Not all hoodies are thugs

I was in a coffee shop recently when a teenager wearing a hooded top sat on the next table.  He was minding his own business, as was I, but I couldn’t help but notice that other customers were giving him suspicious looks, perhaps because he was hunched over his meal with his face largely hidden by his hooded top.  Yet he wasn’t causing any bother; he was sitting there quietly, like the rest of us, eating his lunch and sipping at his hot drink.  Even when he eventually got up and left, I noticed numerous people watching him leave. 

Observing these peoples responses made me wonder whether people in hoodies are still plagued by negative stereotyping which started a few years ago when hoodles became symbolised with aggression.  Amidst awareness of growing youth crime, teenagers and young people who wore these fashionable garments were often assumed to be antisocial and threatening.  Consequently some shopping centres banned these garments in an attempt to crackdown on anti-social behaviour and some young people were even given anti-social behaviour orders to prevent them from wearing hoodies to hide their faces.  It was felt that potential offenders could hide their faces behind their hoods which prevented them from being recognised on CCTV cameras whilst committing crimes.  Consequently there erupted a public row about ‘hoodies’ that hit the media headlines that involved a number of politicians.  Whilst some politicians welcomed what the shopping centres were doing, others disagreed.  The most notable of these was David Cameron who argued that teenagers wore hoodies, not because they were aggressive, but because hoodies gave them a defence and a way of staying invisible on the street.  His speech later became termed by opposing political parties as “hug a hoodie”. 

This was a few years ago now and whilst the hysteria may have calmed down, I feel there is still some suspicion about young people who wear hoodied tops, as witnessed by me at the coffee shop.  This concerns me for my son is autistic and likes to wear hooded garments, not because he is a thug, but because it helps him cope with the social world and its confusing array of sights, sounds and smells.  Wherever we go, we have to take a hoodied top.  Not only does the soft fleece makes him feel secure but wearing his hood over his head helps him cope with high anxiety levels and potential panic attacks.  Without it he would struggle to go out.
 
So, for those people who feel unsure about the sight of a hoodied young person in a  public place, please pause for a moment and consider whether that young person is also feeling threatened himself.  He may be like my son, autistic.
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