For me, fall break marked not only a chance to go home, catch up on sleep and see the Doom movie, but also a chance to shop. Yes, with the hard northern Ohio winter setting in, some emergency clothing purchases were in order.
My crusade for warmth brought me to my local Gap, where I discovered quite possibly the most enigmatic piece of clothing I had ever seen — a brown zip-up argyle sweater.
At first I was intrigued. I got as far as taking off the sweater I was wearing to try it on when I suddenly realized I didn’t want to. Hanging before me was the biggest sin against the gods of fashion in the clothing industry’s history. We’re talking worse than Bjork’s swan dress here. This is serious.
A few days later, on an excursion into New York City, it became hard to count all the people I saw wearing zip-up argyle. It was a widespread problem, and my return to campus has by no means made me feel any better about it. Though it may be a while before the garment really catches on in the Midwest, I have seen enough people here wearing it to know that its migration is eminent if action isn’t taken now.
Oddly enough, I have searched the Gap website, but cannot find the product anywhere. Only one conclusion can be drawn: the Gap is obviously embarrassed by the flagrant fashion faux pas that is zip-up argyle and is trying to hide it from the world.
To better understand my revulsion, I decided to do some research. The well-known diamond pattern comes from Argyll, a county in western Scotland. Members of the Argyll Clan wore the pattern on their tartans. I had a bit of trouble figuring out when argyle made it to America, but after consulting a primary source — my grandparents — I found out that it became popular in the late 1940s and the early 1950s, as my grandmother remembers knitting my grandfather an argyle tie around then.
Etymology seems to support their claim. The 1950 edition of Webster’s Dictionary does not have the word — it hadn’t been popular long enough yet — but the next edition does.
In later years, the pattern became a bulwark of nerdy apparel. When my brother had to be a mathematician in a play five or six years ago, he wore an argyle sweater vest. Since then, as the retro look has become fashionable, the pattern has become more and more omnipresent, today worn with irony by hipsters everywhere.
Meanwhile, the earliest zipper was patented by Elias Howe, the inventor of the sewing machine, in 1851. Whitcomb Judson displayed a more advanced version in the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair. After some more refinements, it was ready for its introduction into the fashion world, first on a line of galoshes, at which point the zipper gained its name, and then on children’s clothes in the 1930s.
Who’d have thought the two things would ever come together?A while ago, I was sipping some coffee in DeCafé when I had a thought. It occurred to me that the idea of putting milk and sugar in coffee was rather silly. It suggests an attitude of “Sure, I’d drink coffee, but only if it doesn’t taste like coffee,” which is pretty absurd, when you think about it. Over the course of the next week, the idea developed into a broader gastronomical philosophy of not mixing foods.
When I fully realized the far-reaching implications of this philosophy, I immediately dropped it, dismissing it simply as my being difficult one Sunday afternoon. I think it is very relevant to the issue at hand, however. Argyle and zippers, or, to be more general, sweaters and zippers, shouldn’t be mixed.
In my mind, sweaters carry a certain sanctity. There is something classy about them, and giving them zippers takes away from that, putting sweaters on a level with fleeces and sweatshirts, a level where zippers are much more common, and, I think, acceptable.
Adding zippers to sweaters reflects a universal deformalization in today’s culture. From deliberately ripped jeans to neckties as belts to blazers over t-shirts or sweaters, deformalization is everywhere, and it’s causing a serious problem. I can no longer achieve the same level of dressiness when I wear a blazer as I used to be able to. Pretty soon I’ll have to rent a tux whenever I go out to a church service or a nice restaurant, and I fear that because of the proliferation of zippers, my sweaters will soon lose their effect too. So please, help stop the madness — stay away from zip-up sweaters!
And as far as argyle goes, I advise everyone to stop wearing it, zip-up or no.
It’s really geeky looking, no matter whom it’s on. If you want to
look retro, stick to legwarmers or flared pants.