This sweater song doesn’t come undone. Of all the tracks of Taylor Swift’s surprise album Folklore, the one sitting at Number One on the Spotify US Top 50 is “Cardigan” — a song where Swift likens herself to, you guessed it, a cardigan. In a music video accompanying the critically lauded single, Swift dons the eponymous garment only for a few seconds. But don’t worry if you didn’t get enough of it: It’s also available for purchase exclusively in her online store.
The sweater was delivered to several celebrity and influencer hands over the weekend, including that of Maren Morris and Kelsea Ballerini, pop singer Fletcher, and writer and actress Cazzie David. And as shown on the website, it’s not just any cardigan a fan will be getting. Swift and Co. advertise it as the “cardigan,” as if to add a sense of ubiquity to the sweater, like it’ll be immortalized in the Taylor Swift canon as the tchotchke of record for her most ambitious album to date. Such a distinction is possible: Folklore’s already been met with much praise.
But beyond being a neat memento, “the cardigan” is a smart sales play — as the wearable item plays right into fans’ urge to feel close to one’s favorite artist. It’s more style-oriented than an oversized band t-shirt, less cliché than a vinyl cover, and feels on-brand to Swift’s cozy, laid-back sound in Folklore.
“All of her fans want to be Taylor. They want a sense of connection to her,” Gurps Rai, founder of shoppable music video platform DroppTV, tells Rolling Stone. Dropp’s very existence rests on a similar psychology: Fans want to buy what they see their idols wear in music videos. “Consciously to the consumer, it makes it more appealing and makes the artist and fans connected with each other,” Rai says. “We’ve seen it in hip-hop videos, and now these bigger mainstream pop artists, they sell an aspirational version of themselves. Everyone is shifting toward being more approachable.”
And like most album merchandise drops these days, the cardigan — as well as the t-shirts, hats, pullovers, keychains, mugs, lithographs, pop sockets, phone cases, CDs, cassettes and eight different limited edition vinyl options — will all come with digital copies of Folklore that significantly boost first-week sales to help score a Number One distinction. (Bundles like these may start to change as industry chart systems continue to tighten rules on album bundles; Billboard announced this month that it would phase out album bundles by October.)
Swift’s publicist and label did not reply to request for comment about the sales of “the cardigan” thus far. But music videos have proven critical for clothing sales in the past. Demand for the puffy orange jacket featured in Drake’s 2015 smash “Hotline Bling” skyrocketed after the music video went viral, for example — and Swift’s significantly cheaper $49 cardigan will likely be an even easier sell.
But only time will tell if Swift’s cardigans ever reach the level of Kurt Cobain’s raggedy “Unplugged” cardigan, which sold for six figures last year.