied to the general zeitgeist. In the 80s, when everyone made lots of money and felt like big Daddy Warbucks, they donned the power suit with its wide shoulders and fanged lapels. In the 90s, when mankind decided to stumble upon illegal raves, it was party gear: tank tops, short shorts, bucket hats.
Interestingly enough, as the World Happiness Report measured our mental health to be at an all time low (22% of people in the UK reported mental health that was significantly worse than in pre-Covid times), fashion has focused on comfort clothing. There are the huge puffer jackets, but also ballooning trousers across the board from Bottega Veneta right down to COS. The focus on sweatpants has endured long after lockdown regulations have ended, too; cotton basics brand Entireworld noted a 662% sales increase last year, and high fashion brands that would’ve once swerved sweatpants entirely are incorporating them into runway shows, like Dior and Italian heritage outfit Canali.
This shift to maximum (and maximalist) comfort has happened against a backdrop of an ongoing mental health crisis. A report released by the Institute of Fiscal Studies earlier this year found that “mental health [has] worsened for [specific] groups (women and younger adults)” in the UK – a trend that was exacerbated by the pandemic. These anxieties have been mirrored in fashion as fully grown adults take to comforting clothing en masse. There’s something infantilising about many layers and big protective silhouettes that aren’t just about Balenciaga trickle down fashionomics. Is your Dickies fuzzy fleece a defensive cocoon?
The comfort level is then twofold, or so says science. In the research paper ‘The Evaluation of (Social-)Psychological Comfort in Clothing: A Possible Approach’, Lívia Laura Matté and Ana Broega found that “psychological comfort happens when someone is confident [in their] own appearance and there is a sense of well-being. Among factors such as flattering the person, aesthetic cost and performance… [it] demonstrates that the social aspects related to belonging to a group and feeling adequate among its peers.”
So it’s about fitting in. But what’s also worth noting is the paper highlighting the “psychological comfort” as a “hedonic judgement process, by which the brain forms a subjective perception of sensory sensations.” In simple terms: the brain finds comfort in fabrics and fits that feel nice and good. The Cosy Boy has put that mantra on a strong course of steroids in clothing that almost parodies comfort; jackets the size of a duvet, trousers with yards of fabric, sweatpants with tailoring, and even a collab between The North Face and Kaws has placed the American artist’s signature for marshmallowy sculpture into a pair of padded, Michelin Man ski pants.
So follow the advice of your parents. Get wrapped up. You’ll thank them for it, and chances are you’ll feel all the better for it, too.