STOFF: a journey through the Cosmos with Britain’s Nick Field

In the midst of Stockholm's Fringe Festival, British poet Nick Field talks to The Local's Caroline Bursell about theatre, lipstick, and how Swedes are secretly Brits.

STOFF: a journey through the Cosmos with Britain's Nick Field

With the Stockholm Fringe Festival (STOFF) in full swing, unconventional theatre performances have come out of hiding with the help of STOFF’s non-profit organisation to promote performance theatre and installation-art.

This brief but diverse period of mainstream-challenging performance is Stockholm’s recipe for rescuing budding young artists treading water in a sea of creative possibilities.

Held mostly at Kulturhuset in central Stockholm, STOFF provides a bountiful number of shows to attend, and though tickets are required for some, many are free.

Visitors can even take part in the emerging artistic scene at workshops held between shows.

One such workshop is dubbed a ‘contemporary devised piece’ bordering on the surreal – during which festival goers can meet with the Edinburgh-based group Creative Electric on Saturday at Kulturhuset and see first hand what the description entails.

The STOFF programme also offers such gems as street performances put together by French cultural association Itinéraire Bis, as a showcase portraying the nature of typical stupefied tourists we know so well, while UK-native Hannah Sullivan leads a lecture and discussion on her research project into cross-cultural performance and its potential as a universal language.

Also in the spotlight is playwright Nick Field, born in a tiny village in rural England and currently based in London.

A man of many talents, his work as a short film maker was featured as part of ‘BBC Big Screens’, and leading theatre companies including The Royal Court have commissioned and produced his original plays.

At STOFF, Nick Field is appearing as the Spoken Word enthusiast, and on Friday at Dramalabbet in Södermalm he brings Swedes his one-man show ‘The Cosmos, The Cosmetics.’

Ahead of the show, Field speaks to The Local about his portrayal of finding one’s place in the world, the use of lipstick, and how Stockholm residents are in fact secretly Brits.

The Local: What is your show about?

Nick Field: The show is a journey of discovery through underground culture of the UK.

In my youth I probably went through every phase possible: Goth, hippie, techno-cyber-raver and such, so it’s the tragic-comic story of that search for a place to belong, and also an exploration of identity, and how the memories of experiences we carry shape us.

It’s a very intimate solo performance that is part story-telling, part physical theatre, and involves slapping on a lot of make-up during the show.

TL: Why have you chosen to perform in Stockholm?

NF: I came to Stockholm last year to perform some short pieces and give writing workshops and I really fell in love with the city.

It’s such a beautiful and interesting place, and I really enjoyed performing and working with people here, so I was looking for an excuse to come back.

The festival also looked like a really exciting opportunity, and so I was thrilled when my show was selected.

TL: How does performing abroad compare to performing at home?

NF: There’s always the concern that people might not understand the references, or the humour might be different if performing abroad, but in Stockholm it seems everyone has amazing English and a real grasp of the British sense of humour and cultural references.

TL: What is the extent of your involvement in the Fringe Festival and how has your STOFF experience been so far?

NF: I performed an extract of the piece at the launch party that was really fun, there were a lot of performers giving a taste of their work and it was very exciting to see such a range of performances from so many different countries.

I watched some full performances on the Kulturhuset roof as well and there’s such diversity in the work, from the shocking to the very funny.

I think it’s the coolest arts festival I’ve been to, it’s been brilliantly put together and it’s a very exciting addition to the Stockholm culture scene.

TL: Why should people come see your show?

NF: I think everyone can see something of themselves in the journey I’ve created, that sense of trying to work out who you are and being drawn to different subcultures is a familiar and relatable experience that people have responded to massively when I’ve played it in the UK.

There’s also a lot of humour in the piece and the performance is very much about a connection between the audience and myself, with a rich strand of poetry running through it.

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‘Don’t wear bright colours’: Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Swedes have an international reputation for dressing well, with Scandi style a popular trend outside Sweden. The Local asked Swedes and foreigners living in Sweden to try and figure out the best tips and tricks for how to dress like a Swede.

'Don't wear bright colours': Eight tips on how to dress like a Swede

Black is best

When asking several Swedes their top-tips on how to dress like a Swede, many agreed – wear black.

Young professional Tove advises to keep it “all black, minimalist”. Uppsala newspaper columnist Moa agrees: “Wear a lot of black clothes and DON’T wear sneakers or ‘comfortable’ shoes, like running shoes, with dresses.”

Black is a neutral colour and, in general, if you get the neutral colours right you have got a long way in following the Swedish style. 

Neutral colours and a lot of knitwear is a good starting point. Photo: FilippaK/

Stay neutral 

Sweden might be saying goodbye to hundreds of years of neutrality by joining Nato, but Swedish fashion maintains its strong neutral stance when it comes to colour combinations.

Generally speaking, in autumn and winter Swedes tend to wear darker colours, as Sharon put it: “lots of beige, grey, black and ivory knits or wool. Jeans black or any shade of blue. Black tights with white sneakers for skirts and dresses”.

“Swedes in general will wear black and navy together which I’ve not seen before,” she added.

