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Bill Cosby Schools Us About Those Crazy Sweaters.
February 13, 2013 7:09 AM   Subscribe

Bill Cosby Schools Us About Those Crazy Sweaters.
posted by chunking express (33 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
As a result, the show often relied on close-up shots of Cosby to capture such moments of improvised humor. However, tight shots like these caused problems when matching the scenes from two different takes, as a slight difference in costume positioning would become a glaring mistake.

So they were dazzle camouflage?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:15 AM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


I see that Huxtable Hotness is linked in the article, which is the blog of mefite Help, I can't stop talking! It's pretty funny.
posted by gaspode at 7:18 AM on February 13, 2013


Yeah, that was the thing with Cosby Sweaters - that was what was available for sweaters in the 80's. Guys were turning up like that at my high school two years before The Cosby Show was even on the air.

The 80's, man. We Gen-X'ers aren't kidding about any of it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:22 AM on February 13, 2013 [10 favorites]


The Ten Cosbmandments.
posted by middleclasstool at 7:24 AM on February 13, 2013


At the time, those sweaters didn't seem all that crazy. We all had some wacky sweaters back then.

Great article!
posted by Leezie at 7:33 AM on February 13, 2013


As for Mr. Cosby, does he still have any of his classic sweaters stashed away somewhere? “I have no idea what I have,” says Cosby. “I’m married 49 years, and all I know is I have one drawer left, and I don’t where the rest of my stuff is. I have a feeling, and some people say it sounds cruel, but I have a feeling upon my death, some 20 minutes after, eBay will explode.”

The Cos is obviously a realistic, pragmatic man.
posted by orange swan at 7:38 AM on February 13, 2013 [4 favorites]


Cosby himself doesn’t even remember when he first heard the term “Cosby sweater,” and is hard-pressed to explain why the style is such a phenomenon among young people today.

“I have no idea, and I’m not going make up anything,” says Cosby, “but I think youthful people have a long time to live, so they can waste some time on something like that.


Who says Youth is wasted on the young?
posted by GenjiandProust at 7:39 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


“And in those days you also got shoulder pads, for free,” Cosby adds.
posted by asperity at 7:48 AM on February 13, 2013


I love this. I'm re-watching Community with my 10 year old and she adores it even though she doesn't get half the jokes. I spent a long time explaining the nice sweater joke to her and we watched an old Cosby show episode together. Those jokes she got.
posted by looli at 8:01 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


Nice Koos profile here. Warning!: Youtube.
posted by Glomar response at 8:13 AM on February 13, 2013


I cannot believe that none of those sweaters were Coogi! That smashes an assumption I've carried for most of my life.
posted by padraigin at 8:18 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can appreciate the effort and love that went into them, but my God, those were some ugly sweaters.

Maybe it's the sweater format that doesn't work; I've liked garish art in other places, but somehow seeing it in a baggy sweater paired with a pair of khakis or what have you, it's just...no.
posted by emjaybee at 8:28 AM on February 13, 2013


The thing about the Cosby sweaters, and I think one of the reasons they're getting to be somewhat hipish, is that they're dad sweaters: comfortable, comforting, utterly unstylish, just like your dad. And then of course the Cosby Show always was comfort food, a safe place away from all the real life craziness of the eighties (nuclear war! Savings and Loans scandal! Khadaffi! A president with Alzheimers!) and since today isn't much better (and we all grew up with it), we're unconsciously drawn towards those sweaters, ugly or not.
posted by MartinWisse at 8:42 AM on February 13, 2013


These are probably the only things from the 80s I really still like. Not that I'd wear one, of course.
posted by tommasz at 8:45 AM on February 13, 2013


Actually, I believe the article is wrong on one front.

[pedantic hat ON]

The stockinette stitch, a standard on most sweaters, alternates rows of knitted and purled stitches, which results in a subtle ribbing or stripe effect. The cameras used for “The Cosby Show” made even solid-colored stockinette sweaters vibrate or strobe when onscreen.

