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21 Apr

Teenagers, Hoodies and Baseball Caps

The recent Trayvon Martin case has got me thinking a lot about hooded sweatshirts and why kids wear them. Why don't kids just wear hats instead of hoods on their heads? I'm sure that is a very complicated question but I do have a few theories as to why and these are really unrelated to the tragic case, no matter how you look at it. 

Hoodies in High School

I used to wear them all the time back in high school and I still do sometimes. They used to be something I couldn't live without but now they are saved for lounging around the house and doing yard work. I'm talking about hooded sweatshirts and what seems to be the ultimate teenage staple these days. I have nothing against them now. In fact I remember a time back when I was a teenager myself when my friend and I had to go to one specific department store just for a special brand of plain, black, zippered and hooded sweatshirts. I've often thought about why you see so many kids wearing them. Even in rain and snow you are more it seems more likely that you'd see a teenager donning a hoodie as opposed to a rain coat. Why is that? What is it about hoodies that teenagers love so much? Is there something wrong with real coats and hats? I've come up with two reasons why I think hooded sweatshirts are so prevalent among teenagers as opposed to things like rain coats and hats. 

1. Hooded sweatshirts have been officially deemed acceptable.

If there's one thing you care about during your teenage years it's fitting in. Buying or wearing a coat brings in so many different variables. What style? What length? What fit? What material? Hoodies come mainly in cotton and pullover or zippered. Sure they can have various decorations on them but all in all they are relatively uniform.

2. Kids don't go outside as much as they used to.

This sounds like something an old man would say when I was kid while I rolled my eyes but now that I've entered my 30's I really do believe this to be true. And how do I know that it's true? How do I know that it's not just my perception of my childhood? Well perhaps that is part of it but I just don't see how teens can be on their computers and iPhones and playing video games this much and still have time to get outside. One study says that 99% of teens play video games. That has got to make a difference than say 20 years ago when all we had was Nintendo. Today we have all kinds of systems, computers, and smartphones to vie for our attention. So if kids don't go outside as much as they used to, they don't have to worry about dressing for the elements as much as they used to either. The focus is on comfort while indoors and if you can brave the cold from your house to the bus stop and back then for the rest of the day you won't have to worry about carrying your coat around all day. Plus, why go out on a limb and wear a silly rain hat when you can just put your hood up?

So what about coats and hats?

My theory is that coats and hats are more complicated (socially and stylistically) and expensive therefore teens are more shy about choosing one. You can buy a cheap hoodie and replace it in a few months but a good coat is something you may buy once a year. What if other kids don't like it? What if it goes out of style? I know what you're thinking, "My teenage son wears nothing but baseball caps." You're probably right. But I would say that the reasons teenage boys wear baseball caps are similar to my first reason why teenagers love to wear hooded sweatshirts: they want to make sure they conform to what is acceptable and cool. Baseball caps are an easy way to do that. Just think about it. Remember the kid in school that wore a fedora? He was probably labeled a weirdo. There were a few at my school like that. One was definitely strange and the other seems like one of the coolest people I know now. He was just a lot more willing to truthfully express himself while most kids were worried about if they were normal or not.

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