Urbane Street Culture and the Hoodie

Urbane Street culture, as we know it, is the education and enlightenment of the streets. Simply put, it is culture, art, style and expression that is crafted and created on the street. There are myriad expressions of street culture, including graffiti art, hip-hop music, DJing, breakdancing and hip-hop style, and these cultures have become integral to urban life, creating distinct and edgy identities for communities worldwide. 

Street culture originated in the early days of urbanization when marginalized communities found alternative ways to express their dreams, aspirations and struggles, . The birth of hip-hop in the Bronx during the 1970s is an example of a form of cultural resistance and creative expression by African American and Latino youth. With time, street culture has evolved and embraced various art forms and expressions, such as skateboarding, street photography, urban dance, and hip-hop styles. An essential part of hip-hop style, as we know it today, is the hoodie.

The hoodie has a fascinating history. The word hood comes from the Anglo-Saxon word hōd, which has the same root word, which means hat in English. The garment’s style and form were popular for Catholic monks and can be traced back to Medieval Europe. This style of fashion came into England as early as the 12th century, possibly as a cultural migration from the Norman conquest of England, as a short hooded cloak known as the capa was common in Normandy.

The hooded pullover, however, originates as a practical garment in the 1930s for workers in cold warehouses in the US. The hoodie became popular in the 1970s due to several factors. One of these is that hip-hop culture developed in New York City around this time, and high-profile designers also started to embrace and glamorize the new movement in their designs. The appearance of the hoodie in the blockbuster movie Rocky also added to the hoodie’s growing popularity, and hoodie designs with university logos were becoming commonplace around this time.

The hoodie became popular in the UK in the 1990s, but it had gained negative associations by the 21st century. Angela McRobbie, a communications professor in the UK, says the appeal of the hoodie is in its anonymity, mystery, and anxiety. Also, rap culture, which fully embraces hoodie fashion, celebrates defiance, as it typifies the experience of social exclusion. So, the hoodie is deemed a stylistic projection of menace and danger. 

Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent launched a code of conduct in May 2005, banning shoppers from wearing hoodies or baseball caps, although the garments remain on sale. To combat this, Coombeshead College in the southwest of England made the hoodie part of the boys’ school uniform, but the hood was only permitted to be worn when it rained. The principal stated that the move would help calm some wrong perceptions surrounding the garment.

In 2019, Burberry apologized for an inappropriate hoodie because it featured a piece of cloth with a “noose” around the neck on its runway, which caused an outrageous reaction on social media. The Victoria & Albert Museum in London also acquired a crystal-studded hoodie made by rapper Puff Daddy.

In the 1970s and 1980s, hip-hop culture in the US adopted hoodies as a symbol of cool anonymity and vague edginess. 

In 2012, when Trayvon Martin was shot by George Zimmerman while wearing a hoodie, Zimmerman’s defence team offered what was called “the hoodie defence”. They argued that Zimmerman’s regarding Martin’s hoodie as a threat was within reason.

According to Carolyn Fluehr-Lobban, following Zimmerman’s trial, the garment symbolized the Black Lives Matter movement. Some Black people avoided hoodies altogether, while others embraced them. The hoodie became a statement of racial pride and defiance, solidarity, and oneness, reinforcing the negative associations for those inclined to be afraid of assertive Black people.

However, in recent times, variations of the hoodie have been created to soften its prejudiced perceptions. The use of African fabric in the design of the hoodie has given it an ethnic and tribal appeal. Again, with the rise of cultural inclusivity and consumers demanding better representation, African fabrics have grown in global appeal and dampened the negative associations of hoodies with their bold patterns and prints. The Ankara print hoodie is also a way to celebrate the collective cultural heritage of a people. Here, the symbolism of the pattern and the prints are rooted in deep visual storytelling of a people, culture, and their struggles and resilience. Street style has also embraced the inclusion of Ankara fabrics, incorporating them to soften their edginess while presenting a more intellectually stimulating and aesthetically appealing angle to street fashion.

At African Gift Shop, our hoodies blend aesthetic African prints with the culture of perceived isolation reminiscent of the hoodie. We offer a vast array of beautiful and aesthetically appealing hoodies. These African-themed hoodies are available at the African Gift Shop (www.myafricangiftshop.com), the home of handcrafted and unique gift items.

African Gift Shop is a black-owned business that sells African-themed gifts, unique African gifts, and corporate gifts. 

For your African-inspired hoodie, visit us at www.myafricangiftshop.com and order your unique, bespoke, and authentic hoodie.

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