Nope. What they're describing is garter stitch. Props to these handy tutorials co-written by MeFi's Own bitter-girl.com!

Quick primer: Imagine you've got a scarf hanging around your neck. Nothing fancy; just the two ends hanging down. A knit stitch is equivalent to how it looks if you hang the scarf around the back of your neck and put the ends in the front. It creates a stitch that looks like a V. A purl stitch is the opposite: hang the scarf around the front of your neck and let the ends fall down the back. It creates a stitch that looks like a bump or a collar around the stitch below it.

The trick is that in knitting, there's a right side and a wrong side. When you knit flat, you get to the end of your row and turn around to knit back. But when you knit on the right side and then knit on the wrong side, you'll turn around to the right side again and it'll look like you've purled a row -- because knitting on the wrong side (Vs) produces purling on the right side (bumps).

So when they say that it has alternated knit and purled rows, that's from the right side... but all the knitter (or machine) has done is knit from both sides. Or purl from both sides -- same deal.

The ribbing effect comes because the Vs are like troughs, while the bumps are like ridges. Stockinette -- no ridges.

Stockinette stitch is the "flat" pattern (or comparable lack thereof). To create a smooth stockinette look, you need to purl on the wrong side so the right side has nothing but Vs and the wrong side has nothing but bumps.

You can also avoid the right/wrong side problem by knitting in the round, so you're doing one loooooong spiral that knits into a tube.
posted by Madamina at 8:52 AM on February 13, 2013 [8 favorites]


Madamina, I adore you and your pedantic hat.

Go Team MetaStitcher!
posted by bakerina at 8:58 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


For those who won't RTFA and came in here just to say something witty -- go read the article. You will be rewarded, at the end of the article, with the most incredible sweater in the history of humankind.
posted by ardgedee at 9:01 AM on February 13, 2013 [6 favorites]


Addendum: My esteemed colleague jacquilynne says that they're either wrong about calling it ribbing or wrong about calling it stockinette.

She agrees that long columns of vertical knit stitches could produce a strobe effect; however, this would most likely be evident with a K1, P1 rib (or inconsistent stitch tension, which is more characteristic of handmade sweaters). Now, that's another very common sweater stitch, and it can LOOK a lot like stockinette -- in fact, most t-shirts are knit this way. The ribbing is just so small that it pulls the columns tightly together.

What, me, digress?
posted by Madamina at 9:02 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


The stockinette stitch, a standard on most sweaters, alternates rows of knitted and purled stitches, which results in a subtle ribbing or stripe effect. The cameras used for “The Cosby Show” made even solid-colored stockinette sweaters vibrate or strobe when onscreen.
Nope. What they're describing is garter stitch.


I'm not so sure. Garter stitch does have a subtle ribbing effect, but it is formed by knitting row after row after row. Stockinette does indeed come from knitting one row, and then purling the next, and then...So that part is indeed right.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:03 AM on February 13, 2013


Either way, I'm peeved at their lack of clarity. Why bother describing it?
posted by Madamina at 9:05 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always thought they were mostly Gordon Gartrell.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:13 AM on February 13, 2013 [5 favorites]


The thing about the Cosby sweaters, and I think one of the reasons they're getting to be somewhat hipish, is that they're dad sweaters: comfortable, comforting, utterly unstylish, just like your dad.

Well, yes and no. It's funny the way different garments will read in different contexts. The Koos sweaters, for example, which are in many ways the absolutely iconic "Cosby Sweaters" (even though they were, as the article says, often used only in the opening credits) were one-of-a-kind pieces from a fairly high-end designer. They were, in fact, precisely the kind of thing a typical American "dad" would be expected to flee from in a panic--the kind of thing that rock stars, film stars, design-industry people and so on would buy (and for pretty heady prices, too). It's actually only our association of this look with the Cosby show that makes us read them as "dad sweaters."
posted by yoink at 9:17 AM on February 13, 2013 [2 favorites]


It did take me out of the article, trying to imagine how stockinette stitch could be a problem, especially since it looks like all those sweaters use stockinette stitch so I don't know what to think.

