STYLE AND CULTURE
CULT ITEM: THE HOODIE
By Libby Banks, 2 September 2018
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.
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.
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.’
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.
On the catwalk
Designers have always tapped the street for inspiration and Vetements caused serious hype back in 2016 when it released a range of oversized slogan hoodies that retailed for $1,200 and up. Harken back a decade or so, and those with an in-depth fashion knowledge will recall Raf Simons’ politically charged SS02 collection, titled ‘Woe unto those who spit on the fear generation… the wind will blow it back’. Playing with the concept behind the garment, models stalked the runway holding flares, wearing masks and hoodies marked with the words ‘We are ready and willing to ignite’. Central to his streetwear aesthetic, the hoodie is a garment that Simons returns to again and again.
Today’s haute hoodies
And so to today, where a fresh generation of designer labels – including Liam Hodges, Gosha Rubchinskiy, Off-White and A-COLD-WALL* to name a few – have put the hoodie front and centre. An 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 that they never have before. To style yours for the upcoming transitional period, wear it with a pair of skater jeans or well-cut slim-fit work pants.