Hoodie, or Your Own Microcosm Within the City Noise


I have just listened to D’Angelo’s “Black Messiah” (named the best album of 2014 by “The Village Voice”) and it seemed natural to me to write on a topic that follows me for some time now: hoodies. I remember I always associated them with hip-hop music videos, in which guys wearing hoodies posed to look threatening. Many black boys wear them here, but they are not the only ones. Here, you see hoodies everywhere.

I start to think that a hoodie is an inseparable part – not only of NYC fashion but also of its culture. Everyone wears hoodies here. Kids at school, Brooklyn artists, perfectly trimmed gay guys from Chelsea, kitchen workers, and kitchen managers.

Of course, a hoodie is strongly associated with sports (everyone who leaves a gym seems to be wearing a hoodie), but its main association is convenience. It’s worn underneath puffy jackets, leather jackets (my favorite!), with baseball caps, hats, and even with high heels and skirts. A hoodie is a New Yorker’s manifesto of sorts – worn with everything possible, it declares a special kind of freedom. I don’t know why, but I feel that freedom, too – every time I put it on.

In the last months, hoodie became a quite political symbol because of the tragic events in Ferguson, where a black teenager, Trayvon Martin, was shot for looking „dangerous” – in other words, for wearing a hoodie. Ever since then many New Yorkers started to wear hoodies also as a political act, which was widely commented upon by newspapers and magazines: a hoodie became a tool to protest police brutality. Not so long time ago Questlove (The Roots band leader) made an initiative – because of the same violent circumstances – by putting a heart on a hoodie. It was a statement: wearing a hoodie doesn’t mean you’re a criminal.

Right after coming here, I got myself a couple of hoodies right away (I simply love them!). What I noticed is that one moment when I always put the hood on is when I am on the subway (I suspect thousands of people do the same). That proximity of hundreds of people on a subway train, all the talking, loud music, folks crowding like crazy – all that makes me want to hide and separate myself. And the only way to get some intimacy in that crowd is to put on a hood. I believe that’s why almost every homeless person here wears it. A hoodie gives you the feeling of safety, of warmth and of a little bit of your own microcosm. And that is, I think, the key to its NYC success.