Wednesday 12 November 2014

Urban Diary

Across the road they huddle together. A sea of hoodies paints my urban landscape in dark greys, navy blues and blacks. Splashed all over the front of their tops are famous brands that pay the hoodies nothing for promoting their products. The luminous sign advertising yet another link in the ubiquitous KFC chain is their meeting place, market, Freud's reclining couch and work experience office. I lean against a lamppost whilst waiting for the bus. A couple of bikes with no brakes are ridden, their front wheels are raised and daredevil acts are performed on them. In the middle of the road. A gaggle of laughs elicits from the group and travels steadily and slowly through the evening air, stopping oncoming pedestrians on the spot, making them do a double-take and finally persuading them to cross the street subtly. Ever so subtly. Nobody wants to venture through the sea of hoodies, but nobody wants to be seen avoiding them either.

Perhaps, this is SE15, E8 or N17. It would be different if it were N10. Then the hoodies would not be up, covering the mainly black heads fully, like urban hijabs of the night, but down, with their owners feeling part of the hoodie fraternity without sharing its stigma.

The east-northerly, cool breeze mentioned earlier today on the BBC’s morning weather forecast makes its presence known. The last of the languid rays of the autumn sun dies behind one of the high-rises. The wind suddenly picks up. I spot my bus. As I put my own Chelsea hoodie up and adjust it in a way that it only covers my head up to my hairline, I see out of the corner of my eye a woman take two steps to her left away from me. Just before the bus pulls over and blocks my view I look at the clowder of feline-like figures across the road. And not for the first time I feel some sympathy for them, even if sometimes I am one of those avoiding them, subtly.

© 2014

Next Post: “Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music”, to be published on Sunday 16th November at 10am (GMT)


  1. Never thought of hoodies having a stigma, but I suppose they do.

  2. Beautifully written...and I have never put as much thought into hoodies as I did reading this!

  3. I always thought it was the black, leather, motorcycle jacket with its front appearing battle-worn from miles of challenging the wind, but now I learn the wary looks and sideways stares may have been because of the contrasting, light gray hoodie I wore beneath it.

    Most people wear a uniform or costume of sorts with the manner/style of dress they choose for themselves, whether they realize it or not.

    Nice observation, CiL ....

  4. Sad, and true.
    And here, thanks at least in part to our political overlords women in hijabs are being subtly, and overtly judged.

  5. Who can we blame? The media, for making us afraid?

    I was walking down a street in Los Angeles and a black man coming the other way made a point of walking as close to the kerb - as far away from me as possible - as if to prove he was no threat to me. What sort of world do we live in where someone has to do that?

  6. The only thing that changes over the years is the 'uniform'. There will always be gangs of youths, black and white, that make us take a detour yet mostly they are just that, a gathering of youths. It's a pity that there are some that are ominous, those that make us feel unsafe.

    Have you thought that adults too adopt a uniform - they call it following the fashion!

    Just for the record, I never avoid a person whose skin is a different colour to mine. We are all equal in my world.

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Ha...immediately saw myself in this!
    So often when passing a group of "hoodies" I feel decidedly uneasy...yet here I was only this morning, going hood pulled up against the cold wind.
    A hypocrite, or what! Haha:D

    A fabulous write, CiL...really made me smile...:)

  9. Como mejor abrigarse con esta sudadera esperando el bus.
    Por aquí el frío se empieza a notar.
    Un abrazo.

  10. Didn't realize that hoodies had a stigma attached. Nicely written.

  11. i love hoodies actually... think they're so very practical - and if it starts raining unexpectedly...voila...
    &oh - have fun cooking...

  12. What a cool piece of writing, an intense vignette from the city.

    I spent a few years as a teacher of teens-at-risk. They had fragile family lives, lengthening police records, a deep knowledge of rap music, baggy pants, hoodies, and each other. I learned that under all that, mostly they were just young boys.

  13. Thanks for your comments.

    The same youngsters I confess in the last sentence of my post to avoiidng occasionally are the ones who volunteer in our Big Local community project. Why do we do it, then? Why do we stigmatise young people like that? Part of that is that it is true that some crimes are committed by people who wear hoodies. That's not being prejudiced, it's being realistic. In major shopping centres you can't wear your hoodie for fear that you might be concealing a weapon, like a knife or similar. It's happened before. But I think that we should adopt the mindset that some criminals wear hoodies occasionally to commit their crimes. That doesn't mean that all crimes are committed by people in hoodies.

    As luck would have it and I swear it was coincidence, the latest issue of Intelligent Life has a feature on... you guessed it: hoodies. from St Francis de Assisi to contemporary rap artists, it's all there in photos and paintings.

    Have a great weekend.

    Greetings from London.

  14. just wonder...have you seen my travel blog? You might like it.

    and I wonder why everyone think the wave is a dragon. (whispering: it is frost on a window of my car )

  15. I have a couple of gray hoodies... I should pay more attention to how people react to me, but an older guy with a hoodie probably don't raise a concern.

  16. This kind of cultural study--the slice of life that means so much--is more effective than anything at making the point. This might be my favorite post of yours that I've read, and that's saying something.

  17. Wow I never really thought of Hoodies this way. When I see a hoodie I think comfort. Interesting perspective!

  18. Very thought provoking, my true, it sadly does carry a stigma.

  19. It's a shame hoodies project a bad image simply because some criminals have worn them. I wonder if that would have happened if the bad guys wore crisp white shirts and silk neckties.

  20. You have painted a vivid scenes, one I experience on multiple levels. I am usually avoiding every one subtly hoodies or not lol

  21. Interesante escrito, has creado un diario urbano fijándote en las "hoodies"

  22. I find it fascinating how a piece of clothing can say so much. My brother has a shaved head, tattoos and wears hoodies most of the time. He's the nicest guy so I always feel bad when I see people giving him a wide berth.

  23. I often wear a hoodie while walking my dog. But, I promise I fit no stereotype of frightful hoodie gangster. No one would avoid an older woman walking down the street. But, they do avoid my dog, who wears nothing but his natural coat. Enjoyed reading your urban landscape from the warmth of the desert here in New Mexico.

  24. 16/11 - Happy birthday Cuban! Hope you have a blessed day and a year of all good things :)


  25. Hi CiL - hoodies unfortunately hide things ... and are now perceived that way. I don't like walking in a road where there are number of male youngsters, who seem to be wandering around uncertain of their aims ...

    Sadly - it's the few who show little respect who do the damage, and we become anxious ...

    Cheers and Happy Birthday for today I think - reading Judy's comment .. Hilary

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