Video: The Man Behind the Cosby Sweater

You know the sweater well. You probably had one yourself.

My brother had one in shades of grey, and my stepfather had a few that rivaled Dr. Huxtable’s in both brightness and aggressive patterning. My dad, as an artist and photographer, had the good sense to stay away, but the rest of the world jumped on the Cosby Sweater hard-core. I even had a girlie version in turquoise and hot pink.

There are very few single-item pieces of clothing that inspire a fashion trend so pervasive that a full generation later they’re still considered iconic, and one could argue that there are almost none that originated in men’s fashion.

Yes, the Cosby Sweater changed fashion—for better or for worse—forever.

So when Vice posted a video about the man behind the sweater, I wasn’t surprised to learn that its designer, Dutchman Koos Van den Akker, is pretty awesome (despite calling Dutch women “cows”—ahem!). To wit, when describing how his sweaters were received in the fashion world, he says, “In the early 80s it was very much of patterns… now you have to realize that when you look at htis now it’s familiar, because all of the fashion today is like that. But when I did that, there was nothing like that around so people were just freaked out. They said, ‘What the fuck is that?'”

In describing one sweater, which I swear I actually remember Dr. Huxtable wearing, Van den Akker says, “this is a very thin line between absolutely awful and something of genius.” And as Aisha Harris of says, “And his lack of humility is oddly charming.”

Hard to say whether it’s awful or genius, but without a doubt it is iconic.

About Joanna Schroeder

Joanna Schroeder is a feminist writer and editor with a special focus in issues facing raising boys and gender in the media. Her work has appeared on Redbook, Yahoo!, xoJane,,, and more. She and her husband are outdoor sports enthusiasts raising very active sons. She is currently co-editing a book of essays for boys and young men with author and advocate Jeff Perera. Follow her shenanigans on Twitter.

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