The animal onesie: the fluffy scourge of Generation Y

Adults, myself included, are regressing to childhood - moving back in with their parents, job-hunting in between porn-viewing sessions and eating bowls of Frosties for dinner. Who could blame us?

Even as a ten-year-old, I couldn’t stand fancy dress. One World Book Day, where primary school children dress as their favourite literary characters, I loopholed my way out of wearing a humiliating Harry Potter costume by writing Ellie; a two-page semi-autobiographical novella. I went to school that day dressed as the book’s protagonist: me. The last Halloween costume I wore (2011) was similarly half-arsed. I scribbled the Euro symbol onto a white shirt in permanent marker and told everyone at the party I’d come as failing currency.

But grown-up fancy dress is no longer purely the stuff of stag nights and themed parties. It’s seeping into everyday life with the insidiousness of something truly sinister. I’m referring to the fluffy scourge of Generation Y; the animal onesie.

In recent years, my fellow twenty-somethings have taken to dressing as cuddly fauna. Pandas, giraffes, monkeys, foxes – one-piece suits shaped like all of these critters can be seen covering a young person near you. They wear them everywhere from parties to nights out, to lying comatose on the sofa in front of Deal or No Deal. So ubiquitous is the animal onesie that I wouldn’t look twice if I were stuck behind a human kangaroo at the Sainsbury’s checkout, or fighting for bar space with a set of badgers. In fact, I recently spent a train journey tightly engulfed by a sweaty-crotched tedium of humans dressed as the contents of London Zoo.

As a recent Time cover story reminded everyone, millennials are widely disliked by older generations. They call us lazy, they call us entitled, they call us mollycoddled. The animal onesie brazenly confirms that we are all of these things and more. From Thatcher to Britain’s Got Talent, a great number of socio-economic factors have paved the turd-strewn way for my generation. These various obstacles have resulted in what’s been referred to by many as prolonged adolescence. Adults, myself included, are moving back in with their parents, job-hunting in between porn-viewing sessions and eating bowls of Frosties for dinner. Who could blame us? The graduate job market looks like a recently-flushed toilet. (Yes, yes, I know, but at least if it were un-flushed there’d be something in it). And there’s one bear/rabbit/chicken-shaped item of clothing that so neatly encapsulates the pathos of the situation.

Wearers of animal onesies are resigning themselves to the overgrown child stereotype. This isn’t even prolonged adolescence; it’s prolonged infancy. When a person in his or her twenties puts on a rabbit costume, they’re saying: “I give up.” Nihilists with bunny ears are collectively curling into the foetal position and jamming their thumbs firmly into their mouths. No act could be more submissive, more docile, more supine.

Admittedly, I’ve flirted with the idea of buying an animal onesie myself. One afternoon in bed, my eyes glued to an episode of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, while periodically shovelling Haribo Tangfastics down my throat, I thought to myself: “What could make this better?” My conclusion? Being dressed as a giraffe. As my cursor hovered over the “add to basket” icon of an online animal onesie shop, I had an epiphany. It was this: “Margolis, you suck.”

When I nearly bought that animal onesie, I was about to contribute to a generation-dooming stereotype. Not only this, but I also ventured dangerously close to the realm of kookiness. Kookiness – that self-conscious, wide-eyed, nail-biting effort to be “different” and, oh God I hate this word… “quirky”. This brand of cutesy, pseudo self-deprecating, supposed originality touted by the likes of zany (ugh) actress Zooey Deschanel is yet another element of the zeitgeist that badly needs exorcising.

Just consider this: animal onesies are the opposite of funny. They’re so unfunny, in fact, they make me want to stick kebab skewers in my ears. They’re malevolence with a bushy tail. And, for the love of all that’s holy, please stop taking pictures of people in them. They’re not “genius”, they’re grown-ups pretending to be hilarious squirrels in a land where you can pay off your mortgage in fondant fancies. Stop encouraging them.

But grown-up fancy dress is no longer purely the stuff of stag nights and themed parties. Photograph: Getty Images.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist, whose "Lez Miserable" column appears weekly on the New Statesman website.

Photo: Getty
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Who will win in Stoke-on-Trent?

Labour are the favourites, but they could fall victim to a shock in the Midlands constituency.  

The resignation of Tristram Hunt as MP for Stoke-on-Central has triggered a by-election in the safe Labour seat of Stoke on Trent Central. That had Westminster speculating about the possibility of a victory for Ukip, which only intensified once Paul Nuttall, the party’s leader, was installed as the candidate.

If Nuttall’s message that the Labour Party has lost touch with its small-town and post-industrial heartlands is going to pay dividends at the ballot box, there can hardly be a better set of circumstances than this: the sitting MP has quit to take up a well-paid job in London, and although  the overwhelming majority of Labour MPs voted to block Brexit, the well-advertised divisions in that party over the vote should help Ukip.

But Labour started with a solid lead – it is always more useful to talk about percentages, not raw vote totals – of 16 points in 2015, with the two parties of the right effectively tied in second and third place. Just 33 votes separated Ukip in second from the third-placed Conservatives.

There was a possible – but narrow – path to victory for Ukip that involved swallowing up the Conservative vote, while Labour shed votes in three directions: to the Liberal Democrats, to Ukip, and to abstention.

But as I wrote at the start of the contest, Ukip were, in my view, overwritten in their chances of winning the seat. We talk a lot about Labour’s problem appealing to “aspirational” voters in Westminster, but less covered, and equally important, is Ukip’s aspiration problem.

For some people, a vote for Ukip is effectively a declaration that you live in a dump. You can have an interesting debate about whether it was particularly sympathetic of Ken Clarke to brand that party’s voters as “elderly male people who have had disappointing lives”, but that view is not just confined to pro-European Conservatives. A great number of people, in Stoke and elsewhere, who are sympathetic to Ukip’s positions on immigration, international development and the European Union also think that voting Ukip is for losers.

That always made making inroads into the Conservative vote harder than it looks. At the risk of looking very, very foolish in six days time, I found it difficult to imagine why Tory voters in Hanley would take the risk of voting Ukip. As I wrote when Nuttall announced his candidacy, the Conservatives were, in my view, a bigger threat to Labour than Ukip.

Under Theresa May, almost every move the party has made has been designed around making inroads into the Ukip vote and that part of the Labour vote that is sympathetic to Ukip. If the polls are to be believed, she’s succeeding nationally, though even on current polling, the Conservatives wouldn’t have enough to take Stoke on Trent Central.

Now Theresa May has made a visit to the constituency. Well, seeing as the government has a comfortable majority in the House of Commons, it’s not as if the Prime Minister needs to find time to visit the seat, particularly when there is another, easier battle down the road in the shape of the West Midlands mayoral election.

But one thing is certain: the Conservatives wouldn’t be sending May down if they thought that they were going to do worse than they did in 2015.

Parties can be wrong of course. The Conservatives knew that they had found a vulnerable spot in the last election as far as a Labour deal with the SNP was concerned. They thought that vulnerable spot was worth 15 to 20 seats. They gained 27 from the Liberal Democrats and a further eight from Labour.  Labour knew they would underperform public expectations and thought they’d end up with around 260 to 280 seats. They ended up with 232.

Nevertheless, Theresa May wouldn’t be coming down to Stoke if CCHQ thought that four days later, her party was going to finish fourth. And if the Conservatives don’t collapse, anyone betting on Ukip is liable to lose their shirt. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.