Friday, March 23, 2012

the humble hoodie

When I was in kindergarten, there was something in the dress code about hooded sweatshirts being totally not ok, though being six years old in 1989, my mom had to explain to school administrators that my matching stretch pants and hoodie combos with sundry flowers and bright colors (is it any wonder I wear mostly black now?) were not a Menace II Society by any means. I guess it was the era of Straight Outta Compton and crack and fears of the Big Bad City, but the absurdity stuck in my naive little kid brain even then. Who cared, right? These rules were stupid.

In my high school years, there was more fear of kids wearing trenchcoats than kids wearing hooded sweatshirts, as we were firmly esconced in lower-class suburbia and the garment was ubiquitous in infinite forms from designer labels in bright colors to the generic zip-up occasionally decorated with patches and buttons and safety pins, or the Rollins Band one with the sun that my classmate wore every day. One of my friends often had to turn his Slayer shirt inside out but the hoodies were left alone. They provided protection during food fights when packets of mayo would whiz from one table to another and we'd hit the table with our hoods up until the lunch aides took care of the culprits.

A couple years after that, due to Powers That Be doing their best to Think of the Children by suppressing individuality in the name of "distraction," the relative freedoms bestowed on us were rescinded and the next generation doesn't get to have the fun of dying one's hair pink or affixing spiky accoutrements to one's wrists or jacket (I never did this, but I'm all for it if that's your thing), because "distracting" is a red herring. Everything is distracting when your classes are boring and you're 15, especially since everyone's hit puberty at more or less the same time and is letting everything hang out.

Anyways, the unadorned black zipup hoodie for me is like the Little Black Dress for the female Bright Young Things. It layers well with flannel under and leather jacket over, it keeps out the rain, goes with everything except rarely-worn formal wear and is handy for air-conditioned workplaces and running from the car to the rock show. Most of my fellow peons seem to be in possession of similar garments, and if the Esoteric Order of St. Drogo decided to get even more esoteric before the altar of the Sludge Factory, we'd have our garb, which is infinitely more swanky than gray turtlenecks and Nikes.

There's a protest about the awful tragedy and travesty of the Trayvon Martin thing downtown today, with people wearing their hoods up and such. Some trigger-happy vigilante evidently found this garment threatening when it shelters a young black male from the elements and while I appreciate the sentiment and that people are getting mad as hell (though where was that outrage for some of these other things we've done to people in other countries, or is that too much to ask?), we crackers, even the quiet weird ones who like metal and punk, aren't generally considered threatening, especially in a place like Clevelandia.

It always gets me when I'll go out to the east side to hang out in Coventry and in such a "progressive" suburb where they look down on us west siders for being racist or something, there are signs at almost every venue saying no baseball caps, do-rags, or hoodies, and we all know what that subtext means. I can walk in just fine wearing one, but heaven forbid that my compadres with a deeper shade of melanin and African features do. I don't believe that clothes make the man at all, though I still harbor a distrust of suits and ties that I can't quite explain, but if anything, the everyman's hoodie only seems to highlight the inequalities and structures in place.

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