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Fashion

Does Gucci’s £1,800 shell suit signal the return of the 1980s’ worst look?

The much-mocked item of sportswear has apparently evolved. But it still looks like a migraine

Name: Gucci oversize waterproof nylon jacket and tracksuit bottoms.

Colour: Green, blue, purple, orange and red.

Cost: £1,790.

I think you might be missing a decimal point. Oh, not this argument again.

Which argument? The old: “Look, an expensive design house is selling clothes at an exclusionary price, it’s an outrage!” argument. Designer clothes exist to be sold at a price that only a few people can afford. That’s the point of them.

That wasn’t going to be my point, actually. Oh really? Then go ahead.

It’s horrible. Pardon?

It’s just so ugly. Oh, right. Yes, it is a bit, isn’t it?

It’s so disgusting. It is! It looks like the sort of thing you’d see a Gladiators contestant wearing in a training VT in 1993. It’s what we used to call a shell suit.

Is Gucci calling it a shell suit? It is! Look at what it says about it on its website: “Crafted in lightweight nylon, the shell suit evolves from its late-80s and early-90s origins and is reimagined into contemporary designs.”

The Gucci shell suit wornwith a tuxedo jacket
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 The Gucci shell suit wornwith a tuxedo jacket. Photograph: Gucci

It doesn’t look as though it has evolved very much to me. I know! It looks exactly like every shell suit I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Gucci has gussied it up a bit on its website by styling the model with a tuxedo jacket over the top – but it is still ultimately identical to every shell suit that has ever existed.

Actually, remind me again why shell suits are bad. Listen, I’m old enough to have owned a shell suit when shell suits were first invented, and they were the worst. They looked like a migraine, they made you sound like a sentient crisp packet whenever you walked anywhere and their material made you sweat like a monster.

Flammable, too. Yes! The original shell suits could be a genuine fire risk. They are impractical on multiple levels.

Is there anything different about the 2019 shellsuit? Sort of. It seems that the key to pulling off a shell suit today is to elevate it by pairing it with some pristine shoes.

Why are shoes so important? Because nice shoes are the dividing line between the shell suit’s old role as a widely mocked lower-class signifier and its new role as an ironic, wildly expensive symbol of misattributed wealth.

Ah, so this is about price after all. Of course it is.

Do say: “The shell suit is back.”

Don’t say: “Let’s all have a barbecue.”

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