Denise was my fashion crush on that show.

I miss the Huxtables.
posted by maggiemaggie at 10:03 AM on February 13, 2013


I think Lisa Bonet was everybody's crush, fashion or otherwise.
posted by chunking express at 10:05 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


If Cliff wore Gordon Gartrell, I guarantee Theo would have been a bit less obsessed.
posted by Madamina at 10:11 AM on February 13, 2013 [1 favorite]


I never got the fuss about the sweaters: every single hockey-playing male in Minnesota also wore terrible, terrible sweaters in those days.

No other sports, mind you, just hockey, so I always figured Cosby for a secret hockey nut.
posted by wenestvedt at 11:24 AM on February 13, 2013


Sweaters are warm.
posted by chunking express at 11:30 AM on February 13, 2013


I think Lisa Bonet was everybody's crush, fashion or otherwise.

Weird as her getups could be, the Denise Huxtable costumes have actually aged better than whatever the rest of the cast wore. She was never in style and therefore can't be out of style.
posted by orange swan at 11:48 AM on February 13, 2013


AT the time, I had several koos inspired sweaters made out of not any old kind of wool, but merino wool. I remember that because someone carefully pointed out that the label said merino wool.I was made to wear them whenever I was supposed to be dressed up. They were like what we imagined rich people wearing.

Never met any dads who wore anything like them.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:49 AM on February 13, 2013


Cosby sweaters were just about the only kind of sweater available in the mid-1980s at your local Chess King and Miller's Outpost. I never owned one, but I would totally rock this Track and Field number
posted by porn in the woods at 1:46 PM on February 13, 2013


You will be rewarded, at the end of the article, with the most incredible sweater in the history of humankind

oh my yes - I actually looked at that picture for a long time, trying to figure out if it was an actual garment, or just some deranged person's demented scribble of what a horrible sweater would look like.

I had the *best* sweater in the 80's - mostly black, and on the front, on one side was a stripe of teal, and a stripe of purple, along the other side a row of teal and purple triangles. somehow triangles were the coolest shape in the 80's.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 1:49 PM on February 13, 2013


As a result, the show often relied on close-up shots of Cosby to capture such moments of improvised humor. However, tight shots like these caused problems when matching the scenes from two different takes, as a slight difference in costume positioning would become a glaring mistake.

“Usually you don’t do close-ups on TV, and that’s why we started using sweaters,” says Lemire. “As our bodies move around, the clothes are going to shift between the first and second take. If you have a jacket on, and the shirt collar’s in one spot, it’s going to slide off a little on one side or the other, or it might do something else that didn’t match. Sandrich was a real stickler for things matching, so we just did the sweater thing. I actually sewed his shirts to the sweaters so that nothing moved.”

Fascinating!

As for the strobing, I could see it being a problem if it was a fairly chunky knit. When you get to the point that individual stitches are clearly visible, stockinette does form columns, which would show up as a bunch of close parallel lines that I'd imagine could cause strobing issues. But, in that case... just get a thinner sweater.
posted by Gordafarin at 1:57 PM on February 13, 2013


The bit about the sweaters being good for continuity was really interesting. It does make sense. Come to think of it, didn't a lot of TV dads wear sweaters in that era? Maybe it wasn't so much a goofy 1980s fashion thing as a sitcom continuity thing.

"I think youthful people have a long time to live, so they can waste some time on something like that."


I know I'm getting old, because way down in my bones, I know exactly what he means. I came to feel the same way a couple of years ago regarding endless arguments about Privilege. Jesus, life is too damn short, kids.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 6:18 PM on February 13, 2013


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