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Are Kornacki’s Khakis Bringing Business Casual Back?

It seems like an eternity since Tuesday evening when MSNBC anchor Steve Kornacki took his place at his mystical, digitized map to tabulate the results of the Georgia Senate runoff.

The now-iconic object of Twitter’s fervent affection dutifully manned his post as the votes rolled in late into the night, seeing Democrat Raphael Warnock overtake the incumbent senator, Kelly Loeffler. By the morning hours, 33-year-old firebrand Jon Ossoff had also pulled ahead of conservative stalwart David Perdue, making him the youngest U.S. senator ever elected.

The news cycle quickly swept the contests aside as angry rioters descended on Washington Wednesday to protest the certification of president-elect Joe Biden’s November victory in a chaotic melee that has left at least five people dead and called into question President Trump’s fitness to remain chief executive. But Ossoff and Warnock’s wins Tuesday were deeply significant, solidifying Democrats’ control of the Senate and undoubtedly paving a smoother legislative road for the newly-elected Commander in Chief.

As the race unfolded, Kornacki dependably played his role, reviving his favorite Palomino Brown pants from this fall’s presidential race and pairing them with a crisp-yet-casual white button-down, a striped tie, and a brown leather belt.

The anchor’s signature look and nod to normcore is the height of business casual—professional but not stuffy, and rooted in practicality. As Americans across the country wait patiently for one of the vaccines that might allow them to return to some semblance of normal life, many are likely looking to adopt wardrobe options that blend the comfort and convenience they have come to favor over these long, socially distanced months with a hint of polish. First Insight CEO Greg Petro believes that while the work-from-home movement is likely here to stay, employees may come to relish opportunities to throw together ensembles for days in the office.

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Kornacki’s election-week performance certainly had a demonstrable effect at retail this season, Edited analyst Kayla Marci said. “The hype Steve Kornacki’s khakis have generated since November’s election led to a significant increase in the number of styles selling out online at U.S. retailers,” she said—including Gap, which recorded a 90 percent increase in online sell-through for the Modern Khakis with GapFlex at the time.

Sellouts for men’s khakis across the board increased by 88 percent during Q4 2020 from the previous quarter, Marci said, nearly doubled from the same period in 2019 and underscoring Kornacki’s influence. The Georgia runoffs this week have brought the wardrobe workhorse “back into the spotlight,” she added.

A spokesperson for Gap said that its khaki sales have remained consistent this week—far from the jaw-dropping buzz generated by November’s election news marathon, despite a multitude of excited tweets from Kornacki stans Tuesday night. The so-called Map Daddy’s performance this fall propelled the style’s popularity through the holiday season, the spokesperson acknowledged, and has had the halo effect of boosting performance on other men’s casual pants.

In December, Gap teamed with Kornacki in donating khakis to youths in the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
In December, Gap teamed with Kornacki in donating khakis to youths in the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. MSNBC

The brand even approached Kornacki with the offer of free slacks for life following the explosion of consumer interest. “I explained to the Gap, I already have three pairs of pants, so I’m all set for next decade or so,” Kornacki tweeted in early December. Instead, the San Francisco-based clothing company opted to make a Giving Tuesday donation 500 pairs of the iconic trousers to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America’s workforce readiness program for graduating high school students in the anchor’s name.

The Gap spokesperson demurred when asked whether an official Kornacki Khaki collab is on the horizon. (Comedian Ilana Glazer tweeted Tuesday, “I want @SteveKornacki to start a lifestyle brand called Kornacki’s Khakis where he sells khakis all shades of beige and other roomy workwear pieces.”) Still, they exalted the Chartthrob’s star power. Gap, they added, is glad to have been able to support him through many long, grueling nights on the air.