History of the Hoodie
Fall is here, and we all know what that means! It’s time to break out all our coziest clothes- boots, hats, and, coziest of all, our hoodies. Whether you wear your hoodie for style, warmth, or both, you can take comfort knowing that your trusty hoodie will last you for years. Those things are made to withstand a lot, as they were originally designed to be workwear. What’s more, they’ve withstood the tests of culture clash and rebellion, so it’s safe to say that the hoodie’s legacy will stick with us through all the warms and colds of every season.
In 1920, American company Russell Athletics started experimenting with different fabrics in the hope of alleviating some of the discomfort football players went through while sweating in awful woolen gear. From this, they created the first sweatshirt. Not long after, Knickerboxer Knitting Company, later known as Champion, added a hood to the design, creating what the first hooded sweatshirt. It was a pullover style sweater and had hand pockets in the front. While used by athletes, the hooded sweatshirt was mostly intended for cold-storage workers, tree surgeons, or other laborers who might need an extra layer of protection and warmth at work.
For many years, no one really cared about the hoodie; it was merely a piece of clothing that laborers, athletes, and their girlfriends wore when it was cold. But in the 70’s, it became an icon of rebellion. New York-based street artists and vandals found that they could easily hide their spray cans and identities while wearing hoodies, and so usually wore them while out marking their space. Hoodies were also worn by sick up kids- people (usually unaffiliated with the artist) who lurked in the background at hip hop sidewalk shows in order to scope out and rob unsuspecting spectators. Because of this, people started linking the hoodie to both illegal activity and the defiant street spirit of Hip Hop.
Another group that popularized the hoodie was skateboarders. Skate parks weren’t always available, so skate kids would skate in empty swimming pools, playgrounds, or parking garages. They wore their hoods up in order to conceal their faces should anyone catch them trespassing. Skateboarders took pride in being part of a culture that was rejected by mainstream society, and reflected that in their defiance of social and fashion norms.
In 1976, the hoodie gained another layer of symbolism when the title character of the movie Rocky wore one while training. After this, people started equating the hoodie with the hardworking, lower class everyman. This movie was instrumental in introducing the hoodie to mainstream fashion and culture.
Even though the hoodie had been around for decades, nobody started calling it a “hoodie” until the 90’s, when hip hop yet again brought it into the spotlight. Hip hop was no longer considered to be a taboo genre, and so more people felt more comfortable emulating the artists’ urban fashions. At the same time, much of the hip hop that was emerging in this time period was grittier and darker than what had been released in the past, and artists wore the hoodie in edgier ways in order to reflect that.
Over time, these groups found commonalities among themselves, since society and more conservative adults held them in little to no respect. In some regards, these groups merged to create a skate hop aesthetic, which was worn by Odd Future.
Despite how well-established the hoodie is in popular culture, it has never lost its edgy and rebellious connotation. Even today, many high schools and night clubs have banned it due to how closely-tied it is to people who want to shield their identities. Even the NBA has had a hoodie ban since 2005. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the hoodie, especially considering its more recent record as a symbol of racial profiling, violence, and cultural erasure.
Despite all this, the hoodie is here to stay. A lot of what the hoodie used to stand for has been fully or partially embraced by mainstream culture. In the future, we can be sure that it will never be without its enduring rebellious and proud history. It’s so much more than just a comfortable staple!
Written by: Rachel Manning
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