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Unravelling the tangled history of the hoodie

Over the years the garment has had links to hip-hop, sport and the royal family

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New style: the Duchess of Cambridge wearing a hoodie

New style: the Duchess of Cambridge wearing a hoodie

PA

Hoodies were infamously banned from the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent in 2005

Hoodies were infamously banned from the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent in 2005

PA

Few items of clothing have such a potted history as the hoodie, even though it's still a relatively new type of garment

Few items of clothing have such a potted history as the hoodie, even though it's still a relatively new type of garment

PA

New style: the Duchess of Cambridge wearing a hoodie

Few items of clothing have such a potted history as the hoodie, even though it's still a relatively new type of garment.

Hoods in some shape or form have been around for centuries, but the hooded sweatshirt as we know it today was born in the 1930s - sportswear brand Champion claims to have invented it, and says: "The hooded sweatshirt was designed and developed for practical reasons and was first introduced as a warm up or 'sideline' garment for athletes to wear in-between game time or practice sessions."

Initially, hoodies were linked to sport and athletes. This reputation was solidified in the 1977 boxing movie Rocky, when Sylvester Stallone celebrates his training wearing a grey hoodie.

In the early years, it was marketed to labourers and associated with manual workers.

Hoodies weren't confined to sport or manual labour for long, and were soon picked up by wider cultures. Most prominently, hoodies became the de facto uniform within hip-hop culture, being worn on Wu-Tang Clan album covers and in countless music videos from Snoop Dogg to A Tribe Called Quest.

The Eighties and Nineties also saw the rise of gangsta rap - hip-hop that was seen as inextricably linked to American gangs like the Crips and the Bloods. Lyrics were often violent, and it garnered huge amounts of criticism from both sides of the political aisle - most prominently from politicians Delores Tucker and Bill Bennett.

However, Tucker in particular came under fire for what some people interpreted as an attack on black culture, which hip hop was an integral part of. As so many rappers were wearing hoodies at this time, it soon - somewhat reductively - became linked to gang violence.

Meanwhile in the UK, hoodies were infamously banned from the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent in 2005, as part of a crackdown on anti-social behaviour. At the time, Bluewater property manager Helen Smith told the BBC: "We're very concerned that some of our guests don't feel at all comfortable in what really is a family environment."

The ban was supported by politicians like then-prime minister Tony Blair, as well as John Prescott, who told the BBC about an incident where he encountered "intimidating" young people wearing hoodies at a service station. Even though hooded sweatshirts have nothing to do with anti-social behaviour, they became linked to it. While the problems in the US were mainly racially charged, the debate in the UK also spanned classism. Particularly in the Noughties, hoodies were seen to be worn by a particular subsection of society, which wasn't viewed fondly by the middle and upper classes.

Even though the hoodie ban had its fans, there was also fierce opposition, with charity The Children's Society telling the Independent it was important "not to confuse fashion with behaviour".

Rapper Lady Sovereign released a song called 'Hoodie' to launch the 'Save the Hoodie' campaign. The Londonist reported the campaign's now-defunct website as saying: "If someone commits a crime, it's not about what they are wearing, it's about the person wearing it, a criminal is a criminal no matter what they wear... Don't blame the innocent hoodie, you should be able to wear what you want!"

Arguably, all the fear around hoodies is due to the anonymity it provides. With the hood up, it's easier to hide your face, and people are inherently scared of the unknown.

Today, hoodies are less tied up with class than they used to be - illustrated by the fact we've even seen members of the royal family, like the Duchess of Cambridge, wearing the garment.

Interestingly, it's also been seized by the high fashion crowd, and now you can get designer hoodies by all of the major labels - like the plain black Vetements men's hoodie for £490.

It's also become a common sight in the world of tech, as a way for moguls to shun the formal dress code of more traditional offices. So, for now, royals, tech moguls and designers have given the hoodie their seal of approval, but this doesn't mean the stigma around them has necessarily vanished - the impact of a hoodie greatly depends on its context.

Belfast Telegraph