Bill Cosby, for many, especially in the early '80s, helped define a generation. In a time when increasingly violent and vulgar programming dominated airwaves, he was a surrogate parent of sorts to asshole children all across the country through his wholesome sitcom vehicle The Cosby Show. However, his most memorable achievement came not from the portrayal of Cliff Huxtable, but perhaps the wildly sensational sweaters he rocked throughout the course of the show. In a fascinating and ironically hilarious interview, VICE takes us deep inside the workshop of Koos Van Den Akker, the man behind the sweaters.
Hailing from Holland, Van Den Akker honed his design chops at Christian Dior and was later approached by a friend to design a sweater as a gift for Cosby. He wore it on set and everyone was so intrigued by its kitschy aesthetic that Cosby asked him to design a couple more and the rest was history. The Cosby sweaters were indeed a mystery unto itself—most of the concepts were wildly imaginative and were one-of-a-kind pieces. The base of the sweaters were a jersey material so they would be stretchy, and then combined with woolens to form those seizure-inducing patterns we all love.
Van Den Akker explains that, "In those days, in the early '80s, it was very much of patterns—you have to realize when you look at this now, it's familiar because all the fashion today is like that. When I did this there was nothing like that around. So people were just freaked out. They said, 'what the fuck is that?'" He's got a point. In today's circular world of fashion anything vintage with ugly ass patterns is basically the next big thing. Van Den Akker goes on to explain that while those ridiculous patterns were all over Holland at the time, they had never been seen here in the States.
"This is a very thin line between absolutely awful and something of genius. I mean somebody can look at it and say, 'What the fuck is this? This is the most horrible thing I've ever seen.' And somebody else says inspiration." Can we have our cake and eat it too?