It’s official: the pandemic birthed the ‘sew bro’

Fatigued by all things digital, Gen Z transitioned to the tactile during lockdown, including crochet, DIY, quilting and sewing.

by Douglas Greenwood
06 May 2021, 5:20pm

TikTok screenshots of kids sewing

Do you remember that moment, maybe about the second week of April, when you realised that there was nothing to do except stare at screens all day during the great lockdown 1.0? You weren’t alone in that thinking. A study by trend forecasters WGSN has provided us with the proof behind our theory: digital fatigue brought on by the pandemic forced Gen Z to toy with more tangible forms of expression, including crochet, sewing and all things DIY.

In their 2021 Youth Culture study, WGSN observed how the pandemic transformed the behaviours, hobbies and emotions of Gen Z. They identified the way the pandemic had changed our approach to money and work, inspiring us to become ‘micropreneurs’ and start our own businesses, many of them creative. There was also a desire for stronger connections to our family and friends.

Our love for the physical meets at that crossroads. One of their key identifiers was our newfound love of nostalgia. As a result of Gen Z’s desire to tap into it, sales of sewing machines have skyrocketed: the British department store John Lewis has reported that sales of sewing machines had risen by 127% in April 2020. Meanwhile, Google searches for "sewing machines" had increased four-fold in the US. But while the stereotypical sewer has often been an older woman, this has been turned on its head completely: young men, who are now officially known as ‘sew bros’, are taking hold.

You only have to look at TikTok to see that’s true. #rugtok is now booming with both men and women who love tufting (that crazy gun that allows you to make colourful patterned rugs), many of them making real careers out of it. The study cited Sean Brown as an artist who’d finessed it well; he’s made what he calls ‘fine art rugs’ that resemble CDs, perfectly primed for the IG grid.

The quilt and crochet games are also having their moment. We all remember the Harry StylesJW Anderson cardigan, don’t we? Then there’s the Massachusetts textile wizard Michael Thorpe who’s helped make quilts cool again.

So there you have it: 2021 is officially going to be the year the sew bro goes mainstream. Arts and crafts is for everyone, baby!

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Gen Z