The Hoodie Enters the Museum

Few items of clothing are as politically and socially loaded as the hoodie. A new exhibition in Rotterdam tries to explain why.

There are few items of clothing as politically, socially and racially charged as the hoodie.

Long a linchpin of streetwear and, more recently, the advertising campaigns and catwalks of high fashion, the hoodie is a contemporary wardrobe staple, a declaration of fealty to a school or team, a comfortable garment for a plane ride and a sight that can trigger fear and panic.

Desired and derided in equal measure, regularly misunderstood, the hoodie is now heavy with associations of social inequality, youth culture and police brutality, even banned from certain streets, schools and institutions worldwide.

Credit...Campbell Addy


And, as of next month, it will be embraced by a museum.

“The Hoodie,” the first exhibition devoted to its powerful and political nuances, opens Dec. 1 at the Het Nieuwe Instituut, the Dutch institute for architecture, design and digital culture in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. A mixed media show of photographs, music, magazines covers and film footage, as well as more than 60 hoodies, it aims to frame the hoodie as a garment that Lou Stoppard, the curator of the exhibition, calls “unparalleled in its loaded tensions and contradictions.” (Ms. Stoppard is also a journalist and an occasional contributor to The New York Times.)

Credit...Gio Staiano

Ms. Stoppard said she had wanted to curate a show about the hoodie for some time but had struggled to find a suitable site in more conventional fashion capitals like London or New York. The Instituut, with its focus on design objects and digital culture, proved a good fit for exploring the evolution of the hoodie as a sociopolitical carrier.

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