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I have two hooded sweaters and I like them both for cold days. I’m wondering should I be afraid to wear them now.


The Trayvon Martin case has shed so much negative light on the “hoodie,” that I was curious about the evolution of it. According to several Internet sites this is how it went down, or should I say how it went up.

A long time ago, monks in medieval times were already wearing hooded robes. A robe isn’t exactly a sweatshirt, but still they had hoods and those hoods had a purpose. I’m not sure if the hood, besides protecting the monks’ bald heads from cold, had another purpose. The point is, back in those days people had already conceived of the genius idea of a piece of clothing that protected its wearer all over. Not just the body, but also the head. Another remarkable thing is that these monks were of course part of a community. And with a community goes a certain clothing style.

The hood is a millennia-old accessory, and its long history has led to both positive and negative associations. Hoods can be a symbol of piety, honor, and respect. Ancient Romans pulled part of their togas over their heads during prayer. People who have earned advanced degrees are “hooded” as part of the graduation ceremony. But the hood is also associated with hiding one’s identity for illicit purposes, and not just among 12th-century teenage miscreants. During the 17th century, images circulated in England of young women sporting hoods (and sometimes a Zorro-style eye masks) to maintain anonymity while visiting their lovers.

Hoods are considered such powerful instruments of disguise that they are banned on public streets in some parts of the United States. The Georgia code states: “A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when he wears a mask, hood or device by which any portion of the face is so hidden, concealed, or covered as to conceal the identity of the wearer and is upon any public way or public property.” In the ’30s of the 20th century, the sweatshirt company known as Champion began producing hooded sweatshirts for storehouse workers, who spent their entire day performing physical labor in a cold environment. The hoodie was meant to keep them warm.

Half a century later, in the seventies, sweatshirts suddenly started to become more popular. Not only were they being worn by workers, but also by athletes. Most critical to the hoodie’s popularity during this time was its iconic appearance in the blockbuster “Rocky” film. It wasn’t long until members from the hip-hop community started wearing them as well. And once again, a certain community adapted a certain kind of clothing that involved hoods.

Today, we see members of all kinds of communities wearing the hooded sweatshirt. But the hoodie isn’t just for certain cultures and communities anymore, because adult people with normal jobs are wearing them as well and the hoodie’s element of instant anonymity, provided by the accessible hood, appealed to those with criminal intent.

In my opinion as long as you are not hiding your face and you’re not involved in illegal behavior put your hood up.

(Email the columnist at deb­bienorrell@aol.com.)

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