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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 January 2021

Why Kurt Cobain's cardigan is the fashion inspiration we didn’t know we needed in 2021

The singer’s baggy mohair jumper is leading a fashion revival for the working-at-home era

Kurt Cobain performs at MTV Unplugged in November 1993, wearing the mohair cardigan. Courtesy MTV 
Kurt Cobain performs at MTV Unplugged in November 1993, wearing the mohair cardigan. Courtesy MTV 

Fashion is an industry that often looks to the past, with trends from eras past often revived for the modern day, be it gargantuan Edwardian sleeves or the nipped-in waists of the 1950s.

One historical moment no one saw serving as fashion inspiration today, however, was when Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain took to the MTV stage in November 1993.

There to perform as part of the MTV Unplugged series, the bleached-blonde musician was wearing a thrift store cardigan. Baggy, missing a button and in a unique shade of retro green, Cobain’s mohair jumper became almost as famous as the singer, seized on by legions of grunge fans as a wearable homage.

Gucci reversible mohair cardigan, Dh9,600. Courtesy Gucci
Gucci reversible mohair cardigan, Dh9,600. Courtesy Gucci

Now, almost 30 years later, it is leading the charge as the ultimate work-from-home wardrobe.

Soft, fluffy and most definitely not a hoodie, the mohair top offers the comfort blanket we perhaps didn’t know we needed. With the cooler months now upon us, increasing numbers are turning to this hairy alternative, to breathe new life into the seemingly endless round of sweatpants and sweat tops while working from home.

A glance through the rails of many high-end stores reveals this is indeed the jumper of choice for winter.

Gucci offers an oversized logo-ed affair, reversible no less, in taupe and light blue, while Pringle of Scotland has a neatly pocketed version in grey. Lemaire, meanwhile, echoes the original with its extra-large cardigan in camel.

Lemaire mohair and alpaca cardigan, Dh1,946. Courtesy Lemaire
Lemaire's mohair and alpaca cardigan. Courtesy Lemaire

Elsewhere, there are variations on the theme, such as the so-called “nanny” cardigan by Tara Jarmon, in warm cream and complete with granny-style finishes, and the Saint Laurent offering, that veers into Freddie Kruger territory with its stripes of black and red.

With its ability to wrap around the wearer, offering an all-enveloping hug, mohair is a uniquely warming material.

"Nanny" mohair cardigan, by Tara Jarmon, Dh1,237. Courtesy Tara Jarmon
The 'nanny' mohair cardigan by Tara Jarmon. Courtesy Tara Jarmon

Cobain’s thrift store version dates from the 1960s when mohair was popular for menswear. Mixed with lycra and acrylic, Cobain’s sloppy covering was typical of its era. Speaking with Rolling Stone magazine, fashion historian Kimberly Chrisman-Campbell described Cobain’s cardigan as "a very classic style".

"The colour is wonderful. Kind of that off-green, that olive green colour that was popular for home decor in the Sixties.”

For those who need some convincing that mohair has a place in their wardrobe, they might want to consider that Cobain’s mohair cardigan sold at auction in 2019 for $334,000.

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Updated: January 7, 2021 04:09 PM

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