Busytown by Jolisa Gracewood


Oh, Gee

I was trying to explain the concept behind Hoodie Day to my older son, who had a few questions about this sudden change in his mother's attire. Well, I said, some young people like to wear outfits with hoods, because they think it looks cool. Whereas some older people think the hoods look really dodgy and threatening.

He thought about it for a moment and then lit up.

"Oh, I get it. They think you're a dementor!"

He’s halfway through the sixth Harry Potter book and thus sees the world entirely through that lens. One minute he's worrying that his kind uncle who works in "appetizing" is basically in the business of putting Imperius curses on innocent consumers to force them to buy things. The next, he's wishing he could share his favourite antipodean treat with his class back in New Haven merely by saying "Accio Jellytips!"

So yes, it’s Youth Week, and Friday is Hoodie Day, on which I will be wearing a smart black hoodie in order to support the right of youths to not be judged by their clothing, viz., not to be mistaken for the soul-sucking cloaked wraiths who torment the prisoners of Azkaban.

I'm also very much hoping not to be judged by my clothing for the duration of this exercise in solidarity. According to Russell, in my hoodie I'm an O.G. Well, yes, but no. Although I grew up in Naenae and Papa2tothetoes, I'm about as gangsta as this chick. In my case, let O.G. stand for ‘Orribly Gormless, which is how I look in a hoodie.

See also: why there are no pictures with this post.

It's nothing to do with the garment itself, it's just something unfortunate about the shape of my head, I think, and perhaps my general bustiness. (And is it because I is old?) The hoodie I'll be wearing is a handsome example of the genre. It's a flattering shade of black, with a nifty red heart on the left breast emblazoned with the cockle-warming motto "Young at Heart."

I know, I know. Rhymes with "old fart." In the vernacular of my youth, "Shaaaaaaaaaaame!" But it also aligns me with this bunch of legends , so that’s OK. (There’s something mathematically satisfying about invoking a bunch of people more than twice as old as me acting half their age in order to support the right of people twice as young as me to act exactly their age... or something like that.)

Frankly, I’m just glad it's not Jeans Hanging Below Your Arse Day. That would be very hard for me to get behind in any meaningful way. In fact, I find it very hard to get behind anybody in a meaningful way if they are wearing their jeans hanging below their arse. It’s not pretty. I once saw somebody thus attired step on the hem of their trousers as they climbed the stairs ahead of me, and trust me, that was even less pretty.

So I'm keepin' it real here in Christchurch, where it is conveniently just about cold enough for my nice new hoodie to actually come in useful. I’ve been patrolling the streets with my two little hooded homies - the wee guy in a very unthreatening Paddington Bear duffle coat, and the bigger kid in a khaki number he insists on referring to, even in airports, as a "bomber's jacket."

By the way, Ron Mark, if you're reading this: those hoodlums rioting outside your electorate office this afternoon? That was us, taking a rather testy toilet break after a couple of happy hours in the Children's Bookshop downstairs.

I've also been watching very carefully to see who else is mooching round the Garden City in shady cowled outfits. So far, the only other hoodies I've seen were in the window of Glassons. That's pretty real, eh? And a super hot Asian guy zipping through the tram station on a BMX, but I only put that bit in for Tze Ming.

Christchurch has changed a bit since I lived here as a student. (Ooh look at that, I'm also an O.G. as in Old Girl, although of course back in the day I would have stroppily demanded to be called Woman rather than Girl, but by god don't call me Old Woman just yet because those would be fighting words.)

Anyway, amongst all the vivid flashbacks brought on by the powerful olfactory stimulus of smoky Christchurchy autumny nights, I was trying to recall what the anti-social clothing item of choice was when I were a lad, or a ladette. What did we wear that caused the old folks to cross the street? Can anyone recall?

Bovver boots, I guess. Good old cherry red or shiny black Doc Martens, imported at enormous expense from the UK. Or the budget equivalent, black netball boots. Clomping around town in those got you eyeballed a bit, whether or not the rest of your outfit was punk, and whether or not you wore them to look threatening or just so that you could hobble all the more fetchingly in your pencil skirt or vintage dress or enormous white T-shirt saying LIFE, BE IN IT or whatever else fell out of the wardrobe that morning.

Yes, I concede there was a minority ('orrible, and gormless) who used their boots for evil, but for the rest of us, it was a fashion choice. And if I say so myself, a wildly attractive one.

Also one that got you more hassles if you were a boy. Because that's the other O.G. in this equation: Only Guys. Or mostly guys. Seems to me, from my limited old woman observation, that hoodies are mainly a boy thing, or rather, that the people who look scary in them (and I mean that in both senses – those who aim to look scary, and those who are perceived as scary) are mostly youths of the boy persuasion.

And if I'm not wrong, mostly brown youths of the boy persuasion.

In other words, what we have here with The Great Hoodie Panic of '08 is not (just) clothes-phobia and generic skittishness about feckless youfs -- pick your target group and then demonise their gear -- but also a dose of good old racism in sheep's clothing. Anybody surprised?

(Which reminds me, can we talk about that weird North and South June cover story? Is it just me, or did that leak in through a time-space wormhole from 1962 or something? Maori people own houses and businesses! They go to university and sometimes even Australia! Their kids... learn the piano! Holy crap, hold the front page of The WTF Weekly!).

Back on topic, I love that you guys were all over the hood's erudite history as academic apparel in the discussion thread for Russell's earlier post -- and that you speedily nailed all of the good jokes, leaving me to come up with the dregs.

And I love the campaign slogan for Hoodie Day: "It's what's under the hood that counts." Shades of Toyah Willcox wailing "So what if I dye my hair? I've still got a brain up there." As a one-time teenage girl, I still burn with the passionate conviction that clothes maketh the grown-ups flip out, and that that is entirely as it should be.

And as a mother of sons -- white as pavlovas, both of them, but nonetheless destined to be big hairy scary teenagers at some point -- I hope my eventually lunky, looming lads will wear pretty much whatever feels good to them, although I dream that it will look good, too. Kilts, hotpants, lavalavas. Just not jeans hanging off their bums... or worse, these monstrosities.

Yeah, I know, check in with me again when they are actually teenagers -- but I hope I'll stick to my conviction that it's not about the clothes, it's about the people inside them. The kids are all right. Even if we don't like what they're wearing, we should defend to the hilt their right to wear it. Which is why I will proudly look like a total dag on Friday. Don't laugh. I'm an O.G., yo.

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