Image 01 Image 03

Speculative hoodie symbolism

Speculative hoodie symbolism

The hoodie has become the symbol of protests regarding the shooting of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman.

From images of former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm wearing a hoodie, to the “million hoodie march,” to Havard law students wearing hoodies with a sign “Do we look suspicious?,” to Congressman Bobby Rush appearing on the House floor in a hoodie, the hoodie has come to symbolize alleged racial profiling by Zimmerman which led to the shooting.

The symbolism is powerful, and addresses wider concerns about racial profiling and actual use of hoodies by gangs and criminals of many races.

But as relates to the Zimmerman-Martin case, the hoodie at best is speculative symbolism, not based on any known facts connected to the shooting.  While Martin was wearing a hoodie that night, there is nothing other than surmise to suggest that Martin was considered suspicious by Zimmerman for that reason.

In the 911 call (audiotranscript) in which Zimmerman reported a suspicious person, the clothing Trayvon was wearing was not initially mentioned:

Dispatcher: Sanford Police Department. …

Zimmerman: Hey we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy, uh, [near] Retreat View Circle, um, the best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.

A hoodie was mentioned but only in response to questioning by the dispatcher as to what the suspicious person was wearing (emphasis mine):

Dispatcher: OK, and this guy is he white, black, or Hispanic?

Zimmerman: He looks black.

Dispatcher: Did you see what he was wearing?

Zimmerman: Yeah. A dark hoodie, like a grey hoodie, and either jeans or sweatpants and white tennis shoes. He’s here now, he was just staring…

Dispatcher: OK, he’s just walking around the area…

Zimmerman: …looking at all the houses.

Dispatcher: OK…

The suggestion that Zimmerman found the wearing of a hoodie suspicious simply is not supported by the 911 call, made at a time Zimmerman could not have known how the evening would end or how the case would gain national attention.

It may be that a black teen in a hoodie made Zimmerman suspicious, but that’s just speculation.

So where did the hoodie connection come from?

The case began to get national attention on or about March 18.  The hoodie theme took off soon thereafter, and was widespread by March 20-21, when the “million hoodie march” in NYC was organized (only 2000-5000 people attended).

But the hoodie was thrust fully into the public debate when Geraldo Rivera made his now famous comments about hoodies on March 23:

Rivera projected certain stereotypes into Zimmerman’s mind and motivation not based on facts but on assumptions, as have a lot of people.

If Zimmerman was motivated by racism or racial stereotypes, would it have made a difference what Trayvon was wearing?

Maybe Rivera and others are right and this was a case of hoodie profiling.  Or maybe they’re wrong.

But as of now, it’s all just speculation motivated by factors other than the known facts about this case.

Like so much else about this case, the symbolism is way ahead of the facts.


Donations tax deductible
to the full extent allowed by law.


As long as they can manufacture a “consensus”, then assuming facts not in evidence is sufficient proof for their cause.

Wait, are we talking about global warming? Sorry, wrong thread.

The “hoodie” thing is not new, nor is it confined to the U.S.

A common thread in the pictures from the English rioting was hoodies, bandanas and balaclavas to hide from detection via CCTV.
Unfortunately those responsible for those awful race riots in the 60’s are now elected members of Congress-Representative Rush is former Black Panther but still using any position he holds to promote divisive racial hatred. What a silly tribute for the death of somebody’s child. The Martins reputedly refused the “help” of the New Black Panthers.
Just curious have the burglaries of that gated community where Trayvon died stopped? Has the death of that boy been a deterrent to the continuing reported 11 burglaries there?

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to beloved2. | April 1, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    I’m guessing that the shooting of Martin has put a damper on the enthusiasm of burglars in the area. Just the thought of all these honky mo-fo’s running around with guns probably sends a shiver down their spines.

    That’s a good thing.

    I liken the hue and cry we’re seeing to a misbehaving child throwing a tantrum in response to being outed and punished for a well-established, ongoing misbehavior, his lies, excuses and subterfuges no longer working.

