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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Seeing The History Of The Hoodie In A Photograph

In this image posted to Miami Heat basketball player LeBron James' Twitter page, Miami Heat players wear team hoodies in response to the shooting of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, who was wearing a hoodie. (AP/LeBron James via Twitter)

The death of Trayvon Martin has made a symbol of a simple piece of clothing — the hooded sweatshirt.

Martin was wearing a hoodie when he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman last month in Sanford, Fla. In his 911 call, Zimmerman described the teenager’s hoodie and told police he looked suspicious.

Since then, thousands of people have donned hoodies in protest.

Illinois Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush was reprimanded yesterday for wearing a hoodie during a speech in the House to protest the shooting death of Martin. “Just because someone wears a hoodie doesn’t make him a hoodlum,” he said.

There was also a “Million Hoodie March” in New York last week. And over the weekend, church-goers across the country wore hoodies to worship.

Then there’s the photo of 13 members of the NBA’s Miami Heat wearing black hoodies with their heads bowed.

Mark Feeney, The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer prize-winning photography critic, says that the Heat photo is simple, reserved and eloquent and addresses not the law and the controversy, but “morality and grief.”

Feeney writes that there has been an association between the word “hood” and illegality that goes as far back as medieval times, for instance with Robin Hood.

“Robin Hood robbed from the rich to give to the poor, but it was still robbery,” he said. “Hoods conceal or obscure. They can disguise or seem menacing. Such terms as ‘hoodlum’ and ‘hood’ bespeak this tradition. In a different way, the ‘hood can be a dangerous urban area, as in the 1991 film ‘Boyz n the Hood.’ ”

But Feeney points out that monks have also worn the hood, associating the clothing with peace and spirituality.


  • Mark Feeney, The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer prize-winning photography critic

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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