Turning inner space into outer space

March 24, 2012

How is it that we came to be so afraid of hoodies?

How scary is a hoodie? Scary enough that if you see a boy wearing one on your property, you have the right to shoot him?

Geraldo Rivera has stirred a storm of outrage for suggesting that a man who shot teenager dead in Florida may have been within his rights. Wear a hoodie and make yourself a target.

This simplistic view of the death of Trayvon Martin deserves to be mocked, but there is more to it than you might think. In Britain, for example, there is a long history of machinations over hoodies. People have been banned from wearing them because they can be used to cover your face during the commission of a crime. Or just because they are associated with anti-social behaviour.

A column by Kevin Braddock in The Guardian from 2011 looks at how hoodies have evolved into “a symbol of menace and lawlessness.”

All clothing is political in the sense that it communicates a message about how the wearer wishes to be perceived, and face coverings and headgear can be particularly charged: the use of balaclavas by sectarian paramilitaries, bandanas worn across the face, or caps worn low to disguise the eyes, represent a seizing of anonymity and a self-exemption from public identification.

But as Braddock points out, covering your face doesn’t necessarily mean you’re up to no good. For many youths, a hidden face helps you survive in a rough neighborhood. It helps you blend in and not be noticed.

. . . the real reasons why a generation of young people choose to retreat into the invisibility cloak of the hoodie and escape the harsh realities of their troubling present and dystopian future: spiralling living and education costs, a savage employment market, future living standards likely to be lower than their parents, and zero prospect of home ownership along with a collective societal suspicion of teenagers as a whole.

As a jarring reminder of all that’s wrong with our society, hoodies can indeed be scary.

Link: The power of the hoodie