This has been such a fashion education. Fifty or so years ago, on a farm in upstate New York, we kids regularly wore hooded sweatshirts from the Sears catalog to play in the woods. (Probably with our BB guns.) In college, they were athletic warm-up gear. When did these become burglar clothes?

    tsrblke in reply to janitor. | April 1, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    My speculation is they became associated with burglary when their use in bank robberies (along with sunglasses) became somewhat common.
    It doesn’t take Google that long to show the meme:

    By the By, the FBI shows that Bank Robberery is a fairly equal oppertunity crime:
    A quick glance does show more Blacks than whites involved, but there’s enough “Unknowns” and that’s only 1 quarter’s worth of data, that I’d hazard a guess that it wouldn’t be statistically significant. And even if it is, it’ bd like 46/53% or so, hardly a large difference.

      JackRussellTerrierist in reply to tsrblke. | April 1, 2012 at 5:46 pm

      But blacks are only 13% of the population. So any given black person is 7.5 times more likely to be involved in bank robbery than any given white.

        Erg, while that’s probably true, it’s really quite irrelevant to the point I was making for a few reasons. First, Small numbers problem (7.5X of the remarkably tiny something like .00001% isn’t really that much.)
        Secondly I was making a different point, any given person is just as likely (approx.) to see a white person robbing a Bank on the evening news a black person. It would seem often (although I’m not sticken at number on that) in a hoodie. To the extent that the Hoodie draws (part) of it’s reputation from that, it’s fairly race neutral.

        The Crime rate amongst African-Americans is an entirely different issue all together. Now unimportant, just unimportant to this part of the Hoodie discussion.

          JackRussellTerrierist in reply to tsrblke. | April 2, 2012 at 3:55 am

          Perhaps it was the “by the by” expression in your post that made your statistical point seem like a separate side note, unrelated to your larger point, which I was clearly not commenting on.

      I connect hoodies and Ted Kaczynski. The Unibomber wore a hoodie and aviators.

      donb in reply to tsrblke. | April 1, 2012 at 11:15 pm

      Hey, tsrblke! When I clicked on your first link, the bank robber about four rows down (says it was in Centerville, VA) was wearing a palestinian keffiyeh, not a hoodie.

        tsrblke in reply to donb. | April 1, 2012 at 11:21 pm

        Google Images isn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I was merely trying to make a point. You’ll notice some of the bank robbers aren’t wearing hoodies at all! People do cover their heads with tons of different things. (Interesting point, wearing a Ski Mask at my College was agaist the rules from what I was told at one point.)
        (Also apparently the images are shifting around, they reorder every few times I click the link.)

          donb in reply to tsrblke. | April 1, 2012 at 11:36 pm

          I just thought that wearing a palestinian keffiyeh to rob a bank was a unique expression of political views.

    They’re useful for hiding one’s identity, and they’re perfect for hiding small things easily.

    I use my Navy warm-up gear pretty often for cool nights or ‘winter'(Seattle area, so it doesn’t really deserve the name…) and I make a conscious effort to think about what I look like to others when I wear that, or a baggy coat. If I’m in a store, I keep the hood off, keep my hands out of the front pocket and if there are a lot of small things, I roll up my sleeves. Clothing is just another way to communicate.

    Heck, I’ve slipped my concealed carry gun into the front pouch before– hoodies are very useful and practical, but one really should think about what the “say.”

      Oh: other reason hoodies are used for crimes, besides having handy places to stick stuff: what other way of dressing is going to hide your face that well without drawing attention?

Uncle Samuel | April 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm

Evidently the hoodie is ’cause’ for suspicion. LA Police are now banning them in stores:

[…] Jacobson at Legal Insurrection has a similar take. 55.957870 -3.199357 Share this:FacebookEmailPrintRedditTwitterStumbleUponDiggLinkedInLike […]

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Ragspierre. | April 1, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    In’t it Big Sis who wants the ultimate Neighborhood Watch program with a structure enabling people to rat out their neighbors for “suspicious” behavior?

JackRussellTerrierist | April 1, 2012 at 5:26 pm

I wonder how many hoodies have been sold for warmth since the global warming pendemonium hoax about melting was launched some years ago.

DINORightMarie | April 1, 2012 at 6:03 pm

I just read this:

Big Sis warned us about suspicious men in hoodies……in last year’s video.

How ironic! But that won’t override or defuse Geraldo’s iconic “branding” will it?

