Should we ban the hoodie instead of the burka?

Is there a modern piece of attire with the potential to be more sinister than the ordinary hoodie?

I’ve been asking myself this question since reading about the tragic abduction, rape and murder of Irishwomen Jill Meagher.

CCTV footage showed a man – the same man now accused of her murder – wearing a blue hoodie as he talked (more likely bothered) Meagher as she tried to stumble home on drunken high-heels, her last fateful journey

The footage shows he does not actually have the hoodie over his face when he was captured on camera talking to Jill Meagher but, no doubt he wore it before or after his heinous deed.

Ironically, if he had worn the hoodie at the time he was captured on CCTV, he might not have been caught so swiftly.

People go on about the need to ban the burka (as it already is in France), fuelling a lot of religious anger and questions about freedom of expression, but I personally have never felt intimidated by someone wearing a burka.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t like the burka. I find them repressive and unpleasant, but not menacing.

Consider this scenario.

You’re walking home at night. It’s after midnight. There’s no one out on the streets. Houses are dead and quiet. Then you hear footsteps and notice someone is now walking behind you…they’re wearing a hoodie and there is face is hidden in shadow.

How would you feel? Safe? Would you pick up the pace? Maybe phone someone on your mobile phone? Your heart-beat would certainly be racing.

Since the murder of  Jill Meagher, well-known writer, comic and blogger, Catherine Deveney has come out and said that she was too attacked by a man wearing a blue hoodie on Sydney Road, possibly by the same person.

It seems the hoodie is often linked with criminal activity.

You put it over your head before you rob the convenience store; before you king hit someone; before you throw a rock at the police in a riot; to hide your face as you spray graffiti on a public space, or as you flee the scene of a crime.

The hoodie shields the face, the eyes and the intentions of the wearer.

Interestingly, I have discovered that hoodies have been banned in the past, though the move was controversial with libertarians screaming out about human rights, freedom of expression and unfairly targeting young people.

It happened in Belmont, a suburb in the Hunter region of NSW, about 20 kilometres out from Newcastle, where a ban on hoodies was introduced in 2010 in the shopping district to “combat young teenage boys defacing the property”.

“The ban was introduced because young teenagers were using jackets with hoods to hide their identity while doing graffiti,” reported the Newcastle Herald.

According to the report, during the first three weeks of the ban, there was no graffiti.

It’s not the only example.

In June last year Brisbane police launched a ‘Hoodie Free Zone’ initiative in the bayside suburb of Wynnum following a series of armed robberies, where the criminals wore hoodies to disguise their identities.

Shopkeepers were encouraged to ask hoodie-wearers to leave.

More recently hoodies were worn by many London rioters last year as they smashed shop windows and looted goods. They also wore hoodies as they threw rocks at police.

Interestingly hoodies have a religious origin (I keep thinking of creepy cultish ceremonies out in the woods somewhere), dating back to medieval Europe when they were worn by monks.

Hoodies entered popular culture in the US in the 1930s when clothes maker Champion started making them for workers as protection from the cold. They became an iconic piece of clothing following the release of the movie Rocky in the 1970s, where Sylvester Stallone wears them in his training scenes.

And of course they’ve been embraced by hip-hop stars and fake Burberry-wearing “chavs” in the UK.

Which is all very interesting, but it does not get away from the fact that wearing a hoodie, especially at night, has the potential to make even the most well-intentioned person appear to be a suspicious, sinister character.

So I maintain if we’re going to ban or put limits on any kind of clothing, perhaps it should be the hoodie, not the burka.

(Author confession: I own a couple of jerseys with hoods. In my defence, I never really wear the hood, certainly never at night and never with any criminal intention. Hey, I’d give them up if asked.)