Back Home: Farewell, Cosby sweaters

By Chris Hardie
Posted 12/7/23

Regular and faithful readers of my meanderings will recall that my name does not come up with the mention of fashion icons. I dress seasonally with the notion that clothes serve a utilitarian purpose …

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Back Home: Farewell, Cosby sweaters


Regular and faithful readers of my meanderings will recall that my name does not come up with the mention of fashion icons. I dress seasonally with the notion that clothes serve a utilitarian purpose to cover up.

It’s only due to some heavy lifting from my wife Sherry – who has borne many crosses over the years with me – that I have more than jeans, sweatpants, t-shirts and flannel in my closet.

Sherry also bears the burden of having to sort and sift through my attire at times to retire certain threadbare or stained garments that have long outlived their purpose – even as chore clothes.

Chore clothes have always been old clothes to me. Once I’ve put a t-shirt, shirt or a pair of pants through the paces at the office, they are then moved from the good clothes closet to the chore clothes closet.

There are no hard and fast rules that apply to the precise time that the closet transition is made, but it may include stains, balky zippers or holes, which usually develop in the back pocket where my wallet rests. Yes, my better half has often teased me about working “so hard” while I sit on my butt all day.

As long as it still functions, it’s perfectly fine to wear. My clothing principle is if it still covers, snaps, buttons or zips -- sometimes partially but still enough to prevent wardrobe malfunctions -- then it’s still good enough to wear. That’s why safety pins, duct tape and twine are useful. 

I have done a fair bit of pitching and sorting recently, but stopped short of tackling a rather large plastic garbage bag full of sweaters. Sherry dubbed them the Cosby sweaters.

The fashion section of defines the Cosby sweater “as a baggy, busy, and very colorful knit sweater, as popularized by comedian Bill Cosby on his 1980–90s sitcom. They are usually considered ridiculous looking, though at times sported with an ironic cool … maybe before that whole sexual abuse scandal though.”

Before Cosby’s legal problems (he was convicted of aggravated indecent assault in 2018 before his sentence was overturned in 2021), Cosby sweaters have been called so ridiculous, silly, and not in fashion that they were contradictory and cool, like ugly Christmas sweaters that come out every holiday season.

I may not know fashion, but I do know that all things come in and out of style. My collection of sweaters – some of them dating to the early 1980s – were vintage, authentic and were certainly Cosby-like. Setting the Cosby connotations aside, I’ve never been a big sweater fan because I find them too hot to wear while I’m working.

While I clearly missed the timing to market my collection of Cosby sweaters, it’s all moot now because they are no more.

Our 8-inch rainfall at the end of October caused some leakage into a basement storage room where the sweaters were. A couple of weeks after the rain I kept smelling a musty odor in the basement.

My investigation revealed that the sweater bag had several holes that had been filled with water. My collection of Cosby sweaters was one damp, soggy, stinky mess. 

It’s possible that some may have been salvaged, but in a rare moment of wardrobe decisiveness, I took the whole sodden lot outside and burned it with a bunch of scrap wood and cardboard – perhaps a fitting end to the Cosby sweaters. 

In response, Sherry immediately ordered me some new – no doubt fashionable – sweaters.

Harvesting memories recalled

I recently wrote about memories of picking corn by hand, which brought several reader responses, including this one from Robert Bonjour of Mount Horeb.

“I enjoy reading your articles every week. I also was raised on a farm during the 1950s to the 1970s.  Your article this week sure brings back memories of picking corn with the two-row New Idea corn picker that also broke down a lot near the end of its working life. 

“I remember the cold autumn nights picking corn after dinner. It was dark outside, and I was hauling picked corn from the field. I enjoyed waiting for the wagon to be filled between loads and looking up at the stars on those cold nights. It was cold, but it was beautiful.

“I am glad I grew up on a farm. I enjoyed operating the machinery and the cattle and horses. I did not care for the pigs or chickens though. Fall has always been the best time of year in my opinion and now that I am older I think it will remain that way. Thank you for your many good articles that remind me of my youth on the farm.”

It’s always nice to hear from readers and it is affirmation to keep writing.


Chris Hardie spent more than 30 years as a reporter, editor and publisher. He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and won dozens of state and national journalism awards. He is a former president of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association. Contact him at

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