How Chandler Bing and Jerry Seinfeld Became 2021’s Biggest Fashion Icons

How Chandler Bing and Jerry Seinfeld Became 2021's Biggest Fashion Icons

THROWBACK THURSDAY Clockwise from top left: A sweater-vested look from Officine Générale’s spring 2022 collection; Chandler Bing from ‘Friends’ in a quintessentially ’90s outfit; Niles Crane of ‘Frasier’ in his signature paisley tie and suspenders; a simple suit styled with yellow sneakers in Noah’s fall lineup; Jerry Seinfeld in his typical pared-back garb; an earth-toned spring 2022 ensemble by Lemaire.

Illustration: Sean McCabe (Illustration); Getty Images (Friends, Seinfeld, Frasier)

IN THE 1990s, NBC’s Thursday night “Must See TV” lineup included sitcoms like “Friends,” “Frasier” and “Seinfeld” that earned stratospheric ratings and Emmys galore. What they didn’t receive was praise for their clothes. Few people considered the blue button-ups and flouncy khakis of Ross Geller, Dr. Frasier Crane and Jerry Seinfeld’s eponymous TV alter-ego the peak of fashion. You can find articles declaring that “Seinfeld had the worst clothes” published as recently as 2017.

But something has shifted in the past few years….

IN THE 1990s, NBC’s Thursday night “Must See TV” lineup included sitcoms like “Friends,” “Frasier” and “Seinfeld” that earned stratospheric ratings and Emmys galore. What they didn’t receive was praise for their clothes. Few people considered the blue button-ups and flouncy khakis of Ross Geller, Dr. Frasier Crane and Jerry Seinfeld’s eponymous TV alter-ego the peak of fashion. You can find articles declaring that “Seinfeld had the worst clothes” published as recently as 2017.

But something has shifted in the past few years. Once written off as frumpy, ’90s sitcom characters like “Friends” wiseacre Chandler Bing have somehow become genuine fashion icons. On image-sharing site
Pinterest,
searches for “Chandler Bing fashion” are up 200% compared with this time last year. Vendors on the vintage-clothing resale website Depop are using “Chandler Bing-style” as a positive descriptor to help shill beige sweater vests. TikTok, Gen-Z’s favorite video-app, is awash with videos showing how to dress like your favorite “Friends” or “Seinfeld” characters. In October 2020, Tim Dessaint, a popular men’s fashion content creator, re-created the outfits of “Friends” characters in a YouTube video. One channeling Ross Geller comprised a blousy pink button-down, voluminous pleated jeans and chunky sneakers. The video has been viewed nearly 60,000 times.

To 20-somethings, these banal clothes feel novel, even sexy.

Recent fashion collections also bring these hammy characters to mind. In its fall collection, New York’s Noah showed a suit with yellow Adidas sneakers—a very Seinfeld-ian way to style tailoring. Earlier this year, Paris brand Officine Générale sent a model down the runway in a white T-shirt and blue sweater vest, a combo that would have looked at home on Central Perk’s couch. And the latest offering from New York’s Aimé Leon Dore includes a yellow-and-brown “Leisure” shirt that could have been pilfered from Cosmo Kramer’s closet.

These characters’ growing influence is part of a larger ’90s renaissance. Weary of slim trousers and fast fashion, some consumers (often born in the ’90s) have cottoned to the looser shapes and simple, normcore designs that reigned during the decade. Chandler Bing might well approve of Chris Poresky’s recent pant choices. Lately, the 27-year-old nuclear engineer in Berkeley, Calif., has taken to wearing roomy pleated khakis, which are “more comfortable than something tight,” he said.

Sora Sky Suzuki, 24, a merchant for a clothing label in New York, has also found himself dressing for “Must See TV.” On the day we spoke, that meant light washed jeans, a gray T-shirt and a brown sport coat. It is not a coincidence that he has watched the entire run of “Seinfeld” twice during the past 18 months. More than keeping him entertained during lockdown, the show yielded inspiration for approachable outfits, he said. “I used to think really hard about pocket squares and ties,” said Mr. Suzuki, lamenting the fastidiousness that once consumed his time. “Everyone has a navy blazer, everyone has a pair of jeans, a T-shirt and a pair of loafers,” he said, rattling off the components of a primo Seinfeld outfit that can be pulled together with little thought.

Mr. Suzuki’s relative youth is a factor here. As a child of the ’90s, he wasn’t really aware of the last time flowy blue button-ups, earth-toned sport coats and pleated pants were popular. To him, these banal clothes feel novel, even sexy.

The way we watch TV in 2021 has also reshaped which characters can become style gods. In years past, when a show went off the air, it largely disappeared from public consciousness. But thanks to streaming services like Hulu and HBO Max, anyone can binge “Friends,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” “Cheers” and other beloved pre-Y2K programs as easily as any current show.

Because of this, Jerry Seinfeld’s suede jackets and Niles Crane’s natty suspenders remain topical in discussions of what’s in style, as influential as whatever Timothée Chalamet or Michael B. Jordan wear on red carpets. And during the past 18 months, many people were at home bingeing these pre-Y2K (and pre-pandemic) shows. Michael Ford, senior culture and trend researcher at Depop in London, noted that the platform saw “booms in search terms” related to ’90s TV during Covid lockdowns.

Joacim Byléhn, 37, who works in supply chain management in Stockholm, grew up on sitcoms like “Frasier” and “Seinfeld” and re-watches them frequently. “A lot of us remember the ’90s as a good decade,” he said, noting that he takes comfort in these shows of his youth. They’ve also shaped his personal style. In August, he assembled an all-white outfit that included a crisp ivory polo and unmarked tennis shoes. He might have appeared dressed for tennis, but on his Instagram page, Mr. Byléhn revealed his true inspiration: a white outfit worn by Niles Crane on “Frasier.”

 

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