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STYLE AND CULTURE

CULT ITEM: THE HOODIE

By Libby Banks, September 5, 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.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa | ASOS Style Feed

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 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.

Protestors at a march for Trayvon Martin | ASOS Style Feed

Picture: Getty

Political symbol

The ability to maintain anonymity wearing a hoodie has led it to be associated, by some, with illicit behavior — 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 neighborhood 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-2000s, then Conservative leader David Cameron was characterized 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."

A skateboarder in a Thrasher hoodie | ASOS Style Feed

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.

A model at Raf Simons' SS04 show | ASOS Style Feed

Picture: Getty

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 $800 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.

A model at A-Cold-Wall* SS19 show | ASOS Style Feed

Picture: iMAXtree

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 center. 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.

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