Also, NBC (and, one assumes, that includes MSNBC…?) are “internally investigating” the creative editing of that very 911 audio to see if they might, maybe, perhaps, have done something…..biased, or unethical, or something. I won’t hold my breath on the outcome.

My $.02: Zimmerman and his family need to lawyer up and sue the pants off NBC and all these idiots who have, with no evidence, manipulated evidence, and very little else (just their “spin”), publicly tried and convicted George Zimmerman – putting his life, and the lives of his family at grave risk!! All directly linked to their negligent, irresponsible, malice-filled “reporting.”

I’m starting to think that the hoody might just be replacing the white sheet. Sort of serves the same purpose. Particularly when race pimps like Sharpton start with the flaming rhetoric.

Never understood the fixation on the hoodie in this case, since it seems apparent from the 9-1-1 call that it was Martin’s behavior (walking around in the rain, after dark, looking at houses), rather than his attire, that roused Zimmerman’s suspicions. Also, given Martin’s recent troubles in school (i.e., being caught with over a dozen pieces of women’s jewelry and a screwdriver in his backpack, drug use, etc.), one has to wonder what exactly Martin was doing in the neighborhood, in the rain, after dark. The family reportedly claims he was walking back from a convenience store, but the closest one to that neighborhood is more than a mile away. Is there any evidence that he actually went to a store, or is this just more misdirection from the family (like for example, saying that he had been suspended from school for being tardy)?

I, and everyone I know, have always called them “hooded sweat shirts”.

First time I heard “hoody” was Jim Rome talking about Bill Belichick-

Besides, the hoody ….is what it is…

But, skillets….well, now we’re talkin’

In this case, I actually agreed with Geraldo. Whether they like it or not, certain articles of clothing indicate stereotypes, which are formed based on reality. As a hoodie wearer myself, I have to say it’s using the hoodie to HIDE THE FACE that’s the problem.

And the Feds have asserted this time and time again, with their SEE SOMETHING SAY SOMETHING videos in which some white male wears a hoodie and tries to hide his face.

It seems to me like the guy first mentioned a pattern of movement that doesn’t look like he is heading to a specific address on an errand. People who are drunk, stoned, confused, or reconnoitering might be observed to wander in an aimless fashion.

I, along with untold millions, take umbrage with the description of “Congressman” Bobby Rush as “appearing on the House floor in a hoodie….. the hoodie has come to symbolize alleged racial profiling by Zimmerman which led to the shooting.”
Yes, while it is true that “Congressman” Rush did such a thing, the only thing it came to “symbolize” was his lack of tangible thinking.
I guess you cannot expect more from a co-founder of the Black Panthers anyway.
Juan Williams excellent pointed rant tonight, 4-1-12, was spot on for anyone with even a half of a whit of intellect to understand and I guess that exposes Rush for what he really represents, a representative of the “critical race theory” sans that whit.

    JackRussellTerrierist in reply to Cyclopps. | April 2, 2012 at 4:32 am

    Ah, yes, Bobby “AWOL” Rush, purveyor of commie tracts and “Kill the pigs”-type admonishments to the “African-American community”. It’s such a joy to have his voice in the United States House. He’s such a statesman.

JackRussellTerrierist | April 2, 2012 at 4:20 am

Maybe it’s now called a “hoodie” because it is ubiquitous in the ‘hood, not because of the attached hood.

Are Sharpton and/or Jackson making any money from selling hoodies with “Justice for Trayvon” emblazoned on them? Just askin’.

Midwest Rhino | April 2, 2012 at 10:23 am

so did the cops really find tea and Skittles on Trayvon?

Or did his girlfriend tell the lawyer he’d gone out for tea and skittles, meaning marijuana and drugs? Then the lawyer didn’t understand what she really meant, so came up with the story of going to a store?

Maybe not, but some interesting facts will come out in time, that will make the puzzle much clearer.

The popular hoodies we see today, and the one Trayvon is pictured wearing, cover much more of the face than the ones from 30 years ago. Hiding the face is part of the image. The ones I had as a kid didn’t go past the temples, and had a little drawstring.

    Well what do you know — Skittles is street slang for drugs containing dextromethorphan (like Coricidin Cough and Cold)! Even verifies that, and it’s not a new post-Trayvon posting, it’s from four or more years ago.