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I'm reading an article on Tom Waits from the New Yorker, December 27th, 1976. One sentence goes:

His lyrics reflect a landscape that is bleak, lonely, contemporary: all-night diners; cheap hotels; truck stops; pool halls; strip joints; Continental Trailways buses; double-knits; full-table rail shots; jumper cables; Naugahyde luncheonette booths; Foster Grant wrap arounds; hash browns over easy; glasspacks and overhead cams; dawn skies "the color of Pepto-Bismol."

In this context, what are "double-knits"? Some kind of clothing? Knitted clothing feels a bit out of line with the other items listed, but it's all I'm getting results on when doing an internet search.

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  • Could you add a link to the article, if possible? Jul 22 at 21:48
  • @YashLaddha It is not available online as far as I know. I came across it in the book "Innocent when you dream," edited by Mac Montandon. If the New Yorker has online archives I guess you might find it there.
    – eirikdaude
    Jul 23 at 15:52

2 Answers 2

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A double-knit fabric is just one where both sides of the fabric are identical.

In the 1970’s, clothing made from inexpensive double-knit fabrics were fashionable among the American middle- and working-classes. In fairly short order, such clothing became symbolic (along with leisure suits, Naugahyde, linoleum, and tract homes) of the soullessness of contemporary life.

“I said, ‘This isn't Sha Na Na, come on Mom, I’m not Bowzer
Mom, please put back the bell-bottom Brady Bunch trousers
But if you don’t want to I can live with that but
You gotta put back the double-knit reversible slacks!’”
— Will Smith, “Parents Just Don’t Understand”

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  • Thanks, that makes sense. I am not sure I fully grasp all the cultural implications of the sentence, but I guess that might be a little out of scope for this site anyway :-)
    – eirikdaude
    Jul 23 at 15:54
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    @eirikdaude — maybe you had to be there (and then). Exhaustion from the turmoil of the 1960s, economic troubles, and a crushing cultural vacuity; even today I feel like we escaped by the skin of our teeth. Jul 24 at 0:13
  • Both Tom Waits and the author of that article paints a fascinating picture, that's for sure.
    – eirikdaude
    Jul 24 at 0:15
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Double-knit:

a knitted fabric (such as wool) made with a double set of needles to produce a double thickness of fabric with each thickness joined by interlocking stitches

In this context, it does refer to the clothing choice of the person, probably to emphasize on the lonely and contemporary part - a warm piece of clothing for a person with a cold, bleak life.

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    The description covers a series of typical American lower-class realities. :)
    – Lambie
    Jul 22 at 22:26
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    Wool? Maybe. But I associate 70s double-knit more with polyester. Jul 23 at 22:23
  • Something along these lines, @DennisWilliamson? The replies here helped me refine my searches some more. dressthatman.com/product/…
    – eirikdaude
    Jul 24 at 14:40
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    @eirikdaude: Ack! Exactly! Jul 24 at 20:44

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