Some fashion ideas vanish rather quickly. Legwarmers, for instance, are not likely to be seen on any runways anytime soon, and it would seem unlikely that any there’ll be too many requests for mullets at upscale salons in the near future. Other fashion trends never seem to die. There may be variations on the themes, but there always seems to be some incarnation of certain clothing items in any given year. Leggings, for instance, are not likely to be going anywhere anytime soon, every wardrobe will always have a little black dress, and no one will ever get beef for wearing a hoodie.
The hoodie’s distinctive blend of attitude and comfort have made it a staple of the western wardrobe, appropriate for everyone from children to soccer moms, to sullen teens, to rappers, to celebrities. Make no mistake, however, the hoodie has a lot more to it than just a warm sweatshirt with a hood. Here’s a look at the rebellious roots of what came to be a rather conservative clothing piece.
Birth of the Hoodie
The hood was first added to sweatshirts, by Champion Products in the 1930’s as a practical means of protecting laborers and athletes from the elements. The early incarnations of the item were designed to protect employees in cold storage wear houses and tree surgeons working through the winter to reinforce the warmth of their long underwear. At the same time, Champion was working with high schools to determine their clothing needs and began manufacturing double thick hooded sweatshirts to protect track and football athletes from the cold weather. The garment made the transition into a fashion statement when athletes began to give their gear to their girlfriends.
When the mid-seventies saw the emergence of hip hop culture, the hoodie began to make its subcultural connections. Early graffiti writer, Eric “Deal” Felisbert, remembers the hoodie popping up on the streets of New York around 1975. “The people that wore them were all people who were sort of looked up to, in the context of the street,” he says, recalling that graffiti artists wore hoodies to keep a low profile, while break dancers wore them to keep warm.
The Stick up Kids
The deal also remembers the stick-up kids, a group of what were essentially muggers who hung around the nightclub. Says Deal, “They might be sort of scheming on somebody within the crowd that had some sort of clothing or a gold chain…that they’re interested in. They’re probably just gonna wear the hood just slightly over their head and so that way, early on, people can’t remember their faces.”
The eighties brought a new breed of hoodie wearer to national attention. Skateboarders became the new rebellious wearers of the hooded sweatshirt, often trespassing into empty swimming pools in search of riding terrain. Skaters began to reject the mainstream culture, gravitating to hardcore and punk. Says Rolling Stone contributor David Browne, “Suddenly you have this darker, more violent sub culture merging with the remains of the skateboard crowd. The whole outsider thing really kicked in at that moment.”
One could say the hoodie ‘arrived’ in the nineties, with the classic cover of the 1993 album “Enter the Wu Tang” featuring the grim depiction of the hooded sweatshirt. It was then that designers such as Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger began to take note, finding their fashion inspiration from the streets. The hoodie had officially come full circle, uniting urban style with youth culture, consolidating itself as the fabric of western culture, and symbol of rebellion.
What do you think of hoodies? Rebellious trend? Wardrobe staple? Or both? Let us know what your hoodie means to you!