Real People: Dress your inner child
'South Park' has made pre-school this winter's fashion statement. Anna Watson grabs her mittens
Sunday 13 December 1998
The joy of kid-chic is that it implies a youthful spirit - if South Park's creators hailed from California rather than Colorado, the look would be all baggy shorts instead of swaddled anoraks. Since our happiest days were not at school but rather the after-school playing in the woods, hanging out on bikes and scrapping with our mates, then it's no wonder that the appeal of kid-chic is proving much more widespread than with just a bunch of surfie drop-outs.
Part of Kenny's charm is his air of mystery, cultivated both by the tight- pulled hood and the fact that he gets killed in every episode of the show (except one). And hoods are big this season, hoods are everywhere. They have evolved from things on the back of anoraks to surreal attachments and lightweight flimsy sleeveless jersey tops which wouldn't protect from a slight West wind, let alone an Arctic blast. Hooded tops are worn layered with fleeces: they can be jersey sportif style or heavy-weight double knits, but you may as well walk around naked this winter as be seen without a hood.
Mittens on string are a great kid-chic accessory to help you align yourself with South Park style and reclaim your childhood innocence. I have a pair, which have been greeted with a mixture of bemusement and admiration. One fashion industry bod asked if I made them myself, declaring "this is totally the way to go". And, goddammit, they're practical.
Of course, South Park style is linking only to other kid-chic fashion trends which have been building up since last winter and heartily taken up by women on the street. Bodywarmers and fleeces were great hits last year and continue to be celebrated this year, with more colours and styles available. Added to this is the new winter's gorgeous range of knits; with kangaroo pockets, funnel necks and chunky ribbing. The population is armed and ready for snow-ball fights.
The current Esprit poster campaign at bus stops all over New York features a model snuggled into a furry cap with ear flaps, a white funnel-neck jumper pulled up over her face, only her eyes peeking out. It looks great, it looks cosy and wearable. And it is, essentially, just a feminine version of the Kenny look.
Meanwhile, Vogue is celebrating the return of Fair Isle patterning on cardigans, scarves and hats, and the streets of Camden are awash with Bjork-like fashion victims in Scandinavian-style pixie hoods. You can even get a fawn fleece version which copies the pixie shape but in a much more refined colour scheme. Nike isselling bobble hats (didn't they used to make sportswear?) and Diesel's version has a bobble at the end of a woollen string for extra childlike effect.
High-street stores are full of kid-chic duffel coats, recalling a previous children's hero, Paddington, and bringing back waves of nostalgia for toggle fasteners. My friend Sue sometimes lapses into wistful introspection as she recalls her favourite childhood knit (known to her friends and family simply as "Apple Jumper") which was cruelly shrunk in a hot wash. Never has she been able to recapture the shoulder-buttoning adorability of that magical childhood jumper, but for all of you out there with serious urges for your childhood clothes, this could be your season.
Kookai is stocking a cardi with a fake fur collar which sent me back to my primary school days. I had the biggest crush on a boy with one of those khaki green anoraks that had very soft furry collars. I guess they were a mod thing, this being the mid-Seventies. I can't remember the boy's name, but I sure remember his anorak.
If you feel concerned that the whole South Park look is just a bit too youthful for anyone over the age of 12, you couldn't be more wrong. After all, you'd have to be seriously adult to part with the pounds 130 that it costs for a lipstick-red sheepskin "Tara" bobblehat from Sam de Teran. The look is great - faux naive and very childhood retro - but I advise sticking to the pounds 3.99 version available from your local market.
Essentially the good news for all of us this winter is that winter-proof fashion is acceptable. No more teeth-chattering at bus stops when the snow-boarding fraternity have brought high-tech multi-function triple- layer breathable coats to a sports shop near you. Swaddle up, bundle up, snuggle up. Layer the jumpers, fleeces, hoods, mittens and scarves in great cosy swathes and your only problem this winter will be suffering from heat exhaustion the minute you step indoors.
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