The evolution of the hoodie

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

A hoodie

Few clothing items can claim they are both fashionable and functional, but the hoodie is one exception.

Everyone from children to seniors sport this classic piece of attire, with its appeal lying in its comfort and its success prompted by its fashion fusion.

As with most classic clothing, the hoodie began as a practical concept. Clothing manufacturer Champion created the first hoodie in the 1930s for labourers in the frozen warehouses of upscale New York. As time passed, these hooded sweatshirts appealed to athletes as comfortable and warm workout gear.

Soon after, girlfriends of football players and track stars discovered the comfort of these cotton garments, and hoodies became acceptable as everyday wear.

The 1970s saw the emergence of hip-hop culture and with this came the growing popularity of the hoodie as a symbol of the outcast. Subcultures that viewed themselves as rebellious liked this image.

The hoodie’s lack of formality fed into the concept of “us against the world” and quickly became cool with various youth groups. For urban graffiti artists, putting your hood up is a way to hide your face during acts of vandalism. For skateboarders, sporting a hood meant hiding from scorned stares from unapproving adults, and for punk rockers a hood could shroud your purple Mohawk and your facial piercings from your parents.

By the end of the ‘90s, as hip-hop became overwhelmingly influential in pop culture, fashion designers like Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren began to offer hooded sweatshirts with the logos of universities in large letters across the front.

Even high-fashion design houses like Gucci and Versace began to cash in on the success of the hoodie by glamourizing it.

Sarah Harris, a fashion writer at Vogue magazine, commented on the perception of hoodies as a staple of riotous youth.

“The sorts of hoodies we are seeing in the Vogue office are toned-down, understated and elegant, often in beautiful fabrics.” While they say Trix cereal is just for kids, hoodies aren’t.

Now it is impossible to walk through a mall or visit any clothing store that doesn’t offer a choice of hoodies. All brands and labels offer various styles that come in all varieties and price ranges.

As with most things, our generation has taken the hoodie to the masses, and everyone and their grandma has a hoodie in their wardrobe.

As fashion trendsetters know, clothing items that have such a mass appeal necessitate unique and rare releases. Thus came the creation of “limited edition” hoodies worth the high price tag.

Artists and photographers produce hoodies that are works of art versus the original plain grey variety with a front zipper and an adjustable white pull string for the hood.

Nowadays, T-shirts, jeans and hoodies can shock your socks off with ridiculously high price tags. Facebook pictures of friends on a quiet afternoon chilling in sweats, but is actually sport high-priced, sought-after clothing.

Whatever your opinion, whether you view a hoodie as a way to stay under the radar or a way to express yourself, you can’t deny the comfort they provide.

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