The first time I saw the Niagara Falls sweatshirt on a young influencer type, I assumed she’d just visited … Niagara Falls. But then I saw it on another girl. And then another. And then another. I soon realized that Niagara Falls hadn’t suddenly become the preferred vacation destination of the Instagram set. It was just their preferred sweatshirt from Brandy Melville.
Brandy Melville is synonymous with crop tops and tiny tanks, but the controversial one-size-fits-most store beloved by teens (and the guilty pleasure of many adult women) also sells baggy shirts befitting your Budweiser-slamming, Nascar-watching uncle. In fact, the website has a whole separate selection devoted to anti-body-con clothing, called, simply, “oversize.” There are varsity-style college sweatshirts that say “Georgetown,” “New York,” and “Malibu” (which isn’t a university, but Brandy makes its own rules). There are relaxed tees featuring band logos and Bugs Bunny. There are even, yes, Nascar slogans. All of these make frequent appearances on social media, however, nothing compares to the Niagara Falls fleece.
Like most trends that become ubiquitous overnight, this one can be traced back to Kendall Jenner. In August, she posted a photo of herself wearing the baggy sweatshirt, Adidas bike shorts, and chunky white Adidas Continental 80 sneakers on vacation (ostensibly not at Niagara Falls). This outfit, and variations of it, were first popularized by influencers like Emma Chamberlain and Hailey Bieber before being widely adopted by Gen Z, who are experts at conveying at certain faux-effortless sexiness online. The youth-savvy Brandy Melville is (successfully, obviously) catering to this exact look with their oversize section.
Still, it begs the question: why this sweatshirt, of all sweatshirts? And why Niagara Falls, of all places? We reached out to owners of the sweatshirt — through Instagram DM, of course — to find out why they bought it, and whether they’ve actually been. (If wearing a concert tee from a band you don’t listen to makes you a poser, is the same true for a souvenir sweatshirt from the place you’ve never been?)
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Lily Lou De Groot, a 17-year-old from the Netherlands who lives in Massachusetts, said she initially purchased the sweatshirt because “I’ve been to Niagara and I love Canada.” Hannah Vidal, 20, called her visit to Niagara “such a wonderful experience,” but ultimately bought the sweatshirt because she liked its “vintage look” and that, unlike most souvenir sweatshirts, it had pockets. Both girls say they first saw the fleece in the store, but 16-year-old Ian Nicastro, who has not been to The Falls, admitted that he bought the sweatshirt after seeing it on Kendell Jenner. It was sold out for months, he said, and “when Brandy brought it back, I wanted it, but I didn’t want to spend the money” so he got it for Christmas. (Ian, like most fans, refers to the brand by the first name only; a founder is actually a man named Silvio).
Though Ian is the only person I spoke to who confessed to being influenced by Kendall Jenner, a handful of people said they made the purchase after spotting it on Brandy Melville store associates, many of whom become influencers in their own right, simply by association. Millou Schuite, a 16-year-old from Holland, bought hers in Amsterdam after seeing it on one of the employees; another girl told me she stole hers from her best friend, who works there (she wanted to remain nameless, perhaps to keep her thievery under wraps).
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The sweatshirt is also surprisingly popular in China, where dozens of girls have tagged themselves wearing it with Doc Martens, an Acne scarf, Urban Outfitters stocking cap, a perfect red lip, a ’90s Kangol hat, and a BTS keychain-adorned handbag, among other things. It was hard to determine where and why they procured the fleece due to a language barrier, but I did speak to Abby Chen, a 17-year-old from Taiwan, who said that while she has actually been to Niagara Falls, that’s not what motivated her to make the purchase. She first spotted it on a social shopping platform called Xiaohongshu, or Little Red Book. She bought it because the sweatshirt is “really hot.”
Niagara Falls fleece.
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