Delicore: The Fashion Trend We Didn’t See Coming…But Cannot Resist
For $495, you could buy 366 Zabar’s everything bagels—or snag a Coach sweater emblazoned with one on it. Though, truth be told, the latter is much harder to come by. Welcome to the world of Delicore, the growing fashion trend that’s finally getting its due, thanks to a surprising trio: Pete Davidson and Jake Gyllenhaal—two celebs who’ve become known for wearing their taste on their sleeves, in the form of Uncle Paulie’s hats and Russ & Daughters hoodies—and COVID-19.
The New York Post popularized the term—a riff on the internet’s urge to turn every aesthetic into a “-core” (see: cottagecore, cabincore, normcore…you get the idea)—citing the handful of celebs known for wearing restaurant merch, as well as a few noteworthy collabs, like the largely-sold-out Coach x Zabar’s capsule collection. We’d argue, though, that the look extends well beyond delis (perhaps a more apt term is restaurantcore? Foodcore? Snackcore?).
While restaurant merch is nothing new, it springboarded into our collective consciousness during the pandemic, when we all searched for ways to support our go-to places to dine when we couldn’t physically eat there. In the first 40 years of the pandemic, we were so focused on Tiger King and sourdough and tie dye and, I don’t know, generally surviving, that we didn’t pay too much mind to the tees we were buying. Nowadays, those early comforts bring us PTSD, feeling like a flash in the pan from an era we’d rather forget. But those restaurant hoodies, hats, totes and shirts? They’re an extension of our identity.
“In some ways, representing your favorite local restaurants can be like representing your favorite sports teams,” says Joe Ariel, founder and CEO of food delivery site Goldbelly. “And just like sports, there are intense regional rivalries and the nostalgia of food memories.”
Goldbelly has seen a 30 percent rise in sales of restaurant merch year-over-year, underscoring that this is no flash-in-the-pan fad. Shirts from New York’s Russ + Daughters and Ferrara Bakery, as well as Dallas-based Fletcher’s Original Corny Dogs, have been especially popular.
In some ways, it’s like wearing your favorite concert tee—an IYKYK moment, a chance to connect with anyone who “gets” that there’s no better way to end a late night out in the East Village than with a pile of Veselka’s pierogis, or that the next best thing to a still-warm Panda Donut from California Donuts is a tote screenprinted with one on it.
And the latest merch isn’t just the brand’s logo slapped on a stiff, boxy shirt; they’ve got all the finesse of a fashion collab, even if they don’t have a designer’s backing. Some even tell a story.
At Gideon’s Bakehouse in Orlando, Florida, people regularly wait in line—or, at the Disney Springs location, enter a virtual queue lasting three hours or more—to get their hands on one of the shop’s famous half-pound cookies. But just as memorable as the gooey-on-the-inside, chocolate-chip-studded-on-the-outside sweets are, is the backstory behind each one. Owner Steve Lewis crafts a character and storyline behind each monthly, limited-edition cookie. There’s a Tim-Burton-meets-Ed-Gorey vibe to the designs; April’s, for example, was a Coconut Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookie, and its muse was Lydia Lovecraft, a medium who summons spirits with her coconut-and-sandalwood ukulele. Her likeness was then turned into a limited-edition print, candle and shirt, available only while supplies last.
Meanwhile, donut shop The Salty creates different tees, hats and cups for each of its locations, making them a fun twist on the typical travel souvenir—and far more useful than those mass-produced snow globes or “My grandma went to [insert city here] and all I got was this lousy t-shirt” top.
Whether you call it delicore, restaurantcore or simply “that shirt I’m wearing today,” the whole trend’s a chance to—in most cases—support small businesses while literally showing off your taste. It’s the idea that, as Chamberlain Coffee CEO Chris Gallant puts it, your favorite brew is “more than a coffee company, it’s a lifestyle.” If we are what we eat, we might as well wear it, too.