Pete Davidson Was Already Dressed for This Breakup

In a cold, loveless world, sleazecore is the ultimate emotional armor.

by Emma Specter
Oct 15 2018, 5:13pm

It was the TMZ headline heard ’round the world. “Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson Splitsville, Engagement Called Off,” brayed the tabloid, and the hearts of a million believers in true romance immediately sank. Pete and Ariana were our sleazecore Romeo and Juliet, our sweatshirt-bedecked Tristan and Isolde, our pig-owning Brad and Jen—even if you saw their breakup coming a mile off (I mean, have you tried dating a 24-year-old comedian lately?), it still feels like a massive cultural jolt.

Pete Davidson in Manhattan on September 20, 2018 (Photo by James Devaney via Getty Images)

There is one small ray of light in this tunnel of darkness, though: at least Pete is already dressed for the breakup. What is sleazecore, after all, if not peak breakup couture? The layers upon layers of grimy Supreme athleisure, the unwashed, untoned complexion, the bleached hair (which, as noted, "means he's really going through it")...all of this post-breakup iconography actually predates Pete’s breakup by months. But maybe the established pattern of dirtbagcore will provide some measure of comfort to him in these cold, Ariana-less climes.

As Donald Trump so helpfully noted, it’s a "very scary time for young men in America"; are those selfsame young men getting their sad, mad, bad feelings out through sleaze? Pete really leaned into the sleazecore look when he and Ariana started dating, but the relationship always appeared fraught to the trained, skeptical eye. Pete admitted in an August GQ interview that he was living for free in Ariana Grande's $16 million Manhattan apartment, telling writer Allie Jones, “She’s like, ‘This is our house,’ and I‘m like, ‘You’re very nice for saying that. Thank you for letting me stay here.’” That’s not an easy dynamic to move on from!

As Jacob Gallagher noted in a Wall Street Journal article about the rise of the “slob-ebrity,” problematic male faves from Justin Bieber to Shia LaBoeuf sometimes favor sleazecore as an “act of regression” in troubled times. Maybe Pete's sleazecore style was acting as a sartorial balm for his troubled soul even before he and Grande officially called it quits.


Fashion aside, the phenomenon of dressing like shit after a breakup is a widespread and psychologically understandable one. Who among us hasn't forgone hair-washing and jeans-wearing for the comfort of loose sweats and matted, unkempt locks? Why, exactly, does it feel so good to look bad in the wake of heartbreak?

When the world wants you to recover and be your best self in as little time as possible, it’s fun to lean into feeling like shit and show it via your clothing.

“Dressing poorly after a breakup is like the fashion equivalent of diving into an entire pint of ice cream—it feels good to indulge in something truly disgusting as a comfort-seeking mechanism,” says Hannah Smothers, a staff writer for Cosmopolitan who covers sex and relationships.

Pete Davidson on "Late Night with Seth Meyers." (Photo by Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

“I think there's also an anarchy element to it,” Smothers added, explaining, “It’s like, ‘Yeah, fuck you, I'm heartbroken, I am going to wear this grease-stained T-shirt and there’s nothing you can do about it!’ When the world wants you to recover and be your best self in as little time as possible, it’s fun to lean into feeling like shit and show it via your clothing.”

It’s hard to predict exactly what’s going to happen to Pete’s look as his breakup with Ariana recedes further and further into our collective consciousness past. Will he take a hard pivot out of Sleazecoreville and really start dressing? Will 2019 Pete step out in perfectly tailored Savile Row suits? There’s no way of knowing yet, but at least he’ll always have that pig tattoo as a remembrance of things past.

pete davidson
Ariana Grande