Hoodies as the New Silicon Valley Status Symbol?

800px-Trayvon_Martin_shooting_protest_2012_Shankbone_26Hoodies, that ubiquitous fashion choice of pretty much everyone at any given time, have been getting a bad rap lately.  Most recently, the shooting death of Trayvon Martin brought the hoodie up again here in the States as something worn by someone who’s up to no good (he wasn’t), and underscores the issues that our neighbors across the pond in the UK have been struggling with that paints the hoodie as a symbol of anarchy, looting, and rioting youth.

These extreme examples of how and where hoodies have made an appearance have caused them to become a banned article from a number of schools and even entire towns. (Though the town ban was never enacted, the fact that it was even a viable idea at one time is a true head-scratcher). When researching this whole idea of hoodies being awful, it was nearly overwhelming how many links I found, like this, and this and this, and we can’t forget this or this.  Clearly, hoodies are the scourge of society…unless you live in the Bay Area.800px-No_hoodies_sign

As with anything else that people want to say “no, it’ll never happen” to, hoodies have risen above this naysaying, muckraking cesspool to emerge as…a status symbol.  This is a thing, and it’s totally true.  If you work here in the Silicon Valley, either in the tech sector, and especially in a start up, you’ll recognize the time line.  When you’re new and doing the boring, low paying data entry kind of things, you may be showing up to the office in jeans and a hoodie.  Then, you get a promotion and start to get a bit more serious about this whole ‘dressing well’ deal and ditch the jeans and sneakers.  Then, you’re in charge of a bunch of people and perhaps handling clients, so you’ve moved up to leather shoes and a new car.  Finally, you decide to start a company of your own or become a free agent, and…you do all your work in jeans and a hoodie.  The chances are high that if you see someone over 30 slumming around checking their iPhone in the middle of the day, they own a company. Or, they’re your employer. Or, they’ve already made their money and are retiring young.  The hoodie is the symbol of this; just look at Mark Zuckerberg.9728417692_8e70722135

According to Inc.com, as recently as Oct. 2014,

Mark Zuckerberg has become iconic for founding the social networking giant, Facebook, but also for his signature wardrobe piece: the hoodie. Google lists in its manifesto that “You can be serious without a suit.”

There’s still a lot of naysaying about hoodies in, say, the boardroom, but as of this month, Zuckerberg’s net worth is 34.8 billion USD.  I’m guessing he doesn’t care what you, I, or anyone else thinks of his hoodie.

Now, to be completely fair to the hoodie, it doesn’t mean you’re a hooligan OR a billionaire.  There’s an often overlooked subset of hoodie-wearing people in the Bay Area who don one not as a fashion statement, but out of necessity: the mothers.  Yes, I’m going to hypothesize that the biggest fans of the hoodie are mothers with children under eight years old.  As a working mother myself, I can personally attest to the fact that I own upwards of 20 different hoodies. I have two sons under the age of 8, and when I do decide to wear something different to their school or the park, I regret it immediately.  I can also attest that though I work for myself, I am nowhere near a billionaire, and if I’m checking my iPhone while waiting for a coffee, it’s usually because the school just called.

The conclusion? Hoodies are just as comfortable making themselves known as a status symbol for the Silicon Valley elite as they are a badge for societal discontent on a protestor.  If you’re a mom, you love the hoodie because of the pockets and the warm fleecy interior.  The hoodie means a lot of different things to the people in the Bay Area, not the least of which is that of a status symbol. I truly hope that this outlook will catch on nationwide, because the hoodie and the people who wear them are not our enemies.

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