It’s just a cotton windcheater, but for many, it might as well be made of “the very fabric of evil itself,” says Gareth McLean in The Guardian. The hooded top has become the troublemaker’s uniform – “a signifier of disgruntled, malevolent youth, scowling and indolent.” The managers of Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, England, certainly think so – the centre’s new code of conduct bans clothing that obscures the face, like hoodies and baseball caps. A British magistrate also recently banned a 15-year-old who had been “terrorising his neighbourhood” from wearing a hoodie for five years. Why this ban would either punish him or prevent him from re-offending “is anyone’s guess,” says Jim White in the Daily Telegraph (UK). Teenage rebellion “will remain, albeit in a different set of garb.”
Our uneasiness towards hoods “doesn’t come from nowhere,” says McLean. For thousands of years, we’ve been “bombarded with images of menacing hooded figures,” from the Grim Reaper and Horsemen of the Apocalypse to the Ringwraiths from Lord of the Rings. Watching Star Wars‘ Anakin Skywalker and the evil Emperor in their hoods, you half expect to find them outside a bottle shop “asking any passing aliens to go in and buy them a four pack of Bacardi Breezer and 10 Marlboro Lights,” says White.
Authorities claim criminals wear hoodies to avoid being recognised on closed circuit TV. But really, the bans reveal a “spiral of fear and control,” says Patrick Barkham in The Guardian. London’s Metropolitan Police estimate young people commit 20% of crimes; but nearly two-thirds of the public think they’re responsible for 40%. We’re becoming unable to trust our children, and “the climate of suspicion this generates can only increase the sense of alienation young people feel,” says The Observer.
Young people need to remember that “dress codes carry signals,” and that “there will be consequences to whatever choices you make,” says Mary Kenny in The Guardian. But the biggest problem with labelling a particular fashion item socially unacceptable is “just how quickly even the most extreme fashion ideas are subsumed into the general population,” says Neil McCormick in the Daily Telegraph.
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While leather jackets and punk trousers were once part of a subcultural uniform, hoodies are a part of everyone’s wardrobe. They’re versatile, practical, and produced by mainstream companies like Nike and Gap, not known for their anarchic tendencies. And, ironically enough, says McLean, hoodies are probably “widely available at Bluewater.”