Why Aren’t T-Shirts and Sweatshirts Dominating Fall Runways?

Portrait of stylish young girl with two ponytails in sweatshirt eating lollipop isolated over violet background in studio


The year 2020 was a disaster for the fashion industry. Almost all the big fashion shows were canceled, leaving designers and show organizers with little to do but hope people bought clothes online. With the ’21-’22 fashion season now ramping up to full speed, the industry is hoping to make its money back. That being the case, why aren’t T-shirts and sweatshirts dominating the runways?

As the New York Post so eloquently pointed out in early September 2021, people stuck at home for the last 18 months aren’t quite ready to don form-fitting clothing that reveals just how much weight they gained during the pandemic. So designers are answering the call for loose, baggy, and oversized clothing. But they are not taking into consideration that the world has renewed its love affair with T-shirts and sweatshirts.

More Than Just Leisure Wear

T-shirts and sweatshirts were leisure wear pre-pandemic. You didn’t wear them to work unless you were a blue-collar laborer working for a company that didn’t have any sort of formal dress code. For everyone else, T-shirts and sweatshirts were only worn on the weekends. That changed when the world shut down. T-shirts and sweatshirts are more than just leisure wear now.

Working from home liberated a global workforce from formal shirts, ties, pantsuits, and jackets. T-shirts and sweatshirts became the order of the day. Workers dressed up only for video meetings. And even at that, they only went business formal from the waist up.

Dressing so casually for work eventually became a joke funny enough to build TV commercials around. Yet it has turned into a way of life for a lot of people. Over the last 18 months, we have become used to T-shirts, sweatshirts, yoga pants, and blue jeans. Who wants to go back to the formal attire of the office?

Nothing Is Off Limits

We have also come to the collective knowledge that nothing is off limits anymore. If you want to wear anime clothing and apparel from the Umai brand, go for it. If you are into tie-dye, you’re also in luck. Tie-dye is making a big comeback right now. Whatever you want is more or less out there.

The beauty of it all is that we don’t have to do anything differently to embrace T-shirts and sweatshirts. They have been a staple of the American wardrobe since the late 1960s and early seventies. Even professionals who wear stuffy suits to the office every day have a collection of sweatshirts and tees at home. They aren’t afraid to change into them as soon as they get home from the office.

Fashion Shows for Real People

You might be wondering what any of this has to do with the ’21-’22 fashion season. Actually, it has everything to do with it. Fashion shows tend to feature the most outrageous designs those in the know can come up with. And how many of those runway fashions do you ever actually see in public? Almost none.

Runway clothing is for models, musicians, and various assorted artists. It is not clothing average people wear to work. It isn’t clothing you wear around the house. As for T-shirts and sweatshirts, they are an entirely different matter.

Maybe there will one day be a fashion designer who forgoes the ostentatious in favor of designing clothes for real people. Perhaps that revered T-shirt or sweatshirt will be featured on runways at some point in the future. However, don’t hold your breath. It has already been decades since the first graphic T-shirt hit the market. If it hasn’t happened so far, so it probably never will.

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