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Vetements AW16 collection hoodie
Vetements AW16

A new exhibition explores the evolving complexities of the hoodie

Curated by Lou Stoppard, The Hoodie takes a close look at the most politically charged garment of our time

The hoodie, as we now know it, first dropped in the early 1930s, when Champion debuted a new style designed for blue collar workers. Over the course of the last 90 years, the garment has evolved far beyond its humble beginnings: not only is it emblematic of broken society, it is simultaneously a marker of high-fashion and luxury (just ask Demna Gvasalia).   

It was the politically charged garment’s duality that inspired Lou Stoppard to curate her latest exhibition, The Hoodie, which opened in Rotterdam earlier this week. “While the hoodie was being maligned by some media as a sign of deviance or crime or rebellion, it was also being heralded as a trend in glossy magazines,” she explains.

The Hoodie explores the nuanced complexities of the garment, documenting it as a continuously evolving item of clothing. “There are so many diverse issues and stories sparked by the hoodie – on topics ranging from style and dress habits through to CCTV and surveillance; sustainability of clothing production; subculture and music culture; stereotyping, profiling and racism; and the increasing occurrence of regulations and even laws around clothing and face and head coverings,” Stoppard continues. 

Charting its evolution into streetwear in the late 20th century, through to its adoption by the tech bros of Silicon Valley in recent years, Stoppard also takes a look at the moral panic that surrounded in the garment in the early 00s, when it was banned in shopping centres across the UK. “But at the same time, it was emerging as a new part of high fashion – a sign of the influence of streetwear and sportswear on luxury brands,” Stoppard says. 

The Hoodie features pieces from the likes of Rick Owens, A-Cold-Wall*, Off-White, and Helmut Lang, and demonstrates the different ways a broad range of designers have interpreted the classic garment. “Obvious examples were figures like Raf Simons, who have always had a nuanced take on youth culture and who have made the hoodie a centre part of their practice, toying with both its surface and silhouette,” says Stoppard. “Vetements have also been central in propelling the modern hoodie trend, so they felt essential.” 

The exhibition is finished off with a floral hoodie by artist Devan Shimoyama, which pays tribute to Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed in 2012. Stoppard hopes its inclusion, and the show as a whole, will serve as a starting point for further conversation. “There are so many diverse issues and stories sparked by the hoodie. Hopefully, this exhibition encourages debate around these topics and a questioning of certain norms or habits of thinking.”

The Hoodie is now open at Het Nieuwe Instituut, Rotterdam, running from December 1 to April 12 2020.