The Pop-Politics of the Hoodie

Is the hoodie the last true political garment?

“The Hoodie,” the first exhibition to explore the socio-political role of this popular casual wear staple, opened Sunday at the Het Nieuwe Instituut, the Dutch institute for architecture, design and digital culture in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

The exhibition was curated by writer and curator Lou Stoppard.

In recent history, the hoodie has emerged as a pop-political object, though its origins date back to the 1930s, when it was popularized by sweatshirt pioneer Champion as a sporty workwear item.

Over the years, the perception of the hoodie has evolved. The dawn of the hype-beast and his/her cultural connection with high fashion have rendered this a fashionable wardrobe staple; however, over time, it has also become increasingly associated, via the media, with racial inequality, crime and sometimes deviance.

“Unlike dresses, bespoke clothing and couture, these types of clothing were not really represented in museum collections,” said Stoppard, who was inspired to create the exhibit whilst researching material for Showstudio’s sports wear series.

Exploring intersectional themes, which range from 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 exhibit challenges the viewer reflect on the hoodie’s multifaceted relationship with contemporary culture.

The exhibit also features works from a diverse mix of artists and makers working in photography, film, fashion, and other media. Rick Owens, Campbell Addy and more, are among the dynamic creatives highlighted by this exhibit through garments, printed matter, digital footage, social media posts and other cultural artefacts.

A digital magazine devoted to the show features commissioned interviews and visuals and will also be available at the exhibit, alongside a series of workshops and talks.

The exhibition will run until April 2020.

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