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Yo, stop dissin' da hood

Typical, isn't it? My routine scouring of Sheffield charity shops unearthed a nice, cosy sweatshirt for pound;3.50. So I have the added satisfaction that I'd paid the People's Dispensary for Sick Animals for some mongrel to be spayed or a terminally ill hamster humanely snuffed out.

It's navy, a new departure for me, with a hood. I've seen them around but never worn a sweatshirt with a hood before.

On its first outing a friend even remarked that it looked "vaguely trendy".

Three weeks later, it's the symbol of societal vermin. If I wear it in a shopping centre or near the Deputy Prime Minister, I'll be dubbed an antisocial yob.

It was the same with flared trousers. I finally received a pair, handed down from big bro, just as they transmogrified from the height of fab to grotesque. The moment I depart from jeans and round-necked sweaters it goes horribly wrong. If I try being a dedicated follower of fashion, I soon realise I'm the one who's never quite sure which way it went.

Fact is, I do like a hood. Hoods are practical. They are warm, enclosing, keep off the rain and keep your face off the CCTV. Which is more than you can say for a tie. It may be the fodder of dress codes but what is the purpose of a strip of cloth knotted round your throat?

I find the smartly dressed a lot more disconcerting. I did have one scary hoodie experience, before the recent publicity. Late one night I happened to be walking through a "difficult" neighbourhood, near a school at which I once taught. Very late, very quiet. A third of the way down, three figures turned the corner on the other side at the far end. Three figures, as tall as me, shrouded in hoods.

At first I had no thoughts of trouble. And then, subtly, one nudged the other, pointed in my direction and said something. They angled and, yes, I realised they were crossing towards me. Run? Beat down the door of the nearest house? They were walking faster than I was panicking. And then they spoke.

"Hello Mr Thomas."

Situation diffused. As they greeted and I remembered they became, once again, kids I had taught as seven-year-olds. Forget mugging. They just wanted to know if I still played the guitar and drew cartoons.

Maybe, as with so many fears, "hoodie" is all in the eye of the beholder.

Maybe it's a convenient symbol for the generational gap between "us" and "them" that none of us can quite fathom.

So I'll hang with my posse and refrain from dissing the hood.


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