The hoodie is an amazing object. It's one of those timeless objects that we hardly think of, because they work so well that they're part of our lives. We call them "humble masterpieces."
[Small thing.] [Big idea.]
[Paola Antonelli on the Hoodie]
The hoodie has been — even if it was not called so — it's been an icon throughout history for good and for bad reasons. The earliest ones that we can trace are from ancient Greece and ancient Rome. The Middle Ages, you see a lot of monks that were wearing garments that were cape-like, with hoods attached, so therefore, "hoodies." Ladies in the 17th century would wear hoodies to kind of hide themselves when they were going to meet their lovers. And then, of course, there's the legend, there's fantasy. There's the image of the hoodie connected to the grim reaper. There's the image of the hoodie connected to the executioner. So there's the dark side of the hoodie.
The modern incarnation of the hoodie — a garment that's made usually of cotton jersey, that has a hood attached with a drawstring; sometimes it has a marsupial pocket — was introduced in the 1930s by Knickerbocker Knitting Company. Now it's called Champion. It was meant to keep athletes warm. Of course, though, it was such a functional, comfortable garment that it was very rapidly adopted by workmen everywhere. And then, around the 1980s, it also gets adopted by hip-hop and B-boys, skateboarders, and it takes on this kind of youth street culture. It was, at the same time, super-comfortable, perfect for the streets and also had that added value of anonymity when you needed it. And then we have Mark Zuckerberg, who defies convention of respectable attire for businesspeople. But interestingly, it's also a way to show how power has changed. If you're wearing a two-piece suit, you might be the bodyguard. The real powerful person is wearing a hoodie with a T-shirt and jeans.
It's easy to think of the physical aspects of the hoodie. You can immediately think of wearing the hood up, and you feel this warmth and this protection, but at the same time, you can also feel the psychological aspects of it. I mean, think of donning a hoodie, all of a sudden, you feel more protected, you feel that you are in your own shell.
We know very well what the hoodie has come to signify in the past few years in the United States. When Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old African-American kid, was shot by a neighborhood vigilante, and Million Hoodie Marches happened all over the United States, in which people wore hoodies with the hood up and marched in the streets against this kind of prejudice. It doesn't happen that often for a garment to have so much symbolism and history and that encompasses so many different universes as the hoodie.
So, like all garments, especially all truly utilitarian garments, it is very basic in its design. But at the same time, it has a whole universe of possibilities attached.