While today’s sitcom families would have us believe that they’re wackier, zanier, sassier and especially more Modern than ever before, the truth is that the formula has never really changed. Father still knows best, while mother still really knows best. The kids are precocious-yet-rambunctious, while some are brilliant and ready to take on the world, and others are dumber than rocks, yet poised to have great success because charm gets us everywhere in the real world. Meanwhile, there’s always an annoying neighbor – tell your cat to quit pissing in my hedges, Carl! – and the in-laws… well, don’t even get me started on them.
The point is that nothing has changed in regard to the way our favorite TV families tell us what’s really important in life (spoiler alert: it’s family), and no family has ever made us feel like we were a part of theirs quite like the Huxtables did on The Cosby Show. The classic NBC series that told the story of Dr. Heathcliff and Clair Huxtable raising their family in New York debuted 30 years ago tomorrow, and for eight wonderful seasons it was one of the most beloved shows on TV, despite only being nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series at the Emmys three times (1985-87) and only winning in ’85. Those Emmy scoundrels never get anything right.
At the heart of the series was Bill Cosby, the legendary stand-up comic whose brilliant routines about fatherhood and family inspired the creation of The Cosby Show, and if the sometimes grumpy icon is remembered for anything on that series, it’s definitely his amazing collection of sweaters. The lore of the Cosby Sweaters has been celebrated for many years now, as Cosby himself (or whoever runs his website) hosted a “Cosby Sweater Tournament” last year to finally decide, once and for all, which of his ridiculously colorful and absurd sweaters was the best of them all. The winner and almost downright steamroller is this amazing item that had better be hanging in the Smithsonian with Cosby’s personal collection of art.
That sweater eventually led to the creation of one of our favorite GIFs that has ever been created, Bill QWOPsby.
However, no matter how great that sweater may be, it was hardly the only one worth celebrating. World-renowned fashion designer Koos van der Akker is the man who brought most of these loud creations to life, and he told Fashionista last year that he’s pretty happy about the legacy that these sweaters have. What’s perhaps most remarkable about it, though, is how Cosby first got his hands on one of van der Akker’s creations. An actress named Josephine Premice, who played Mrs. Cunningham on the “Play It Again, Russell” episode of The Cosby Show in 1986 and later two roles on the spin-off A Different World, wanted a present for Cosby so she called the designer and he sent her a sweater.
As it turned out, Cosby loved the sweater and ended up wearing it in a scene, and the rest became sitcom fashion history.
… a couple of weeks later there was all kinds of mail–this was before email and all that–saying, “Where did you get this sweater?” So he called and said, “I would like some more sweaters, can you do that?” And I said, “Sure!” He said, “Just make them and send them, and I’ll keep what I keep and the rest I’ll send back.”
And it was perfect for me because I don’t like working with people, I don’t like them telling me what to do, so I just created sweaters and I would send him six or seven, and he would take two or three and that was basically it. It was not a big deal when it was going on, it was just another thing. The big deal came later when all of a sudden this got attention and people were talking about it. (Via Fashionista)
There was nothing but madness and mayhem to van der Akker’s process, as he compared each unique design to an abstract artist’s work, simply piecing random colors together until a sweater was complete. Amazingly enough, van der Akker says that despite not keeping in touch with Bill, he still designs items for Camille Cosby, the comedian’s wife of 50 years.
As last year’s tournament became the talk of the web, Cosby opened up about why Cliff Huxtable was such a strong proponent of the sweater, and he said that it was simply because he wanted to portray the character as a man who is comfortable. Just as Perry Como was famous for his golf sweaters, Cosby said in this YouTube clip, he wanted Cliff to look like a man who enjoys both relaxation and art. These sweaters, after all, were artwork according to Cosby, who said that he appreciated them for their creative expression.
Obviously, if you spend a significant amount of your day on the Internet, you grow increasingly aware of the seemingly insignificant things that suddenly become trends or objects of cult worship over the years, so it’s astounding to see that Cosby and his wife were so unaware of how much these sweaters had been revered and celebrated for years after The Cosby Show went off the air. Hell, a guy even created a machine with the sole purpose of knitting new Cosby sweaters. To us, these visually obscene articles of clothing have grown into beautiful swans since the last episode of The Cosby Show aired on April 30, 1992. Short of the Puffy Shirt or maybe this sweater…
… nothing will ever come close to establishing the kind of legacy left behind by Cosby’s sweaters. So to honor the 30th anniversary of the first episode of arguably the greatest sitcom family in TV history, let’s admire – nay ADORE! – this collection of the most wonderful sweaters that Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable ever wore on The Cosby Show, as well as the new names I am giving them. (As always, I strongly encourage readers to listen to a song like Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You” or especially the most beautiful song ever written while viewing these works of art.)
The tournament champion defeated this style 63-37 in the final round of Cosby’s brackets, and I’m not sure that this one even belonged in the same conversation compared to some of the rest of these sweaters. But then, art is art.
“Alo Guvna, Shoin Ya Shoes?”
“Trying to Watch Spice Through the Blurry Lines After Your Parents go to Sleep”
“Freshly Mowed Lawn”
“Your Grandmother’s Rug”
“Hey Dude, There’s an Iguana on Your Shoulder”
“Hey is That Pac-Man? Wait No, it’s Just Some Yellow Hearts”
“Magic Eye 3D Art” (If you stare long enough, you’ll see a Jell-o Pudding Pop!)
“Moon Over My Cosby”
“Picasso for Target”
“Postage Due” (That face looks like Earle Hyman – stop laughing, children – who played Cliff’s father, Russell Huxtable. Or it might be the Queen.)
“Pterodactyls Over Japan”
“Sunshine Through a Broken Window After the Rain” (That’s about as poetic as we’re getting here today, folks.)
“The Father of Dragons”
“Human Pinball Machine”
“Cosby was Totally a Hipster Before You were a Hipster”
“An Angry Sun Comes Out at Night”
“Human Welcome Mat”
“Whatever The Hell This Is”
(Special thanks to Cosby Show Caps, and for added nostalgia make sure to visit Huxtable Hotness. Also, no discussion of Cosby’s sweaters is complete without directing everyone to The Cosby Sweater Project for some art on top of art.)