Scandinavians have a reputation for being effortlessly stylish and cool. But what are the secrets behind the Nordic look, and how can you spot a Scandinavian on the streets from miles away? We share the insider’s key secrets.

1. Functionalism

If you only learn one thing about Scandinavian fashion, let it be this: if it’s not practical, it’s pointless. This theme runs through the entirety of the Scandinavian design heritage, from the sleek but sturdy 1960s teak furniture to the durable outerwear and sustainable wool under-garments so disproportionately popular among Scandinavians. Start by making sure that you’ve got sensible shoes you can comfortably walk far in and a good raincoat for when it inevitably gets wet, and you’ll figure out the rest as you go. Just remember: there’s no bad weather – only bad clothes.

Photo © Amanda Westerbom,

2. The Kånken backpack

This Fjällräven classic is loved by everyone from school kids and teens to mature fashionistas, and it embodies that functionalist-centric approach to fashion that’s at the very heart of Scandinavian design. Go bold and political with the rainbow version or back to nature with the classic forest green. Whichever one you choose, you simply can’t go wrong – and you’ll be in with the Nordic crowd in no time.

Photo © Dreamstime

3. Go all black

What could be more in line with both minimalism and functionalism than making your capsule wardrobe all-black? Nothing ever clashes, and you can be sure that your outfit will never ever distract from the importance of what you’re doing and saying. A statement piece of jewellery or bright-red lips can add a touch of personality to your all-black outfit, but by going black from head to toe you’ll make your life, the morning wardrobe decisions, and laundry day oh so simple.

Photo © Dreamstime

4. Lusekofte

This Norwegian classic might not fit the idea of the sleek, minimalist fashion sense you typically associate with your Nordic friends, but remember that they also tend to be keen on their heritage and that keeping warm the natural way is essentially considered an Olympic sport in this northern region, and the Lusekofte starts to make sense. Add wool and traditional patterns to your all-black outfit and Kånken backpack, and you’ll be Scandi-spotted before the day is over.

Photo © Shutterstock

5. Top bun

Hair trends come and go, but the top bun rarely goes out of fashion in Scandinavia – especially since the super-cool singer Lykke Li popularised it around a decade ago. It’s low-maintenance and, as such, incredibly functional – so handy, in fact, that it’s become a key trend for men, too. Enter the man bun and a long list of fashion-forward professional footballers. If it’s good enough for Zlatan…

Photo © Melker Dahlstrand,

6. Clogs

Think clogs are uncomfortable? Think again. Think they’re merely for lazing around the summer house? Yet again, you’re wrong. Ever since Swedish Hasbeens put a heel on this old wooden shoe, Nordic fashionistas have been sporting them in all kinds of colours and designs to go everywhere from work to weddings. For a classic but fun take on clogs, check out Lili & Lala, featured in this issue of Scan Magazine.

Photo © Amanda Westerbom,

7. All the stripes

Only insiders are aware of this, but Scandinavians have a deep love of stripes. It’s not unusual to turn up to the office in your nautical-style stripes only to realise your desk neighbour is wearing an almost identical top, and the people behind you are sporting stripes in other colours. This one’s hard to explain – it’s just a thing – but it might have something to do with Polarn O. Pyret nostalgia. Pair a stripy top with one of the other items on this list, and you’ll be sure to pass for Scandi.

Photo © Lindex Redesigned Clothing,

8. Upcycling

If the Nordics are heading up the sustainability trend, it goes without saying that the fashion industry must follow. That’s why many of the big, well-known high-street retailers have upcycling initiatives going on already and many of the big trend influencers are very good at sharing their vintage and second-hand shop finds as well as the top tips for tweaking and improving them. You don’t need to be Vivianne Westwood to pull it off – sometimes a piece of string or a pair of scissors is all it takes!

Photo © Shutterstock

9. Black, skinny jeans

You might think that this would be covered in point three, but the black, skinny jeans are so important to Scandinavians that they need a point all to themselves. Black, skinny jeans are to Scandis what the little black dress is to many others. With a functionalist hat on, it makes sense: why invest in an impractical dress when you can get a super comfortable pair of jeans that work out in the woods and double up as party wear once you throw on some lipstick and perhaps a pair of high heels?

Photo © Kristin Lidell,

10. The ‘kulturtant’ rebel

Now forget everything we’ve ever said (except the thing about functionalism, obviously). Perhaps you’re on the other side of the change, and you just don’t care about cool and collected anymore, or you want to emphasise your rebellious, artistic streak. Enter the ‘kulturtant’ look, directly translating as ‘culture lady’. Think big, flowy fabrics, clashing colours, natural materials and zero rules. This look is popular among creative women over 50, with brands such as Marimekko and Gudrun Sjödén contributing colours, shapes and patterns for endless bright and funky outfits. Comfortable, sustainable and expressive – who said there’s only one kind of functionalist?

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Receive our monthly newsletter by email

    I accept the Privacy Policy and Cookie Policy