However, as the weather gets warmer, things change, as half-British half-Swedish Erik explained: “in summer/late spring Swedes change shape and personality,” adding a bit more colour to their wardrobe.

“Lots of colours yet still somewhat monochrome,” he said.

Most Swedes don’t wear a tie at work. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Follow the news trend, drop the tie

Nils, a reporter and presenter for public broadcaster SVT in western Sweden, does not always wear a tie in front of the camera – and he said his colleagues on national news don’t wear ties either.

“It’s not a must,” he said.

A blue shirt, no tie, top button open, beige chinos and a grey dinner jacket is the look he chose when presenting the evening news a few weeks ago.

Nils Arnell presenting the news on SVT Nyheter Väst. Photo: Nils Arnell/SVT

On a day to day basis Nils, who stressed that he’s “not a fashion expert”, gave the following advice: “As long as you manage to dress in a neat style, you can get away with quite a lot.”

“A white t-shirt and an overshirt work well in most situations and look stylish.”

Stay classy, even in class

Engineering student Erik (not the same Erik quoted previously) recently returned to Sweden from a one-year exchange at Birmingham University, where he noticed a big difference in student style between the two countries.

“The first thing that comes to mind is that on university campus there are so many people wearing work-out clothes, at least where I was”, he said.

“In Sweden, it’s more common to wear jeans than tracksuit bottoms, compared to the UK”. 

It’s also common to see a difference in styles even between departments at Swedish universities. The law and economics departments, for example, tend to wear more formal attire with a higher number of students wearing shirts and polos than, say, social sciences or engineering students.

Many students seem to wear a toned-down version of what they might be expected to wear in their future workplace.

When in doubt, think Jantelagen!

Equality and conformity are important concepts when it comes to many aspects of day-to-day life in Sweden, including the clothes you wear.

This doesn’t mean you have to do exactly the same as everyone else, but more that being too flashy or over-the-top can be frowned upon.

This can be traced back to Jantelagen, “the law of Jante”, a set of 10 rules taken from a satirical novel written by Danish author Aksel Sandemose in the 1930s, which spells out the unwritten cultural codes that have long defined Scandinavia.

Jantelagen discourages individual success and sets average as the goal. It manifests itself in Swedish culture not only with a ‘we are all equal’ ethos but even more so a ‘don’t think you are better than anyone, ever’ mindset.

And this is seen in Swedes’ attitude to clothing, too. Flashy, expensive clothing with obvious logos or brands designed to show off your wealth breaks the first rule of Jantelagen: “You’re not to think you are anything special”.

‘Stealth wealth’

This doesn’t mean that Swedes don’t wear expensive clothes, though. They’re just not in-your-face expensive.

Felix, a podcaster from Stockholm describes it as “stealth wealth”, saying that Swedes would have no problem buying and wearing “a black jacket without any tags for 10,000kr”. 

Despite living in Sweden his whole life, he said that it’s not always easy to get the style right.

“I’m struggling myself,” he admitted.

He suggested taking a look at fashion blogger and journalist Martin Hansson for inspiration on how to dress. 

“Do NOT use bright colours,” Felix added.

Birkenstocks with socks. Photo: Carl-Olof Zimmerman/TT


Most of those we asked said that Swedes are a fan of white trainers, most commonly Stan Smiths or Vagabonds.

With the shoes being popular all year round for men and women, this can cause issues at house parties – as Swedes take off their shoes when they come inside.

This inevitably results in confused guests at the end of the night trying to figure out just which pair of white trainers belongs to them – and trying to find one missing shoe the next day because someone accidentally walked away with one of yours is more common than you might think. 

Vans trainers are also popular amongst more alternative crowds (black of course). At work, dress shoes are popular in the winter and loafers or ballerinas in the summer.

In the summer months, you’re likely to see Birkenstock sandals on men and women. Most Swedes wear Birkenstocks without socks – unless they’re off to do their laundry in their building’s tvättstuga.

Birkenstocks are also popular as indoor shoes all-year-round, both at home and at work. It is common to have a “no outdoor shoes” policy in gyms, schools and some offices. This is to avoid bringing a lot of dirt indoors, especially in the winter months when there is snow, rain, grit and salt on the streets.

H&M’s then-CEO Rolf Eriksen wears colourful socks at a press conference in 2006. Photo: Björn Larsson Ask/SvD/SCANPIX/TT

Don’t forget the socks!

As you often take your shoes off indoors in Sweden, your socks are visible.

This has led to an unexpected trend for colourful socks with interesting patterns, which are a great way to break the monotone of neutral colours and conformity by expressing your personality – in a lagom way, of course.

A pair of colourful socks or a playful pattern will get you noticed and likely be a conversation starter at a dinner party.

What’s your best advice for dressing like a Swede? Let us know!

This article is based on the responses we received from Swedes and foreigners in Sweden on what they think you should wear if you want to follow Swedish fashion trends.

If you have any tips of your own which you think we’ve left out, let us know! You can comment on this article, send us an email at [email protected], or get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram: @thelocalsweden