The Bill Cosby Sweater legacy

Last Saturday I went to a dinner party for a friend’s birthday. The fact that he was the birthday boy wasn’t the only thing that made him the focal point of the evening, his knitted cardigan made him the centre of attention as well! Opinions varied on his – what I would classify as a Cosby sweater.
It’s pretty amazing what an enormous influence Bill Cosby’s sweaters have had; I mean, there’s a whole type of garment named after it. And they still prove to be a source of inspiration to artists and designers today, even after a 30 odd years. Now I only recently found out that the guy who designed the sweaters is Dutch! His name is Koos van den Akker and he left fashionless Holland for New York in the early sixties. Vice interviewed him recently in his NY studio (watch it here – highly recommended!). Koos hits the nail on the head when he looks at the sweaters and says, with a very cute Dutch accent: 
“This is a very thin line between absolutely awful and something of genius. Somebody can look at this and say ‘What the fuck is this? This is the most horrible thing I’ve ever seen’ and you know, somebody else says.. ‘it’s inspiration'”.
Inspired by this (pizza??) sweater, pictured above, Andrew Salomone created this jumper on a HACKED electronic knitting machine from the 1980s (God, I wish I was so nerdy as to be able to hack a knitting machine!! Watch the tutorial here on the Craft site). Bill on the sweater is wearing the sweater, so there’s a nice Droste-effect!

Another Cosby sweater inspired project is The Cosby Sweater Project. Kelly Tucker makes drawings of patterns of all the knits worn on the show. Maybe it was the outrageous 80s, but everybody in the Cosby show seemed to wearing awesome sweaters!

Even musicians have been inspired by the sweater: a quick research shows the garment gets a mention in songs by Ghostface Killah, MF Doom and Yelawolf. In 2008 Oh Snap!! released The Cosby Sweater EP. This remix by Hostage is a proper banger, with a nice Miami Bass-y intro. … the elbow’s leather and there’s pink and green and o and blue…” hahaha.


Oh Snap! – Bill Cosby Sweater (Hostage Remix). Download it here.
  1. Ellen Vesters

    hahaha, genius!

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