How ‘The Bear sweater’ went viral

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The Bear Season 2

Fashion and food are the twin preoccupations of the TV series, now entering season two. Faran Krentcil dissects the appeal of Carmy’s crew neck and the series’ cool-chef chic.

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On the morning of 27 June, Google searches spiked for three words: “The Bear Sweater”. To the uninitiated, the term might reference a Winnie the Pooh cardigan. But to streetwear acolytes, it was a signal flare: a new season of television’s riveting drama The Bear had just dropped, and its unlikely hero – a scrappy chef named Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto (Jeremy Allen White) – was wearing something cool. For global fans of the show, “The Bear Sweater” had to be found at all costs… just like every other item Carmine Berzatto wears on TV.  

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“The Bear has so many fans of its style because the average guy wants to be well-dressed, but for a purpose,” says Cam Wolf, senior style writer at GQ who breaks down the show’s looks for his readers. “That semi-utilitarian edge is so appealing… It used to be that the military fuelled men’s style. Then it was the Mad Men era – people wanted to dress like Don Draper because he was successful, and desirable. Carmy and The Bear is the next extension of that.” And because The Bear takes place in a kitchen instead of an office, Wolf notes it’s even easier to attain some of the show’s key pieces. “Anyone can go [on-line] and get a pair of Dickies and a pair of Birkenstock Boston clogs,” he says. 

Chefs are artists at heart, and we’re obsessed with details – so our clothes are very similar – Brian Pancir

The show’s open-book school of style is intentional, according to The Bear costume designer, Courtney Wheeler. “There’s no gatekeeping here,” she says, noting she’s often asked where Carmy gets his plain white T-shirts (Ohio workwear company Velva Sheen and German T-shirt hub Merz B Schwanen). “This season, Carmy is making a home for himself in Chicago,” says Wheeler, “and he has pulled out more pieces from his wardrobe as he becomes more comfortable – as comfortable as Carmy can be – with where he is.” That includes a knowing mix of selvedge denim, including the crisp indigo apron from Hedley & Bennett that mirrors Carmy’s “everyman-but-cooler” vibes outside of work. As for the viral grey sweater, it may be the 2023 equivalent of Chris Evans’s Knives Out cable knit pullover from 2019, but it’s far more accessible. According to Wheeler, “It’s from J Crew. I’ve always been a fan of their menswear.” 

Chef Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) wears a crisp, indigo denim apron in The Bear (Credit: Disney+/ FX)

Chef Carmy (Jeremy Allen White) wears a crisp, indigo denim apron in The Bear (Credit: Disney+/ FX)

“Chefs are artists at heart,” says chef Brian Pancir, the corporate culinary director for Thompson Hospitality, and a long-time private chef for the New York Yankees. “And we’re obsessed with details. So our clothes are very similar.” Pancir favours sweaters by Japanese streetwear brand Bathing Ape, along with custom Ralph Lauren sportscoats with inlayed patches. “I love new wave and Art Deco influences, whereas the chefs on The Bear are more grunge. As a chef, I prefer to be more polished and more artful… But they love what they’re doing, and there’s nothing cooler than knowing who you are. I think that shows through in menswear.”

Yes, chef!

But The Bear is not just a menswear style template. “I see pieces of my style in that show, too,” says chef Nicole Gajadhar of Golden Age Hospitality, a kind of Infinity Gauntlet of cool-kid restaurants that includes New York hotspots The Nines and Le Dive. “When you’re a chef, it’s not just your career. It’s a part of who you are. It’s the way you live… So if you believe in the best ingredients for your food, which I do, then you believe in the best fabric for your clothes. It’s the same parallel… Especially being a woman in the kitchen, which is hard, people are looking to you, and looking at you. I want to represent that standard of excellence for my staff.” Gadjahar prefers tees from rag & bone and black jeans by 7 for All Mankind, along with knitwear from Goop. “I always say, don’t go broke! But do buy things that make your life better. That’s part of being a chef, and I think it’s why people are getting excited to dress like one.” 

The Bear isn’t just about looking hot in the kitchen, even as one has an emotional meltdown

Indeed, fashion and food often share the same plate. Besides endless runway collections riffing on the pleasures of french fries (Jeremy Scott for Moschino, 2014), chocolate milk (Chanel, 2014), caviar (Rachel Antonoff, 2021), and fried eggs (Puppets & Puppets 2023), designers are constantly collaborating with restaurants on staff uniforms. Designer Todd Snyder created the outfits for fine dining mecca Eleven Madison Park; Angelo Baque of the streetwear brand Awake created the looks for buzzy downtown eatery Jac’s on Bond. As Brian Pancir puts it, “Fashion people and food people – of course we get along. We’re both crazy!”

Of course, The Bear isn’t just about looking hot in the kitchen, even as one has an emotional meltdown. It’s also about turning workwear into armour, and infusing aesthetics with a deeper purpose. Later on in the new series, Richie (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) goes to train at a fancy Michelin-starred establishment, based on real-life Chicago restaurant Ever. When he then declares “I wear suits now”, he’s using his all-black formalwear as a demonstration that he’s not just ready to work – he’s prepared to slay. “In prep, Ebon mentioned he thought Richie would be [in a suit] like Al Pacino in Heat, which is so dead-on,” says Wheeler, noting the suit itself “shouldn’t be absolutely perfect but there should still be some dignity about it”. Tellingly, as Richie becomes a boss, his suit is literally by BOSS. 

In season one, Carmy's white T-shirt gained a following with fans (Credit: Disney+/ FX)

In season one, Carmy’s white T-shirt gained a following with fans (Credit: Disney+/ FX)

Meanwhile, arguably the show’s biggest fashion moment comes at – spoiler alert – the series’ end, when sous chef Sydney gets her very own custom-made chef’s jacket from US  designer Thom Browne. Wheeler calls the look “a full-circle moment” for The Bear’s acclaimed showrunner Christopher Storer: “One of his first big purchases was a Thom Browne suit.” For chef Gadjahar, the Thom Browne purchase is also a mark of respect. “When I wear my white chef’s jacket, it’s a symbol of all I’ve accomplished, and all I’ve overcome to get where I am,” she says. “For women like us to wear something that comes with so much prestige, that means so much. It also boosts your confidence every time you put it on, because you know you earned it. It’s not just a great jacket. It’s a milestone.” 

The Bear season two is available in the US now on Hulu, and in the UK from 19 July on Disney +

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