I thought Jennifer Garner’s greatest sartorial contribution to the universe was running around New York in that pink silk nightdress in 13 Going on 30, but I was sorely mistaken. Her opus had yet to unfurl itself like the plebeian-friendly red carpet I didn’t know I needed until it was staring me in the face inside a tattered copy of Us Weekly at my favorite nail salon.
The page in question featured a photograph of Garner running errands in L.A. She was wearing faded skinny jeans and mom sandals and a loose, striped t-shirt and unremarkable tortoiseshell sunglasses. Stars — They’re Just Like Us!
Or are they? While five years ago I would have deemed this assemblage of clothing a perfectly regular and expected outfit for someone, A-lister or otherwise, to wear on a quick jaunt to CVS to buy paper towels and Mentos or whatever, I would not say the same today. In fact, until that moment in the nail salon, I was pretty sure true, off-duty style no longer existed, which brings me to what I now consider to possibly be Jennifer Garner’s greatest sartorial contribution to the universe: She’s singlehandedly keeping off-duty style alive.
For the sake of clarity, when I say “true, off-duty style,” I’m talking about the comfy clothes you wear when you have nowhere important to be and you’re just hanging out and/or running errands, e.g. ill-fitting tank tops, black lounge pants, flip flops, baggy sweaters, jeans you bought five years ago and face-obscuring sunglasses that don’t adhere to any particular trend.
I’m going to go ahead and blame athleisure for the gradual extinction of true, off-duty style. With a proliferation of brands like Outdoor Voices and a general uptick in trendiness around comfortable sportswear like leggings and track pants (not to mention sweatshirts as bonafide luxury-wear), everyone’s off-duty style started looking…well…good. It no longer consisted of stuff you might “throw on” haphazardly as you were walking out the door. Instead, it became an opportunity for curated cool – a form of orchestrated nonchalance. There came a point where calling an errand outfit “off-duty,” despite very clear evidence of its carefully considered assembly, felt almost blasphemous.
I am someone who loves putting thought into how I dress when I feel like it, but I am also someone who loves turning off that part of my brain entirely and wearing ratty gym shorts and a t-shirt to get coffee on a Sunday morning. Needless to say, this movement hit me hard. I mourned the loss of the authentic, off-duty aesthetic, which wasn’t so much an aesthetic as it was the absence of one.
Enter Jennifer Garner: The hero we needed but don’t deserve.
I’ve been Googling her incessantly for the past week and my gratitude has blossomed into full-on worship. I want to write a sonnet about her mom sandals and faded jersey tops. I want to tell her that I, too, always seem to be schlepping at least two tote bags of stuff simultaneously, as much as I yearn to be one of those tiny purse people. I want to bury my face in her perpetually wet-in-public, fresh-of-the-shower hair and breathe in the smell of Garnier Fructis.
But that would be kind of creepy, so instead I’ll settle for thinking of her next time I don my ratty gym shorts.