Hoodies: In Defense of a Cozy, Ubiquitous Garment
Monks wear hoods. Football players wear hoods. Medieval noblewomen swished around their chilly castles in hooded capes. Outdoorspeople winterize their heads with stand-alone hoods or hoods attached to jackets, coats and sweaters.
I wear pullover sweatshirts, hoods up or down, all winter. Nothing's better for keeping the neck warm.
But now "hoodie" evokes fear: a young man, often assumed black or Hispanic, who will snatch your purse, rob your convenience store or worse.
Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin, carrying iced tea and Skittles, was described by his alleged killer as wearing a hoodie. No gun, no knife, just a hoodie and the color of his skin. Or maybe not even that, since it was nighttime.
Understandably, hoodies have become the battle flag. Last week a Million Hoodie March took place in New York. On Sunday, Floridians wore hoodies to church in support - and then, I'll wager, stashed them after dark. Geraldo Rivera has espoused the cause.
Teenage boys and men of all races are being urged to abandon their hoodies lest they arouse suspicion. A sign inside the door of the ABC store in Aberdeen informs customers that hoods and helmets must be removed. I asked the clerk if this is enforced. Yes, she answered.
Still, I wonder if she would tell me - a gray-haired white woman - to remove mine on a wet, cold day. I will test this.
Other articles of clothing carry questionable/negative/historical baggage. Remember Hitler's brown shirts and Mussolini's black shirts? Baggy, low-slung jeans spell rap-hip-hoppers. Gangstas wear dark shirts and light ties. Women burned their bras. Overalls denoted "Hee-Haw" farm boys until Sarah Jessica Parker donned a pair over a sexy tank top.
Ski masks inspire dread. But really, we can assume a person wearing a ski mask in the middle of Manhattan on a July afternoon is up to no good? Yet I have worn a ski mask when walking the dog on a frigid Vermont morning. Should I be confronted?
With tensions running high, nobody wants to go on the record. I spoke to two small business owners who admitted they are suspicious of anybody (I'm not buying that) wearing a hoodie, man or woman, sun or rain, day or night. "They look like they're trying to hide something," one clerk said.
It doesn't help that drawings of suspects by police artists often show hoodies. Or that thousands of commemoratives have been printed with Martin's photo.
Or that "the 'hood" refers to neighborhoods where gangs may hang.
Therefore hoodies have become the de facto thug uniform, no less than black and white stripes or orange jumpsuits identify prison inmates.
I'm guessing criminals (also called hoods) will ditch their hoodies for something else. Remember outlaws of the Old West, who tied bandannas over their mugs?
Stockings are so yesterday. Zorro masks are so day-before-yesterday. Maybe fedoras pulled low on the brow. Or turtlenecks rolled up over the face.
Banning hoodies won't stop muggings, any more than banning concealed weapons prevents shootings.
Let's fight the stereotype. Kids wear hoodies. I wear hoodies. Nice teenage boys of all races wear hoodies, as do not-so-nice ones with no criminal intent. Nothing feels better than pulling on a hoodie after emerging from the cold surf.
Just make sure your hoodie is light-colored. The grim reaper wears black.
Contact Deborah Salomon at email@example.com.
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