Hobo-Chic : A step too far?

On a recent trip to London I was talking to a sales assistant in Dover Street Market about the unfinished and wrinkled look of a lot of the clothing on sale.  She explained that this was very current and the designers actually requested that their clothes were not pressed before going on display.  She said that people like wearing hobo-chic style clothing because although they may look like tramp’s clothes they knew, and their peers knew, that the clothes were in fact expensive and exclusive.

She suggested I take a look at the current Greg Lauren collection.


Greg Lauren

Many of his clothes have unfinished edges, t-shirts have holes and knitwear is bobbled as if it has come from a charity shop.

This is certainly not a new idea.  Vogue Germany featured an editorial based on bag lady chic in 2012.


Vogue Germany

Vivienne Westwood’s 2010 collection for Milan Fashion Week was inspired by  “…..the roving vagrant whose daily get-up is a battle gear for the harsh weather conditions…”.

Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood

And in 2008 the first shoot in Cycle 10 of America’s Next Top Model was based on homeless women.


America’s Next Top Model
Cycle 10

It made me wonder why people would chose to wear clothes similar to those who have no choice what they wear. I wonder whether, as they are walking around the streets in these clothes, they acknowledge, or even notice, the homeless.  It is estimated by Crisis that over 2,000 people sleep rough every night in the UK no doubt wearing whatever they can find to keep warm and dry.

Wanting to be identified by our clothing is not new and neither is wearing clothing with details so subtle that only those who matter to the wearer can identify them.

Rebecca Arnold author of Fashion, Desire and Anxiety writes about the rise of black youth culture in the 1990s:

“The use of customised dress codes – visible to all but the subtleties of which were known only to insiders – continued to evolve over the decade…….”

And a Russian visitor to the Jockey Club in the 1840s asks for the definition of a gentleman and is told:

“A gentleman disclosed his quality only to those who had the knowledge to perceive it without being told.” [Fashion Theory : A Reader,  Ed Malcolm Barnard]

Clothes that identify the wearer as one of a select group has been, and will continue to be, important to some sections of society – hobo-chic is simply another incarnation of this.

A step too far?  Fashion is constantly pushing boundaries so probably, no, nothing is a step too far. But good taste? That’s another question.


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