If you pass a cardigan on the street today, be sure to give it a nice pat on the back. Because cardigans are having a very good year.
A report released today by the social resale site Poshmark (with the unimpeachable title “Name a More Iconic Duo: Mr. Rogers & The Cardigan”) confirms the sweater’s annus mirabilis. The forthcoming Mr. Rogers biopic A Beautiful Day In the Neighborhood, starring noted sneaker influencer Tom Hanks, has skyrocketed the open-front knit to new heights of popularity and national adoration: since the premiere of the film at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, men’s searches for cardigan on Poshmark increased 79%, and purchases on the platform increased a whopping 108%.
Undoubtedly, the cardigan cause célèbre was also helped by Kurt Cobain, whose stained and crusy mohair olive green sweater by the defunct Perry Ellis-owned knitwear brand Manhattan Industries sold for a record $334,000 in late October, making it the most expensive sweater ever sold at auction.
Nonetheless, it was the red cardigan in particular, which is a Rogers signature, that saw the highest spike in popularity—purchases have increased 104%, reports Poshmark.
Why the cardigan, and why right now? Well, first of all, Halloween! It’s unfortunately easy to see “Sexy Mr. Rogers” having swept the sick heart of our twisted nation this season. But the cardigan is also one of fashion’s most complicated garments: standing, as it does, for morality, decency, and modestly, it’s rife for reinterpretation and subversion. The cardigan is the most delicate and sensitive of knits; part of its appeal in the vast universe of Cobain artifacts is the feeling that it is a synecdoche for all of Cobain’s existential dissatisfaction with the corporate pop music machine and the macho Nirvana fans he felt misunderstood the band. You just look at the garment and see Cobain hunched over, the mopey cape hanging tragically off his bony shoulders.
And because the cardigan is so symbolic, it’s disarmingly simple for it to stand for precisely the opposite idea, too. Logan Roy, the Succession patriarch and the world’s oldest living human bottle of Balvenie scotch, does his evil deeds in an elaborate shawl-collar cardigan that looks as soft as Roy is not.
You may not want to be Roy, and none of us can be Cobain (even if we own the musician’s sweater, though maybe don’t do that—the previous owner told Rolling Stone he was selling it because he couldn’t handle the pressure of possessing the garment). But I guess we can be Mr. Rogers, sexy or not! Yes: anyone can come home after a long day’s work, gingerly remove their work clothing, and dress down in a cardigan and sneakers. (And then order like $60 of sushi on Seamless and drink half a bottle of wine and Instagram it with the caption “#UGH #CAPITALISM”!!!)
Do people want to be Mr. Rogers? I suppose we will find out when the film is finally released on November 22, 2019. (Crewneck lovers: viewer discretion is advised.) This isn’t all we have to learn about cardigans today, however. It’s time to yank down the proverbial projector screen and take out my pointer rod so we can have a long, serious chat about the heart and soul of America(...’s sweaters).
As you can see from the Poshmark infomap above, America is radically divided when it comes to sweater brand preferences. The northeastern United States is demonstrating a distinct preference for cardigans by rag & bone—tasteful, but perplexingly elitist according to the rest of the WORLD. The midwest is drawn to the je ne sais quoi of Lacoste cardigans, which are the platonic ideal of a varsity style, the kind you might proudly wear to a pep rally or cry in while listening to Weezer (as a one-time resident of Ohio, I assure you that these are the two tentpoles of midwestern high school existence). Meanwhile, the south gravitates towards the romantic Americana stylings of Ralph Lauren’s Polo, a brand whose breadth of cardigan knowledge is so vast that you both Logan Roy and Kurt Cobain could find something to love—mostly because it is obsessed with tradition.
Perhaps most surprising is the fact that the western half of the United States is absolutely dominated by an affinity for cardigans by AllSaints, the British steampunk high street brand that sells Rick Owens-y takes on Sienna Miller’s Glastonbury wardrobe. These are sweaters that come drapey and minimalist, for the man who thinks it might be chilly at the Imagine Dragons show tonight.
Will America be able to overcome its differences in brand loyalty? Will its grievously divided citizens be able to see the greater commonality of a sweater that wraps around your back and meets in the front with a few buttons that carry a message of coming together, yes, of spiritual unity, of that beautiful only-in-America promise of working towards the greater good of no one seeing your bad T-shirt?
That is an existential drama to close 2019. Only 2020 has the answer.
Originally Appeared on GQ