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The Love — And Strategy — Behind Couple Style

Johanna Vizueta-Hoskins and Amir Hoskin’s marriage began as a whirlwind romance. Back in 2016, the two met at a concert in New York City, when Vizueta-Hoskins found herself alone at the event after her friends didn’t make it. Luckily, she found a friend inside the venue, who introduced her to Hoskins. It wasn’t love at first sight. It actually took nine months of silence between the two for Hoskins to reach out to Vizueta-Hoskins again. But two months later, they were engaged, and they married a month after that. 

Years into their marriage, the two constantly find themselves dressing alike. “It’s actually really natural,” says Johanna. 

Couple style is a phenomenon that’s captivated people for decades, with whole industries popping up in places like South Korea to provide couples with matching looks. Celebrities and public figures, in particular, may establish their partnerships through an almost brand-like identity. We’ll always remember Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake’s matching denim ensembles and Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thorton’s blood vials. Some celebs commit to couple style even when their partner is not around: This week, Gwen Stefani donned a pair of sneakers bearing husband Blake Shelton’s face, while in 2018, Katy Perry donned a pajama set featuring images of Orlando Bloom

Others take the branding strategy seriously enough to grow not only their relationship but their public profiles. 

Take Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, for example. Before the two got married in 2013, Kardashian and West had entirely different aesthetics. Bodycon dresses, pencil skirts, and tall pumps dominated Kardashian’s wardrobe and contributed to her reality-star image, while West’s style — a monochrome palette and streamlined array of T-shirts and jeans — earned him fashion industry credibility and the approval of Vogue’s Anna Wintour. By 2013, when the two celebrated a lavish wedding ceremony in Italy, Kardashian’s look had changed: she was increasingly sporting camel coats, Balmain blazers, and minimalist, nude gowns. The transformation was even documented in a Keeping Up With The Kardashians episode in Season 7, when West and his stylist, Renelou Padora, cleaned out Kardashian’s closet to make room for the new style identity (and loads of Yeezy merch) that would eventually make her a darling of the fashion world. 

More recently, it’s Kourtney Kardashian who’s changing her stripes to match her boyfriend, Travis Barker. The eldest Kardashian’s penchant for neutral palettes, graphic T-shirts, and midriff-baring sets has been consistent for as long as the Kardashians have been on E!

But it took dating an emo drummer for Kardashian to swap her neon bikinis for skull-printed swimsuits. Earlier this year, when Kardashian and Barker first announced their relationship, the reality star channeled the ‘00s pop-punk aesthetic. In March 2021, one of their first public outings, she donned a white graphic T-shirt with a black trench coat and a pair of black mesh cut-out trousers, while Barker sported a white T-shirt, black bomber jacket, and black jeans. It’s safe to say that, as Kardashian and Barker get closer, the KUWTK star is entering a new sartorial phase. 

The way couples brand themselves today works a lot like uniform dressing, says Forbes-Bell. “If you think about a brand or a company, they have a way they dress to match their mission,” she says. “For people who want to monetize their relationship, it makes sense.” 

The business of “Instacouples” has boomed over the past decade since Instagram blew up the digital world. Influencers like Chiara Ferragni, who is known as a unit with her husband Fedez as #TheFerragnez, have been able to make money off their romances in a move that parallels Kim and Kanye’s trajectory. Ferragni’s 2018 wedding was a case study for this phenomenon: it resulted in 67 million digital interactions and a branding value of $36 million, according to WWD

In the age of curated Instagram feeds and #CoupleGoals, the strategic relationship between fashion and romance is a powerful tool for everyday couples, too. On Instagram, the hashtag #CoupleStyle has over 400,000 posts, while TikTok has become a space for couples to participate in viral style challenges — like the runway front row challenge — where synced fashion aesthetics are even more essential. 

“One of the main motivations behind dressing a certain way is to fulfill that human desire to belong and to be aligned with a group,” says Shakaila Forbes-Bell, a fashion psychologist and the founder of Fashion Is Psychology. “When couples come together and form a unit, unconsciously they start to dress alike because it’s an easy way to form that social bond.”

For Fiona Luo and Michael Smith, their mutual adoration for Rick Owens is what brought them together in the first place. The two met in 2018, when Luo saw a photo of Smith on the popular Instagram account @meninrickowens. She started following him and he quickly slid into her DMs. 

“It was Rick Owens that caused us to meet,” says Luo, a fashion publicist for Gia Kuan. “I think there is a similar approach to building out ourselves through our clothes.”

Over the past three years, the two have grown to dress more similarly. In the past, they’ve broken up and gotten back together, and when they reconnected, the two found they dressed even more alike. “I think I’ve naturally gotten more feminine in the way I dress and I think Fiona has gotten slightly less feminine,” says Smith. 

But Luo says that her shifts in style have little to do with Smith. Instead, she says, her fashion evolution comes from growing closer to herself. “Fashion starts with how attractive you want to make yourself through the male gaze,” she says, describing her former mindset. “But I think a big part of that is shedding that and being able to dress through how you actually want to build yourself, rather than how you want others to perceive [you].”

Forbes-Bell says that the way people dress to fit a collective — in this case, a couple — has a direct impact on their self-image. “When you are in a couple, it’s something that you can’t avoid because, as social creatures, we want to establish that bond,” she says. 

Vizueta-Hoskins agrees. She says the transition, just like her whirlwind romance, happened quickly. Over time, the two started wearing similar color palettes and would unconsciously dress themselves in different iterations of the same outfit. A few years ago, when the two attended ComplexCon in tan-colored outfits, Vizueta-Hoskins says people would not stop saying they were “#CoupleGoals.” In the Instagram age, this could mean not only intimate synchronization, but digital success. 

Neither the Hoskins or Luo-Smith units crave “Instacouple” status. But Johanna Hoskins says that the more she and her husband dress alike, the closer she feels to their partnership. “When you’re with someone, you’re each other’s accessory, basically,” says Johanna. “If you’re dressed similarly, it shows that you’re in sync.”

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