What would you class as essential retail? A supermarket maybe? Perhaps a pharmacy? How about a full trackie that’ll set you back nearly 150 quid?
Over the past few weeks, there’s a strong chance your Instagram has been inundated with people wearing cream, charcoal or putty brown joggers and oversized hoodies, with the word “ESSENTIALS” stamped on the front in bold, block lettering.
Made in Chelsea’s viral whinger Zara McDermott has got hers, so has Love Island’s loveable meathead Tommy Fury. And if you’re a follower of London streetwear account @stepcorrectuk – which has 240,000 followers – you’ll be familiar with the sudden craze surrounding this monotonous loungewear.
This stripped-back attire is a product of Fear of God ESSENTIALS. Launched back in 2018, it’s a diffusion label that simplifies Fear of God mainline staples at more affordable price points. Founded by Jerry Lorenzo in 2013, Fear of God has quickly become a cult streetwear brand, known for its minimal branding, neutral hues and collaborations with Vans and Nike. ESSENTIALS shares the pillars of the FOG main label’s design vocabulary – think sweats, fleeces and puffas in muted colours and easy-going shapes – just now made accessible to the wider public, at a fifth of the price of FOG.
Think it all looks a bit boring? Well, not according to the 1.9 million posts tagging #fearofgod on Instagram, the majority of which are hypebeasts trying to look ‘ard in their ESSENTIALS get-up.
The very plain tracksuit has been splitting opinions online due to the fact that it’s, er, a very plain tracksuit that will also leave your wallet considerably lighter. On SSENSE, a pair of thermal lounge pants from the brand will cost you £50, whilst a quarter zip stands at £90. But on resale sites like Grailed, the prices are skyrocketing, with a black pull-over that Justin Bieber also happens to own currently going for $300 – despite the fact it looks like you’d find it buried in the back corner of an H&M.
“Jerry Lorenzo mate you can’t just take the tracksuit of the trenches & sell it back to the trenches for quadruple the price brother,” wrote rapper and producer Faze Miyake on Twitter, while TikTok user @PokuBanks warned against getting yourself into debt by buying into the brand just because influencers on the gram are flaunting theirs.
So what’s all the fuss? Well in the land of hypebeasts, Jerry Lorenzo is David Bowie and Luka Sabbat (who also models ESSENTIALS collections) – a “drip gawd” (that’s someone who’s given godly status for being able to afford to dress in head-to-toe designer gear). Fear of God is at the forefront of a particular strand of streetwear that places itself at a luxury price point – first brought into the fashion consciousness when Louis Vuitton collaborated with Supreme in 2017, when the retail price of a t-shirt was approximately £342.
In a similar vein, last year Fear of God teamed up with high-end Milanese label Ermenegildo Zegna – where hoodies cost a steep £620 – and Lorenzo prides himself on his brand’s use of luxury fabrics, such as organic cotton and 100% nylon sourced from Japan and Italy.
Christopher Morency, the editorial director of Highsnobiety, says Fear of God is a pioneer of “silent streetwear” alongside the likes of Kanye West’s Yeezy and sustainable label Pangaia.
“The brand doesn’t have to hide behind empty hype, loud graphics or difficult silhouettes,” he says. “When stripped back to its bare essentials, quality and construction stand on their own.” As the meaning of streetwear becomes more ambiguous, Morency believes “silent streetwear” will disperse “across every price-point and product category”, with the lines of what’s considered “streetwear” and “luxury” now increasingly blurred.
That’s where appeal for ESSENTIALS comes in. While a pair of Fear of God lounge pants will cost you £555, ESSENTIALS track pants are a considerably cheaper £100 – not too far off the price you’d pay for a pair from Nike, as one Twitter user points out. You’re paying to be part of the Fear of God club without the Fear of God price tag, nabbing yourself quality, well-produced garb without having to break the bank and borrow a bit of extra wonga from your partner to complete your purchase.
Yet you can look at the ESSENTIALS hype in simpler terms. What’s the easiest way of showing the world you own decent clobber while being comfortable enough to sit round your gaff all day? Chuck on an ESSENTIALS trackie and you’re practically a walking billboard for a label that defines modern luxury.
“These soft, comfortable, familiar and easy pieces that are contemporary are very attractive to lots of people,” says Jay McCauley Bowstead, a cultural and historical studies lecturer at London College of Fashion and author of Menswear Revolution. “Especially in this current bizarre context where self-care and comfort have become increasingly important.
“Fear of God has taken familiar elements from American workwear and sportswear: denim, engineer’s jackets, varsity sweatshirts, overalls, and jogging bottoms – combining them with unstructured, oversized 80s Armani-style tailoring,” he continues. “These references have been elevated using a sandy, soft, muted palette (that feels expensive) and a paired back, subtly fashion-forward approach to design. There’s nothing earth-shatteringly inventive about this combination, but it feels relevant and desirable.”
2021 has kicked off to be a shitshow of year, so the last thing people are looking for is overly complicated garms. People want calm and comfy, and these trackies happen to be cool to the wider public, as well. If Fear of God ESSENTIALS is the uniform for braving this strange new world we’re in, then move over Pretty Little Thing, you have tracksuits the colour of porridge to compete with now.