Last week, Juicy Couture announced its plans to close all of its U.S. stores, causing a faint tremor of nostalgia to ripple through anyone who recalls the popular T-shirt from middle school “Juicy Is Forever.”
In the early 2000s, comfort was cool. Celebrities went about their glossy lifestyle of international bottle service in velvet hoodies and fleece-lined Uggs, and one brand seemed to encapsulate that ethos perfectly. The rise of the Juicy tracksuit coincided with the emergence of a particular kind of tabloid coverage; Us went from monthly to weekly in 2000, InTouch arrived in 2002, and Life & Style came out in 2004. With the help of blogs like Perez Hilton (2001), the invention of YouTube (2005), and the birth of TMZ (2005), fans could easily see the rich and famous looking their absolute laziest.
Immortalizing this high point in American leisurewear, celebutantes and “It” girls starred in a number of reality TV shows that involved a lot of lounging, such as The Simple Life, Newlyweds, The Gastineau Girls, the Real Housewives franchise, Laguna Beach, and The Hills. From the start, life (in sweats) imitated art. Eva Longoria’s character on Desperate Housewives wore Juicy sweats, but so did real Eva Longoria at the grocery store. Paris Hilton wore the cotton-candy look pretty much everywhere. They signified bitchy-cool-girl status, with Summer Roberts on The O.C. (2004), Mean Girls (2004), and every female in middle school (2001–2004) all sporting that tiny little J on their zippers.
Sporting a tracksuit meant you were too good to do actual work. Paris and Nicole’s The Simple Life marked a limp attempt at pursing employment, as the duo traveled around the U.S. taking on a number of internships. The running gag was basically: We’re so rich we’ll never really have to do this stuff. Oddly, it was Kim Kardashian and the whole Kollective who shepherded us away from the celeb-as-pampered-princess and into the era of super-hardworking — but famous — people. Kim Kardashian, a childhood friend of the Hilton sisters, got her start as Paris’s personal assistant and closet organizer, eventually working as LiLo’s stylist before finding major fame after her sex tape was leaked.
The first season of Keeping Up With the Kardashians aired in October 2007, the same month that the stock market peaked. Post-recession celebrities now work really hard to demonstrate how hard they work. While the show — and its many spin-offs — has revolved around the Kardashians’ crazy antics and well-funded adventures, their businesses have always played a major part. They’ve got their DASH stores, the clothing lines (QVC and Sears), beauty collaborations, Kardashian Glamour Tan, the Kardashian Konfidential book series, ad infinitum. Instead of aggressively relaxing, many post-recession reality shows of the famous detail the often-grueling lifestyle of maintaining celebrity, which brings into sharper focus why Juicy sweats are so appealing in the first place.
By 2008, even Gossip Girl’s Blair Waldorf was too hip for Juicy sweats, though she did wear a Juicy bracelet in one episode and some of the show’s other stars attended the opening of the New York flagship. These days, the only people on reality TV wearing much Juicy are a few members of the Real Housewives franchise, but no one would ever mistake them for cool. Besides, many of them are moving beyond the traditional-housewife role to start their own fashion lines, gyms, and beauty brands, and they’re often doing it in form-fitting yoga pants.
The Kardashians, Kim in particular, have banished their terry-cloth tracksuits for Lululemons (being famous is a real workout!) and embraced the more polished look of actual couture. But, just like Paris Hilton, Juicy Couture isn’t really going away. Though a search for “sweatpants” on the JC website yields bold text that reads “sorry, we couldn’t find any items that matched your search,” they’ve inked a deal with Kohl’s. The discount store will begin selling Juicy-branded products this fall. Just in time for the early 2000s trend revival that’s right around the corner.