- Experts say the resurgence of the style, particularly amid a pandemic and nationwide protests against racial inequality, mirrors a decades-long trend of turning to tie-dye during periods of cultural unrest.
- Brands ranging from Everlane to Chico's have started selling tie-dye products in recent weeks, while resale companies like Poshmark are experiencing upwards of a 100% rise in listing and purchases for tie-dye clothing compared to the same period last year.
- At Pinterest, searches for topics like "tie-dye techniques videos" have doubled in the past five weeks, while queries for "bleach tie-dye" and "tie-dye crafts" are each up 13 times the amount they were in the same period last year.
- "Nostalgic fashion can be used as a form of escapism as consumers face global issues including the pandemic, recession, and civil unrest," Kayla Marci, market analyst at retail data analytics firm Edited, told Business Insider.
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During the second month of quarantine as the now-familiar blend of boredom, anxiety, and despair began to hit unfailingly with each passing day I suddenly had the unrelenting desire to buy a tie-dye sweatshirt.
Though I couldn't quite pinpoint exactly where this desire was coming from, I figured it might have something to do with the influx of tie-dye imagery flooding my social media feeds. Every time I scrolled through Instagram, I was inundated with ads for matching loungewear sets or pictures of a friend's latest DIY tie-dye project. Rather than scoff, found myself taking screenshots and mental notes of the looks, finding an odd sense of comfort in the colorful patterns.
A week later, I was basically living in my blue tie-dye sweatshirt. Turns out I wasn't alone tie-dye is back in a major way, and experts say its part of a larger cyclical historical trend that shows Americans reach for the classic style during times of unrest. In other words, in times of turmoil, tie-dye thrives.
How 'nostalgic fashion' reemerges during times of turmoil
While tie-dye was most prominent during the counterculture movements of the 1970s, Kayla Marci market analyst at retail data analytics firm Edited said current cultural unrest in many ways evokes this period in a way that lends itself to the resurgence of the trend.
"Nostalgic fashion can be used as a form of escapism as consumers face global issues including the pandemic, recession, and civil unrest," Marci said. "In the 70s, we saw a big shift in politics and culture drawing parallels with the current climate. This has aided in the resurgence of some notable trends from this era, such as tie-dye."
In response, fashion brands have been quick to capitalize on the tie-dye boom, particularly those in the highly sought after athleisure and loungewear category. In the past week alone, brands ranging from Everlane which just debuted tie-dye masks to Chico's have rolled out fresh colorful tie-dye styles, and Instagram continues to be laden with sponsored posts for matching tie-dye loungewear sets from online retailers like Lulu's and Romwe.
"I think people are looking for a sense of freedom and tie-dye prints represent this feeling," said Kimberly Swarth, CEO of the athleisure brand, Onezie. "Tie-dye prints bring back a feeling from revolutionary 'hippy' free-form periods in history. Through these magical prints, people can radiate those feelings."
For Chico's, Kelly Cooper senior vice president of merchandise and design said the look is more of a "perennial inspiration" for the company and has been prominently featured throughout the duration of its 37-year history.
"From the runway to home dcor, there is no doubt this is the must-have print for summer," Cooper said. "Given the pandemic and consumers spending more time at home, the interest in nostalgic fashion has been popularized once again in comfortable clothing items."
Tie-dye has also been especially popular among resale companies like Poshmark, which have seen massive growth in sales for the style. According to Poshmark data provided to Business Insider, listings and purchases for tie-dye apparel increased by 75% for women and 100% for men during the months of March, April, and May compared to the same period last year.
"Nationwide shelter-in-place orders have changed the way we dress and we're wearing a lot of tie-dye lately," a Poshmark spokesperson wrote in an email to Business Insider. "As the trend began to take over our quarantine wardrobes, Poshmark sellers have met the demand."
Tie-dye takes over social media
For more crafty homebound Americans, searches for tie-dye projects and kits have also been on the rise. Swasti Sarna, Insights Manager at Pinterest, said searches for "tie-dye techniques videos" have doubled in the past five weeks compared to year-over-year data.
At the same time, queries for "bleach tie-dye" and "tie-dye crafts" are each up 13 times the amount they were in the same period last year, and she anticipates interest for the activity will continue as the pandemic continues.
"Tie-dying at home has become a fun hobby for Pinners during the pandemic, and now, pinners are looking for new techniques to learn," she wrote in an email to Business Insider.
Marci of Edited said part of the resurgence of tie-dye can also be traced to the rise of celebrity sharing photos of their own creations and DIY videos on platforms like TikTok that gave quarantined Americans inspiration for everything from dalgona coffee to homemade bread.
"It reemerged as a DIY trend with tutorials going viral across TikTok and YouTube, even with celebrities sharing their attempts," Marci said. "The print lent itself to another significant quarantine trend loungewear with tie-dye sweatpants, hoodies and coordinated ses becoming sought-after products throughout the pandemic.
Though Marci said tie-dye has long been "synonymous with summer" regardless of the current state of the world, she anticipates the newfound enthusiasm for tie-dye will continue, particularly within athletic wear and streetwear.
"As an essential element within streetwear, tie-dye often features in season-less drops and collabs," she said. "Darker washes can also apply for cooler months where it can continue to compliment the prominent 70s trend in nostalgic product edits."
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