A new fashion exhibition in the Dutch Het Nieuwe Instituut explores the role of a fashion garment as a socio-political carrier. The hoodie tells many stories - tales of social inequality, youth culture, subculture, police brutality, racism, privacy, fear and style.
It is a garment that sparks a range of emotions, communicating all manner of social and cultural ideas and nuances depending on the gender, geography, age, conduct and ethnicity of the wearer and, in turn, the prejudices and politics of the viewer. Popularized by Champion in the 1930s, the hoodie was a practical solution for workmen; it is now, arguably, Western Fashion’s last truly political garment.
Curated by fashion writer and curator with Lou Stoppard the exhibition is a dynamic mixed media installation consisting of artworks with garments, printed matter, digital footage, social media posts and other cultural artifacts. It explores distinct and intersectional themes including the rise of surveillance culture and facial recognition technology; music and subculture; conversations around androgyny and gender fluidity; and the breakdown of traditional dress codes. The show examines these themes in relation to the hoodie, challenging the viewer to consider its multifaceted relationship with contemporary culture. The exhibition also contextualises the hoodie in fashion history, tracing its evolution from 1930s workwear to icon of streetwear.
"The hoodie has been in and out of the news for a significant proportion of my teenage years and adult life" says curator Lou Stoppard. "In the UK, in the mid 2000s, there was a period of moral panic around the hoodie – young men were getting ASBOs stating that they couldn’t wear them during certain hours or in certain places, shopping centres were banning them, and politicians even started a much-mocked ‘Hug a Hoodie Campaign. Later, in the US, coverage and agitation around the hoodie continued with horrific events like the murder of Trayvon Martin. At the same time, the hoodie was emerging as a key new part of high fashion – a sign of the influence of streetwear and sportswear on luxury brands. So, while the hoodie was being maligned by some media as an emblem of deviancy or crime or rebellion, it was also being heralded as a trend in some glossy magazines. It felt like there were so many stories being told that, in turn, reflected broader societal issues".