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STYLE ON SUNDAY

Va va velour: How lockdown brought back a cult noughties trend

They say trends come round every 20 years. Olivia Petter examines how a cult trend from the early 2000s made an unlikely comeback in 2020

Of all the Noughties trends to make a comeback, velour was probably the least likely. The soft, fuzzy and easily stained fabric is perhaps best aligned with the it girls of 2005 – think Britney Spears and Paris Hilton – frequently photographed sipping sugar-free lattes in LA dressed in a uniform of tank tops, the Balenciaga city bag and low-slung Juicy Couture tracksuits bearing the words “JUICY” across the rear.

But as the 2010s approached, other Noughties trends such as Von Dutch caps and Sketchers fell out of fashion, The Simple Life ended, and Spears and Hilton grew up and out of their plush, crystal-encrusted, uniforms, eventually, so did we. That was, until 2020.

This year has often been defined as unprecedented times, so perhaps it makes sense that one of the most embarrassing fashion items of our past should come back to haunt us. During the pandemic, velour has again become one of the most in-demand items. According to global fashion search platform, Lyst, searches for the fabric were up 42 per cent month-on-month in November, while searches for “velour tracksuits” spiked by 54 per cent and those for “velour sweatpants” surged by 80 per cent.

There are several explanations for this unlikely renaissance. The first is a viral photograph of Kim Kardashian West and style Queen herself, Ms Hilton. In October, Kardashian West launched a series of velour hoodies, jogging pants, and sweatshirts as part of her SKIMS clothing line. The reality TV star shared a photograph of herself and Hilton, both early adopters of the Juicy Couture two-pieces, wearing the new designs with chunky trainers, retro trainers, and matching Louis Vuitton holdalls.

The whole thing was nothing short of iconic, at least, the internet certainly thought so. But this wasn’t an ironic throwback to yesteryear, Kardashian was making the argument that velour was in fact exactly what we all needed: the perfect blend of nostalgia and elasticated loungewear for our troubled times. Now other famous faces have begun sporting the look, including actor Michelle Keegan and supermodel Irina Shayk, who was pictured in a grey velour tracksuit on a coffee run last month.

While it is tempting to write off the velour return as a misguided result of our collective 2020 despair, the hype has actually slowly been rebuilding for some time now. A key moment was in 2016, when Vetements made its debut at the notoriously conservative Paris Couture Fashion Week and sent models down the runway in various reinterpretations of Juicy Couture’s velour tracksuits. In some cases, they had been reworked as polo tops and high-waisted leggings and in others, reimagined as evening wear.

Perhaps it is most accurate to see this year not as the only reason for velour’s return to our wardrobes, but as the final piece of the jigsaw, the catalyst that consumers needed to give Juicy another chance. Combining our collective need for nostalgia –  sending us back to a time when the biggest drama was Lauren Conrad’s mascara tear – and comfort.

With much of the UK having spent the last eight months working from home, suits and smart/casual has been traded for sweats and, well, just plain casual. The typical remote-working wardrobe is a far cry from the in-office one for obvious reasons, and comfort has become the priority for many of us.

But that’s not to say we want to spend our days lying around in any old tracksuit – and many employers wouldn’t be best pleased to see this on your next Zoom call. Enter velour. As Hilton said, it offers wearers that perfect middle ground of comfortable and flattering, given that the typical velour tracksuit is tight-fitting, which makes it significantly smarter than a conventional tracksuit.

Fashion has always favoured nostalgia. And velour is far from the only trend to make a comeback in recent years. We’ve seen countless styles re-emerge from the 1990s in particular, from camouflage trousers and berets to mesh tops and cycling shorts. Some cult brands from the era have enjoyed a renaissance too, like Ugg, which recently partnered with revered British fashion designer Molly Goddard for a zany collection of fluffy flat-soled slippers and sky-high platforms.

It might come as no surprise to learn that even 15 years later the two most wanted velour styles to buy now, according to Lyst, are those from SKIMS and Juicy Couture – yes, it’s still around. The latter has updated its designs since the days of Britney, bringing the waist bands higher and creating a range of new colourways, like navy. “Our best selling items consistently are the core styles and also the black bottoms with “Juicy” printed in diamante on the rear,” says a spokesperson for the US label.

They are also incredibly soft, and feel more akin to velvet (a similar pile) than conventional velour, making them a luxe item. However, at £125 for top and bottom, Juicy Couture tracksuits are not an affordable investment for everyone.

Thanks to the trend’s resurgence, there are countless cheaper styles on offer elsewhere. We love this black fleece velour co-ord from Marks and Spencer (£50) and this navy blue set from Next (£44). Whichever style you choose, be sure not to simply let it sit in the bottom of your wardrobe once you return to the office. For this might be your new remote-working uniform, but it can just as easily become comforting weekend garb you can throw on for your weekend coffee run – Britain’s very own Paris.

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