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STYLE ADVICE

Cult item: the hoodie

By Libby Banks, 11 September 2016

In basic terms, the hoodie hasn’t changed in almost a century, but it’s hard to think of clothing that carries more social, political and cultural weight. And now it’s gone high end. 

CULT ITEM: THE HOODIE

Picture: Getty

The Vetements effect

If you’ve kept an eye on the catwalks in the last 12 months, you’ll probably know that an oversized hoodie is probably the most on-point thing you can wear right now. Leading the charge is Vetements, the Paris design collective that has seduced the fashion world and Instagram with its £700 slogan hoodies. Maison Margiela-taught creative director Demna Gvasalia combines a streetwear aesthetic with ironic references, including DHL logos and a homage to the Titanic movie. The hard-to-track-down label has quickly achieved cult status and an army of A-list fans – including, unsurprisingly, Kanye West.

CULT ITEM: THE HOODIE

Picture: Rex

Outsider essential

First designed by cult sportswear brand Champion in the 30s to keep warehouse workers warm during the winter months, the hoodie has been repeatedly appropriated by outsiders and youth subcultures. It flipped from practical clothing to style item and status symbol in the 50s when male US college athletes gave their team-issue tops to their girlfriends to wear around campus. In the late 70s and early 80s, when New York’s hip-hop culture was taking shape, it was adopted by rappers, breakdancers and graffiti artists. The hoodie even took its rebellious, tough-guy status to the masses when Sylvester Stallone wore it in the Rocky movies.

CULT ITEM: THE HOODIE

Picture: Getty

Political symbol

The ability to maintain anonymity wearing a hoodie has led it to be associated, by some, with illicit behaviour – and, in turn, take on a political symbolism within debates on race, class and profiling. In 2012, after the shooting of unarmed Florida teen Trayvon Martin by a neighbourhood watch volunteer, protestors around the world donned hoodies in solidarity with Martin, who was wearing one when he was killed. In the UK in the mid-00s, then Conservative leader David Cameron was characterised as wanting to ‘hug a hoodie’ after critiquing bans on the garment and noting that ‘we – the people in suits – often see hoodies as aggressive, the uniform of a rebel army of young gangsters.'

CULT ITEM: THE HOODIE

Picture: Getty

Countercultural icon

The thread that runs through the hoodie’s history is its adoption by groups who feel isolated from social norms and conventional society. Through the 80s, 90s and beyond, hoodies have again and again found common ground with youth tribes, whether rap, punk, thrash or skater cultures. The spirit of defiance continues with the likes of hoodie-loving hip-hop eccentrics Odd Future and their DIY swagger. It has even been adopted as the uniform of Silicon Valley poster boy Mark Zuckerberg as a way of subverting the traditional image of a suited-up CEO.

CULT ITEM: THE HOODIE

Picture: Getty

On the catwalk

Designers have always tapped the street for inspiration and Vetements isn’t the first to flip the hoodie for a high fashion audience. Raf Simons’ politically charged SS02 collection, titled ‘Woe unto those who spit on the fear generation… the wind will blow it back’ played with the hoodie’s image. Models stalked the runway holding flares, wearing masks and hoodies marked ‘We are ready and willing to ignite’. Central to his streetwear aesthetic, the hoodie is a garment that Simons returns to again and again – including this interpretation from 2004.

CULT ITEM: THE HOODIE

Picture: Rex

Today’s haute hoodies

And so to today, where a new generation of designer labels – including Nasir Mazhar, Hood By Air, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Off-White and Yeezy, not to mention Justin Bieber’s tour merch – have put the hoodie front and centre. Appetite for skate brands like Palace and Supreme has also contributed to the hoodie’s re-emergence. The result is that high fashion and streetwear are blending in a way they never have before. At the recent shows in Paris and Milan there were plenty of guys showing how to wear a hoodie in 2016. Oversized, longline and in dark tones, today’s hoodie is about as far from the sports field as you can get. To keep the look premium, avoid pairing with baggy joggers and keep things monochrome. 

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