Featured Article: “The Hoodie Enters the Museum”
The Het Nieuwe Instituut, the Dutch institute for architecture, design and digital culture in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, is opening an exhibit on the style and meaning of the hoodie over time.
In this lesson, you will explore what clothing can say about someone’s beliefs and culture by looking closely at the hoodie. Then, in the Going Further activity, we invite you to think about your own style or to break down another significant fashion item.
The featured article focuses on a specific article of clothing: the hoodie.
Do you ever wear hoodies? Some schools have banned hoodies as part of their dress code. Are you allowed to wear them at school? How do you feel when you wear a hoodie? Is it something you wear only casually, or do you also wear hoodies when you’re dressed up?
Then, watch this video about the history and different meanings associated with hoodies.
Next, respond to these questions:
Questions for Writing and Discussion
Read the article, then answer the following questions:
1. Lou Stoppard, the curator of the exhibition, said that the hoodie was “unparalleled in its loaded tensions and contradictions.” How would you summarize the tensions and contradictions that Ms. Stoppard is referring to?
2. How have communities that have embraced the hoodie reflected or pushed back against “evolving social concerns like elitism and gender neutrality”? Think about some of the different uses historically and more recently that are discussed in the article.
3. The article says that the upcoming show connects the hoodie to racial profiling. What example is given to make this connection? Can you think of any other instances of fear or profiling that come from wearing hoodies or other clothing that can be identity-based, like a skullcap, hijab or turban?
4. According to the article, why could wearing a hoodie be seen as a response to the rise of surveillance culture in the Netherlands and elsewhere?
5. Based on what the article describes of the show, what do you think Ms. Stoppard means when she says, “The hoodie is an iconic and recognizable piece of clothing, but to wear one with unthinking confidence tends to be inextricably tied up with privilege.” Use examples from the text and your own experience to explain her claim. Do you think it is privileged for some people to wear a hoodie? Or do you think it can be an act of resistance? What makes you respond one way or the other?
We have given you three options for Going Further. Look at each prompt and respond to the one that interests you most.
1. What do your clothes say about your identity?
Do you ever intentionally try to say something about your political beliefs or culture through your clothes? Are the clothes you wear important to how you construct and present your identity? When you choose your clothes, are you trying to fit in or stand out in your school or in your neighborhood? What do your parents, teachers and friends think about your clothes? Do they all see your fashion the same way? How has your fashion changed over time? What has influenced those changes?
2. Dissect one evocative article of clothing.
What is one article of clothing that you think is politically, socially or culturally meaningful? It could be ripped jeans, a cowboy hat, sneakers, a romper or something else. Then answer these questions:
How would you describe the article of clothing to someone who had never seen it before? Does it serve a practical purpose? Are the materials that it is made out of important to its function?
Is it associated with being something that only one gender, age group, nationality or religion wears? What would happen if someone outside of this group were to wear it?
As far as you know, has the look, style or design of this item of clothing changed throughout your lifetime? What about throughout history? Did people wear this article of clothing (or a version of it) in Victorian England, for example?
What might other people think about someone wearing this article of clothing? Are people who wear it trying to make a fashion statement or a political statement? Does the article of clothing say anything about someone’s cultural identity or privilege?
3. Write a love letter to your favorite clothing item.
Think of one article of clothing that you could not live without. It could be your favorite jersey, a sweater that was passed down from your grandmother, sneakers that you’ve worn every day for three years or a necklace that you received for a special birthday.
What makes this object so important to you? What does it look like? Feel like? Smell like? Get descriptive and write a love letter to that article of clothing, letting it know how much it means to you and why.