Tuesday, October 25, 2005


written by rae 6/05

Back in the day children were considered much hardier and they were treated to, amongst other things, trips up chimneys and gruesome fairy tales. Before the tale was sanitised, Red Riding Hood finished the wolf off by butchering him into itty bitty pieces. If this version was still in wide circulation today Red’s behaviour would no doubt be labelled anti-social and her hoody would be banned from Grandma’s cottage and Bluewater shopping centre.
The link between hooded tops and anti-social behaviour is both spurious and totally missing the point. The hooded top a criminal does not make. If it were that simple, society would be besieged by rampaging Benedictine monks and happy-slapping Brownies. Forgive my assumptions but I don’t think that happens round your way anymore that it does round mine. Now, I did my fair share of (shameful) anti-social behaviour when I was younger, all without the benefit of a hoody. Instead hoodies were for keeping your head warm when drunk and lost on a winter’s night (see how I was both practical and incredibly stupid) and for wearing big and baggy so as to cover up my awkward teenage body as much as possible. Even now in my adult life I still fully embrace the hoody, although they are more likely to be ethically sourced, union produced, fairly traded organic cotton numbers.
Adolescence is, I think for everybody, a time of greater alienation. Stuck between childhood dependency and adult self-sufficiency, nobody really understands you except your mates. On top of this is the massive weight of the system slowly yet forcibly moulding you into diligent, mindless workers. Out of town shopping centres have set themselves up to replace the local high streets but without the desire to address the social needs of the community they have drawn in. What do young people have to do on a weekend, except hang around a faux-town square full of the symbols of lifestyles they can never hope to afford?
The Powers that Be argue that targeting the wearing of hooded tops an ingenious way of preventing crime. This however rests on the assumption that if you cannot hide your face with a hood you won’t break the law. Maybe, but mostly the desperation and alienation over-rules the fear of getting caught. Besides, lack of hood never stopped Dick Turpin or the Great Train Robbers, what’s wrong with a good old pair of tights?
Capitalism will never allow anything more than the surface of crime to be address (and then only in extreme cases). Any deeper analysis risks uncovering the inherent inequalities within capitalism that are at the true root of crime and disorder. A campaign against clothing only serves to better exclude chosen undesirables from involvement in wider society. And as both common sense and self-fulfilling prophecy theory dictate, the excluded will feel excluded and so rail against a system that has punished them so arbitrarily. Far from reducing crime, imposing labels risks escalating crime and disorder. A uniform is created out of clothing that crosses social boundaries; it also pushes assumptions about the intent of the wearer. Trainers are banned in most clubs but are those who wear shoes really better behaved than those who don’t? Capitalist society likes labels and definitely likes to see faces. Why? Because that’s how it judges. Faces show piercings, tattoos, hair colour, ethnicity and gender. The hoody hides not just faces but the means to judge and categorise people.
All in all, crime has got nothing to with clothing, except maybe the metaphorical hoody that society wears that gives it such blinkered vision. Crime and the fear of crime has everything to do with the kind of world our parents have created for us, and our control over it comes only through the world we will create for the next generation.

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