22 May 2024
Style in the City: Black is the new…black
Fashion & Beauty Lifestyle Swedish Culture

Style in the City: Black is the new…black

The number one non-colour is back this season – but did Swedes ever give it up? YLC’s Victoria Hussey on Stockholmers’ fascination with wearing black and how five months of subtle indoctrination has taken its toll…


Whilst most of us probably don’t think too far into why we choose the clothes we do when getting dressed in the mornings, I’ve found myself analysing my style rather too frequently in recent weeks. After moving to Sweden from the UK five months ago and discovering my increasingly – and suspiciously looking – black wardrobe, I can’t help but feel that Swedish (specifically Stockholm) fashion has taken hold of my style, ergo, my mind. How on earth does one cope when faced with tackling the firm grip of Sweden’s most potent of love affairs with black?

The fashion pavilion at last week’s Mercedez Benz Stockholm Fashion Week was at times like peering into a vacuum. Not only were Sweden’s journalists, models, editors and buyers covered in the colour of coal but Sverige’s finest designers – Whyred, Alice Fine, Back by Ann-Sofie Back, Dagmar, Tiger – all did black in some way for spring/summer 2014. Did I find myself just another of the black clone army? Yup. I think it’s called mob mentality… but more on that later.

Black, the number one non-colour, is part of Sweden’s cultural dressing codes as much as ruby red folk dress and white Converse.

Much like France’s Belle Époque, Italy’s Dolce Vita, America’s Hot Rods and high-heels brigade; black is part of Sweden’s style uniform. But of course Swedes aren’t alone; the fashion world has had a fixation with black since, well, forever.

Ever since Chanel et al turned to black for glamourous cocktail attire in the ‘20s and again in the ’60s when the inimitable Audrey Hepburn epitomised evergreen elegance in Givenchy for Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the Little Black Dress has been synonymous with style of the highest order.

The dark and sombre tone, with its roots, of course, in mourning dress, has also been the starting point for edgy, punk aesthetics and biker cool.

Sweden – a country with a penchant for understated style, crime novels and heavy metal (something to do with inescapable dark winter months I presume) – once upon a time saw the style potential for black and ran with it.

So back to my dilemma: Since moving to Stockholm five months ago, I’ve purchased at least five black items of clothing, one off-black, charcoal top and a very dark, black-mimicking khaki t-shirt. Some of these were conscious “why not fit in?” buys, others, I believe were rather more sub-conscious. The conclusion: Sweden’s black-loving style has got me.

It’s easy to understand why this is mind you. Coming from the UK where style is rather eclectic to say the least – a fusion of other cultures plus our own very tailored, tweed and punk fashion heritage – slick black ensembles in clean lines are very appealing. At first.

Step into your own wardrobe. Count the colours, I dare you.

If all you see are lashings of leather in you-know-what-tone, skinny jeans, jackets and tees in off-blacks (a pathetic attempt at hindering the unstoppable force of black from taking over your wardrobe) maybe it’s time to take charge. Embrace florals, bold folk-inspired hues and autumn/winter 2013’s heart-warming pinks.

As we speak I’m thinking about a pair of fir-green trousers I saw in a second-hand shop the other day and day-dreaming of sauntering through Stockholm, flapping my yet-to-buy rose-petal wool coat around me as Sweden’s autumn sets in.

But will I be throwing out my black skinny jeans, black ankle boots, silky black shirt and matching long black lace skirt?

Don’t be silly. As the old saying goes… if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.


Victoria Hussey

A self-confessed country-girl, Victoria studied English literature and fashion writing in the UK and Milan and then swapped English village life for city living in Stockholm in April 2013. She has spent the last five months swotting up on Swedish fashion and exploring her favourite part of Sweden; its national parks. Victoria enjoys travelling to far-off lands, alternative music and wishes someone would invent some kind of socially-acceptable breakfast ice-cream.


Follow Victoria and Your Living City on Twitter!


  • Candice 9 Sep 2013

    Love Love LOVE this article – it’s too true! Also, leggings. Swedish people are obsessed! And now… so am I!

  • Kate 9 Sep 2013

    Don’t forget white! Oh, and grey! 🙂

  • Susan Jenkins 1 Oct 2013

    No kidding about the black! Visiting at the end of September — a time to splurge on the last bit of sun with autumn colors at home — it was surprising to see the natives almost universally in black. I brought a white coat with me, added a scarf, and felt great in that combination. I was surprised to find that the locals have limited their color options so drastically. When traveling, always bring black.

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