A hoodie (or hoody), short for hooded sweatshirt, is a heavy upper-body garment with a hood. The characteristic design includes large frontal pockets, a hood, and a drawstring to adjust the hood opening. The term “Bunny Hug”, is also commonly used in the Canadian prairies. Hoodies with zippers are called zip hoodies or zip-ups.
The history of the specific garment began in the 1930s, but historical precedent dates the style and form of the hoodie back to the Middle Ages. The formal wear for Catholic monks included a cowl, a long, decorative hood worn in addition to the standard tunic or robes. The modern clothing style was first produced by Champion in the 1930s for laborers in the frozen warehouses of New York. Its popularity spread as sportswear designers such as Claire McCardell developed entire collections based around the clothing.
The hoodie took off in the 1970s as several factors contributed to its success. Hip hop culture developed in New York City around this time, and the hoodie’s element of instant anonymity, provided by the accessible hood, appealed to those with criminal intent. High fashion also contributed during this era, as Norma Kamali and other high-profile designers embraced and glamorized the new clothing. Most critical to the hoodie’s popularity during this time was its iconic appearance in the blockbuster Rocky film. His attire embodied the persevering spirit of the American Dream at the time, and simultaneously appealed to workingmen, street thugs, and athletes. By the 1990s, the hoodie had evolved into a symbol of isolation, a statement of academic spirit, and several fashion collections.The association with chavs in the UK developed around this time, as their popularity rose with that specific demographic. Young men, often skateboarders or surfers, sported the hoodie and spread the trend across the western United States, most significantly in California. The rise of hoodies with university logos began around this time. Tommy Hilfiger, Giorgio Armani, and Ralph Lauren, for example, used the hoodie as the primary component for many of their collections in the 1990s.
In the UK, hoodies have been the subject of much criticism; some shoplifters have used the hood to conceal their identities from CCTV cameras in shopping centres. Particularly when worn with a baseball cap, the hoodie has become a trademark of “chavs”: it has been called the “chav-style” in an Oxfam report.
Angela McRobbie, professor of communications at Goldsmiths College in the UK, says the appeal of the hoodie is because of its promise of anonymity, mystery and anxiety. “The point of origin is obviously black American hip-hop culture, now thoroughly mainstream and a key part of the global economy. Leisure and sportswear adopted for everyday wear suggests a distance from the world of office suit or school uniform. Rap culture celebrates defiance, as it narrates the experience of social exclusion. Musically and stylistically, it projects menace and danger as well as anger and rage. The hooded top is one in a long line of garments chosen by young people, usually boys, to which are ascribed meanings suggesting that they are ‘up to no good’. In the past, such appropriation was usually restricted to membership of specific youth cultures – leather jackets, bondage trousers – but nowadays it is the norm among young people to flag up their music and cultural preferences in this way, hence the adoption of the hoodie by boys across the boundaries of age, ethnicity and class.”
In May 2005, Bluewater shopping centre in Kent caused outrage by launching a code of conduct which bans its shoppers from sporting hoodies or baseball caps, although the garments remain on sale. John Prescott welcomed the move, stating that he had felt threatened by the presence of hooded teenagers at a motorway service station. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair openly supported this stance and vowed to clamp down on the anti-social behaviour with which hoodie wearers are sometimes associated. London-based rapper Lady Sovereign published a single titled “Hoodie” in protest as part of a “Save the Hoodie” campaign.
In February 2006, a 58-year-old teacher who was wearing a hooded top was asked to remove it when entering a Tesco store in Swindon. According to the teacher, he was wearing the hood because “my hair’s a mess”. The shop apologized and said it was taking action to “make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
In 2005, Coombeshead College in the south-west of England, allowed the hoodie to become part of the school uniform, but the hood could be put up only when it rained. The principal, Richard Haigh stated that the move would help to calm some of what he called the “hysteria” surrounding the garment.
Street shirts In July 2006, David Cameron, leader of the Conservative Party, made a speech suggesting that the hoodie was worn more for defensive than offensive purposes. The speech was referred to as “hug a hoodie” by the Labour Party. Cameron also perpetuated the mistaken use of the word ‘hoodie’ to refer to a wearer of a hooded garment, rather than the garment itself, a mistake that many older Brits now continue to make.
“National Hoodie Day”, a pro-youth initiative to challenge youth stereotypes, was launched in May 2008 in New Zealand. The campaign resulted in criticism at a number of levels within government, including a local council member donning a Ku Klux Klan outfit in protest, citing the hoodie as “not an appropriate article of clothing to celebrate”.