About twelve years ago I got a black hoodie for Christmas.  It has Jack Skellington’s head on it with a zipper down the middle, and “Tim Burton’s the Nightmare Before Christmas,” printed in white text inside the hood.  It’s the one article of clothing I wear year round.  It’s extra insulation in the winter, is handy for covering my arms when the A/C is blasting too much in the summer, and the extra pockets are always handy because there’s no such thing as too many pockets.

It would not be an exaggeration to say I love this hoodie.  I love this hoodie so much that I’m still wearing it even though the cuffs are frayed to the point where they are more flaps at the ends of the sleeves than cuffs.  The seams are full of holes.  and there are spots of it so threadbare that the insulation the hoodie provides is more psychological than realistic.  Yet I wear this hoodie.  Six years ago I decided it was too worn and fragile to keep machine washing and that I ought to replace it.  I’ve been hand washing it ever since, and haven’t yet found an adequate replacement.

When I was in Disney World last summer they had the exact same hoodie, except brand new and a bit thicker (which could be nice, if Wisconsin ever has a winter again).  I stared at it.  A long time.  My sister ridiculed me for even stopping to think about it when, clearly, this was the perfect solution to my conundrum.  I stared at it some more.  “Maybe I’ll buy it for myself for Christmas,” I said.  And then I hugged my tatty, worn hoodie and felt like I’d escaped a near tragedy.

Most of the time nobody recognizes the picture on the front of the hoodie, because unless I zip it up, there are just some weird white lines hanging on the sides.  Once in a while they’ve either seen the hoodie before or I was actually chilly enough to zip it up, and if they recognize Jack’s head, we have a nice chat about holiday mashing and how Halloween is the best holiday on the face of the planet ever, no really.  A couple times I’ve spotted somebody with their own version of the hoodie, and felt a bit of camaraderie.  “Ah,” says I to myself, “They know what it’s like, my precious, precious hoodie.”

I wore it all the time while living in Maryland, D.C., Chicago and Madison, while visiting a dozen other cities and three other countries.  I’ve worn it while wearing cargo pants and a T-shirt, sunglasses, with disheveled hair and a palpable bad attitude.

Despite that, if somebody got out of their car and started following me down the street, the automatic assumption would be that the guy doing the following is a creep and I’m about to, at best, get mugged.  If that person shot me, nobody would consider citing my hoodie as a factor, or believe for even a moment that he’d felt intimidated.

Without saying anything else about anything, I will say this: A hoodie, on its own, is not intimidating.  To feel intimidated by somebody walking down the street wearing a hoodie, there must be something else at play.  Claiming otherwise is absurd.

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