I know in some circles the hoodie has a bad reputation. Perhaps it’s an arcane, misguided and xenophobic stereotype like AOL Fanhouse’s David Whitley’s feelings on ink (which, by the way are the most insensitive, veiled racist, patently uneducated and poorly written thing I wasted my time and brain cells read in a long time). Perhaps this is for good reason in some people’s minds.
Usually, those who employ the hoodie are a bit on the anti-social side, the “urban thugs,” “hardcore punks” and the “ne’re do wellers of the local secondary school.” That’s fine, I’m sure that’s part of the allure of pubescent anthropophobia when enjoined by the knowledge that the fashion scare the bejesus out of the older folk.
Utilitarianly, the hoodie provides warmth and protection from the elements, covering one’s torso and head in a single piece of clothing. The facets of it’s functionality can easily be enumerated but those of us who don a hoodie typically do so for more than just the obvious physiological base in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.
The hoodie represents comfort: a fashionable security blanket in some ways.
In many ways it is part of our identity. Like a uniform delineates a Police Officer from the designer suit wearing CEO from the plaid jumper clad Catholic School girl from the unitard of a modern dancer and the corpse pain of a black metal fan, the hoodie is, in effect a calling card for a clique not so different from any other social marker. Because those who seem to “fit” least well into the accepted boxes of societal acceptance also seem to be the ones who grip the hoodie tightest, it’s become part of a number of ill-repute stereotypes.
The kind of hoodie you wear signals to others a bit about who you are. I wear a The Number 12 Looks Like You zip front black hoodie. During the depths of winter it is paired wth a navy blue pea coat complete with finger-less wool gloves, in the fall and spring when not worn along is usually paired with an plain olive army fatigue. What does that mean to you if you picture it in your head?
That’s not to say that every person wearing a hoodie is a thug or a punk or a trouble maker. But if you look at each of those groups apart from the assumed outward behavioral problems inherent with each you can see why each does cling to such a devise as a key component of their wardrobe, and whey even those of us who no longer fit squarely into them may still appreciate the hoodie for what it can do.
It offers protection beyond the utilitarian sense to include that of from the prying eyes of society itself. Pull it over you and you can be transformed into the fear of others whatever that perception is. Pull it over and people will avoid you, avoid looking at you, avoid speaking to you, avoid making the most basic in human contact with you. With the hood over your head your sight line is obscured so you don’t have to see them avoiding you either. You can be alone and become essentially invisible. Your world become encased by the softness of the hoodie, far from the pains and injustice surrounding you, only interacting with those whom you deep within your sight line, who you can relate to because they are clad in the same familiar garb.
I’ve been accused of using my dress as a way to retain an identity that I constructed in the past, one that set expectations of others to be wholly different from the reality of who I am so that no one would ever really know what to make of me. I dress the way I do because I feel comfortable doing it as it reflects an important part of my personality. But, I’m also smart enough to know that the other part is true, I am manipulating people based on their prejudices to expect something different from me than what they get, which provides them with a pleasant surprise when they overcome their own phobias in order to fully experience the world around them. Is it right to engage in this kind of deception, if you call it that?
The point being, the perception of the hoodie is that it is to hide some kind of wrong doing, it is a signal that the person shouldn’t be trusted. The reality for the wearer is usually quite the opposite. If they truly felt like they belonged to the larger organization of society they wouldn’t wear the hoodie like a security blanket protecting them from the hammer of judgement telling them their uniqueness is a bane or is wrong. I wear a hoodie as much in solidarity to the feelings I felt as a youth never feeling like I really belonged anywhere (despite having everything a kid could need to feel loved) as I do to challenge the notion that the hoodie is something to be fearful of in the first place. It’s my security blanket as much as my combat boots, wallet chain, finger-less gloves, second-hard military-ware (and even my long hair when I had it).
After all, I still listen to metal and punk (and yes, political/social hip hop) religiously and can defend it’s value musically, socially and economically with vehement passion as only an advanced trained musician and marketer could in spite of fully understanding the misconceptions about metal and punk (and hip hop) that are spewed out of fear, ignorance and willful bigotry. I listen because of how it makes me feel, how it positively touches my inner most emotions and how I can relate to its most primal, basic elements as a rational human being, not because I want to intentionally be different (the being different is a happy coincidence) and I feel much the same way, in some ways about the hoodie. It, for me, has utilitarianism value that I can easily defend but also is associative to me that transcends, not because I’m trying to be different but just because it essentially still feels comfortable, good…
So my happy thought for the day is my hoodie and all the hoodies (even my sadly retired pull over Century Media block logo one, man, that thing was Linus blanket style comfy) I had worn so proudly before that kept me warm, kept strangers away and signaled to others in the music scene I was one of them.