"I like to rest my hands in your kangaroo pouch,
it makes them feel comfy like a big soft couch.
And I don't care if the weather's no good,
I say, 'See you later rain', as I pull up my hood."
-Adam Sandler, "Red Hooded Sweatshirt"
I have a thing about hooded sweatshirts. And by “a thing” I mean the following:
I remember when it first began. I was thirteen and was – for the first time since kindergarten – experimenting with the public education system. From third through seventh grade I received my education from a well-known, Denver based, private Christian school. There I spent years as an outcast as I was neither a strict Dutch-Reform Calvinist, nor was I Dutch. You wouldn’t believe the power and exclusivity of the Dutch-Reform clique, but that has nothing to do with hoodies.
Switching to not only a new school, but a public school offered me the chance to both explore and rebrand whoever I was. Factor in as well that I was a newly minted teenager overwhelmed by the rush of making decisions for myself. I could go places free from the Sauronic gaze (yup, I did just do that) of parental figures. I had allowance to spend, and hours of suburban ennui to kill. So when my BFF and I became mall rats like every other kid in town we found ourselves spending less time at Build-A-Bear, and more time lurking in the dark, cramped aisles of Hot Topic. (Don’t worry, we definitely continued making Build-A-Bears well into high school.)
Apart from the pop-punk, awkward goth-kid, fingerless glove heaven that is Hot Topic, I would drift in and out of Zumiez and Pac Sun. My mental image of a rebel relied heavily on the tropes and stereotypes of bad boy skaters/punk kids, and a grossly distorted and false understanding of the kinds of people who wore black clothing. Rebels gotta shop too.
I don’t remember when or how exactly I acquired my first hoodie. What I do know is that the second I popped that thing over my head and rested my hands in the muffler-like front pocket, I was done for. The hoodie itself was nothing special (which is kind of the special thing about hoodies). It was fire engine red, a pullover, and had a stick of gum-sized, white, rectangular Hurley logo on the chest.
I loved it. I really fucking loved it. I loved it so much, in fact, that I wore thumb-holes into the cuffs. Smaller holes began forming at the corners of the trapezoidal tummy pocket, and the seams and edges became frayed. At some point my older brother introduced me to Adam Sandler’s “Red Hooded Sweatshirt” song, and I adopted it as the anthem of the new relationship I had formed with this oh-so-comfortable piece of clothing.*
I wore it every goddamn day. Like the nasty, ratty stuffed cow of my early childhood (cleverly named Moo Cow), my mother bought and offered replacements. No dice. On the rare occasion that my hoodie was in the wash I would don a navy, Volcom hoodie, but it never felt quite right; like sleeping in someone else’s bed at a sleepover, or when you’re forced to eat a different brand of yogurt because your mom bought one that was on clearance that week. The red hoodie was mine, and bore the marks of my ownership and dedication. My mother would plead with me to wear something different, but it had become a part of me.
Wearing a hoodie is like being wrapped in a blanket…with pockets. I wore the hood like a cobra, as a warning that I needed space and to be left alone. My social anxiety produced on my palms enough sweat to be bumped up from “please-don’t-look-at-me” to “crippling” which in turn produced more sweat which increased the intensity of the anxiety and so on ad nauseum. But I could hide my self-pruned hands in the hoodie pocket, and I could surreptitiously wipe them off on the inside lining. Even from early childhood I had been painfully aware of my body and hated every lumpy inch of it. But the hoodie boxed out my torso, hiding the little belly pooch I was so ashamed and disgusted by. I had happened upon a way of being able to even momentarily forget my debilitating self-consciousness, and that was monumental.
The hoodie, though, was a point of contention between my mother and I. There were arguments over wearing it to church. There were arguments over how dilapidated and gross it had become. There were arguments over how sloppy, homely, and unattractive it made me look, but I was ashamed and ashamed of being ashamed. It was impossible for me to explain to my mom exactly what the hoodie meant to me, what it did for me. I was comfortable while I wore it and self-humiliated and ashamed without it. There would be no talking me out of this.*
At some point my mother resigned to the fact that the hoodie wasn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Eventually, though, the time came when I was able to say goodbye to the old red hooded sweatshirt and replace it with a new one. There was the orange Etnies hoodie, the other navy Volcom hoodie, the generic black hoodie I dug out of the depths of my closet from who knows when, the burgundy hoodie my BFF and I adorned with iron-on letters, the brown Lucky Brand hoodie, the grey Seattle Pacific University hoodie, the maroon hoodie with sewn-on stars, the plain grey hoodie, the first black zip-up hoodie, the second black zip-up hoodie. I wore each into the ground and only bothered to replace them once they were threadbare, unable to serve their purpose any longer.
While my body-image, self-consciousness, and social anxiety are rather well managed these days, I still always have “a” hoodie. There is nothing quite like the comfort and familiarity of donning my hoodie, hands in the pocket(s), hood on the head. It’s a constant. A familiar. Like a security blankie for adults, a sort of turtle shell-like home. It’s my thing. And I love it.
After weeks of walking around the store with a black zip-up hoodie in my hands, debating whether or not it was time to let go of the old, holey, pilled one I was wearing around the store, I finally took the step and bought the new one this past Sunday. I still have the old one. I’ll keep it a while longer. Use it as an around-the-house hoodie as I break in the new hoodie around town. My good friend Ryan says he hopes that someday our weathered black hoodies will hang next to each other in a museum; like Cash’s black suit, Lincoln’s stovetop hat, or some other person’s some other thing. I kinda hope so too.
*Neither my mother nor I are the people we were at this point in time. We've both grown, and both have much healthier grasps on what matters, who we are, and what our relationship is. She's good people. I wouldn't want anyone to think anything of her from the explanation of our clothing disagreements of old.
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© Alessandra Ragusin 2016-2020