Everything you ever wanted to know about hygge

2 August 2017
By Fashion Quarterly

The Danish concept of cosiness is taking over our homes and wardrobes and we’ve never felt more snug — or smug.

It’s a Friday night in the depths of winter. You’re bundled up on the couch with your flatties/family/significant other.

The lights are low, the fire’s ablaze and you have a mug of hot chocolate in your hand. You’re wearing a hand-knitted jumper, waffle leggings and sheepskin slippers — all in calming shades of oatmeal, camel and cream — and atop a stack of Penguin paperbacks on the coffee table in front of you, a vanilla-scented candle fills the room with the smell of freshly baked cookies.

Are you in heaven? No — you’re in hygge. Or more accurately, you’re experiencing hygge. Your life is über hyggelig. Wait, what? Let’s start again.

Hygge (pronounced “hoo-ga”) is a Danish concept encompassing “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being”. This from the Oxford English Dictionary, which in shortlisting hygge for its 2016 Word of the Year, both validated and perpetuated its current cultural significance.

Joseph AW17, Marc Jacobs AW17

And make no mistake — hygge is culturally significant. Countless books have been published on the subject in the past 12 months, the most talked about being Meik Wiking’s The Little Book of Hygge: Danish Secrets to Happy Living.

Wiking is also the CEO of a magical sounding place called the Happiness Research Institute, which is probably why everyone is so quick to take life advice from him.


But then, the cornerstones of hygge are pretty easy to get on board with. More indulgent than the Swedish ‘lagom’ (meaning ‘just the right amount’) and with a strong focus on togetherness that distinguishes it from the Finish ‘kalsarikännit’ (drinking by yourself in your underwear with no intention of leaving the house), hygge is all about surrounding yourself with great company and living a wholesome-but-not-too-wholesome existence.

It’s had a massive impact on interiors and food trends, but it was when it filtered into fashion that we really started listening.


Max Mara AW17, Missoni AW17

It kicked off on the Paris runways a year ago, when early adopters Chanel and Stella McCartney showed quilted scarves and full-length knits as part of their autumn/winter 2017 presentations. This season, dozens of designers have given their designs the hygge treatment.

Some, like Jil Sander, Lacoste, and Elizabeth and James, have kept things conventionally Scandi with clean lines and an emphasis on minimalism. Others, like Marc Jacobs and Burberry, have taken garments that are hygge at their core (roll-neck sweater dresses, shearling coats) and paired them with edgier pieces — an approach that underscores the notion that you don’t have to be living the full Pinterest board to be hygge.

An extremely accessible trend that (as evidenced by Prabal Gurung and Victoria Beckham) works perfectly in tandem with others (see scarf-sweaters and exaggerated sleeves), the appeal of hygge to designers and consumers is easy to understand.

It’s simple to achieve, comfortable to wear and you could probably throw together a hygge outfit right now using items you already own. Just pick natural fibres, neutral colours, and lots of texture, and then, in what Wiking calls a “top bulky” fashion, start layering.

Once you’ve mastered the basics, you can hygge-fy your whole existence using our handy guide to hygge (below). But if you find yourself swaying towards a non-hygge way of life, no biggie.

Just relax — presumably on your own, in your underwear, with a bottle of wine — and perhaps consider moving to Finland.

Victoria Beckham AW17, Prabal Gurung AW17

FQ’s guide to hygge

So you now know how to say it, but do you know how hygge you are? It’s time to find out…

Not hygge: Flannelette pyjamas in primary colours featuring Looney Tunes characters or anthropomorphised baked goods.
Hygge: Grey marle cashmere trackpants; an oversized cream turtleneck; chunky cable-knit socks.

Not hygge: Severe cuts; overly complicated updos; ornamental accessories; unnatural shades.
Hygge: Warm, natural colours; loose, textured waves; a topknot that looks as if it took 10 seconds and two bobby pins to achieve.

Not hygge: Vampy red lips; painted-on brows; false eyelashes; heavy bronzer.
Hygge: Conditioned lips; naturally bushy brows; flushed cheeks; luminous skin.

Not hygge: Sharp edges; industrial furniture; stark lighting; stainless steel surfaces; an excess of glass.
Hygge: A neutral colour palette; soft lighting (candles, fairylights); timber accents; an excess of pillows and throws.

Not hygge: Ordering an individual meal; kale smoothies; drinking a bottle of wine alone.
Hygge: Shared plates; comfort food; sharing wine with friends.

Words: Phoebe Watt
Photos: Getty Images

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