As I lay bundled on the sofa the other night in my Santa Claus onesie a thought crossed my mind: these fleecy delights are not just another consumerist phase to indulge modern society’s desire for comfort – and, in my case inappropriate festivity – they represent something much more complex. In reality there is no difference between the tracksuit bottom-hoodie combination and the onesie: both are very comfortable and in the tracksuit you don’t have the chilling ordeal of having to get naked when you need the toilet.
I spent my evening discussing feminism with my boyfriend and his flatmates. It was during this rather profound debate that I caught myself lying on my back, red fuzz covered legs ninety degrees in the air, arms outstretched holding my fleeced feet, creating some sort of human isosceles triangle. It was at this moment that I realised the wonder of the onesie. What used to be a toddler’s outfit has become a global phenomenon amongst adults precisely because it allows us to remember our inner child – as demonstrated by my admittedly less flexible toddler pose.
We as a society have long since let itself go and sought comfort above everything else when choosing clothes – take matching tracksuits, harem pants and crocs as sadly true examples. So why has the onesie, this snugly sensation, only recently become such a success?
I propose that the economy can be held responsible. The last recession ended in the early 1990s and, like all recessions, it had a profound impact on society – rates of alcoholism, depression and drug abuse all increased. The same can sadly be said for today’s recession. Yet a more amusing, and certainly healthier way, we have dealt with this economic stress and that of the past is through odd fashion trends. The economy has been shown to have a dramatic impact upon our clothing choice in the past. A famous study of the correlation between the economy’s health and the length of women’s skirts revealed that, as the economy became more affluent, skirt hemlines got shorter.
In the 1990s, as the society felt the pinch, the flush, designer styles of the 1980s were rejected in favour of flannel shirts and baggy trousers. The Zubaz trousers, created to give comfort during weightlifting for body builders, conquered the high street and kaleidoscopic leggings adorned our pins. Although the grunge and hip-hop movements of the time were undoubtedly influential, the key factor in clothing choice for both men and women was comfort.
During the more affluent era of the 1920s many women wore impractical yet stylish clothes during the day as domestic servants took care of the chores. Yet, as society suffered the Depression in the 1930s many women, no longer able to afford house servants, did the chores themselves. Thus cotton and synthetic fabric were increasingly used by designers seeking to create more practical, comfortable clothing to allow ease of movement when doing the housework.
One of the first brands of the onesie breed, the Snuggie, became a fashion phenomenon in late 2008, about the same time people really began to feel the effects of the recession that began in December 2007. As the recession deepened, so did our desire to fill our wardrobes with onesies in all different shapes, colours and animal styles. Hundreds of brands eager to capitalise on our need for new realms of comfort have been created. The practical uses of onesies are not to be ignored however. The current recession has caused many of us to save wherever possible and a snuggly onesie could save you a fortune on your heating bill (admittedly for the price of some pretty squeal-worthy toilet trips).
The pressure created by economic recessions increases one’s need to feel free from responsibility if only temporarily. Just as one would take a bath or go for a run to ease their stress levels, childish behaviour can ease the burdens of adulthood. When you put on a onesie it becomes so easy, both in a practical and mental way, to roll around on the floor like a two year old. The idea of eating ice cream and watching cartoons seems like the only way to spend one’s evening when you’re dressed head to toe like a sheep. And even if you don’t submit to acting completely immaturely (perhaps the ice cream and cartoons thing is just me) the feeling created by the onesie is inextricably linked to the memory of being a child crawling around without a care in the world.
It is that sense of freedom that has, in my opinion fuelled the bizarre craze of the onesie. They may look ridiculous but they provide us with an indispensable means of forgetting our troubles. So whether it be in the form of a sheep, Santa Clause or simply plain, embrace the onesie – it’ll do you far more good than a pint ever will.