“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” Mark Twain said.
Indeed clothes have been in the news lately, particularly hoodies, or sweatshirts with hoods. Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was wearing a hoodie when he was fatally shot in Florida Feb. 26.
As the nation struggles to understand this senseless death, seek justice and extend its condolences to Trayvon’s family, the hoodie, a prerequisite of college students, athletes and teenagers like Trayvon, has become ubiquitous.
In a show of solidarity and to memorialize Trayvon, “Million Hoodie” marches have occurred throughout the country. Capitol Hill staffers donned the sweatshirts over their business attire and Illinois Congressman Bobby L. Rush, defying Congressional protocol, wore a hoodie on the floor of the House yesterday. Escorted out for his infraction, Rush has garnered attention. Did wearing a hoodie harm or help the Martin investigation?
I’ve never been one for uniforms or dress codes. Yet I think there are places where the selection of clothing should be considered. I’ve only recently become comfortable going directly from yoga class to errands, stopping in to the library, bank, post office or grocery store before returning home to shower and change. I still worry that I might see someone I know. Then I look around. Everyone is wearing workout clothes; I fit right in.
Many public schools are adopting uniforms, following what parochial and private schools have required for ages. As a teacher, I felt the uniforms did accomplish what they were set out to do: there was less attention given to clothes, less primping, and less competition about who wore what brand. A colleague of mine vehemently disagreed. To him, uniforms sent a message: preparing students for fast-food work or the military.
I certainly didn’t want a uniform for teachers and cringed when I saw staff in some schools attired like the students in khaki pants and polo shirts, looking more like camp counselors than professional educators. I opted to dress artfully, but conservatively. Lots of colors and patterns, fun jewelry and tights, but skin mostly covered. I don’t think glimpses of thong underwear, pierced bellybuttons, and Stieg Larsson tattoos befit the workplace.
Which brings me back to Representative Rush. I think he could have better used his allotted time on the House floor to demand justice, to demand gun control, and to demand an end to racial profiling. He didn’t need to wear a hoodie to do so.
As Mark Twain said, “Where prejudice exists it always discolors our thoughts.”