Monday, January 23, 2012

Reader Question: "Hoodies"

Dear YWP,

In general, my beau has an excellent sense of style. While I wouldn’t put him in the cuff-links-and-velvet-blazer category, he owns and wears several very nice shirts, and has good taste in Japanese denim. I am, however, increasingly concerned about his addition to hoodies. Nice shirts can feature spiffy interesting, elegant patterns and lovely collars, but if they’re buried beneath a gray hooded sweatshirt with a silver metal zipper, they will remain significantly underappreciated.

Can you recommend an alternative to the hoodie, something comfortable that can be worn informally when one is out and about? Or should I just accept the superior wearability and perpetual teenaged nature of the hoodie?

Sincerely yours,
New Haven Co-ed


Dear New Haven Co-ed,
Nice to hear from you again. My advice is to not push for a cold-turkey termination to his "hoodie".  I would consider replacement therapy and systematic desensitization.  Fewer things are as unflattering and, at times, as demeaning as the zip-front hooded sweatshirt. What better way to insult your date, host, and self all at the same time?  There ARE times when it is appropriate and harmless, but when is ruins the mood, evening, or outing, it may be time to consider upgrading.  When I played sports in high school and college, hooded sweatshirts were perfect, just as they were when the electrician and I crawled through the filthy underside of the house to examine the joists for drilling.  

Almost anything looks better than a hooded sweatshirt on an adult.  Since your beau wears a zip-front garment, I will not stray into any over-the-head types of clothing.  I tried to think of clothes that would allow easy-on/easy-off wearing, opening fronts, versatility, comfort, and warmth.  

A friend of mine wears a hooded sweater as his knock-around outer layer.  Unlike the photo, his is plain.

Another friend wears his waxed vest over EVERYTHING... suits, running clothes, sailing duds, weekend attire... you name it, he'll pair it.

A zip-front sweater might be a sensible upgrade, but it may be a tough sell.  I have long-advocated for curling sweaters, but they can be a little eccentric looking.  I wore mine to a party this winter, and as I stood by my host's magnificent fireplace, his pre-teen daughters giggled at it overtly when they weren't too busy texting, eventually asking me if I was "warm enough".

A cotton jacket is one of the most versatile garments, wearable in a wide range of temperatures and weather. 


Another option is the lined shirt or "shirt jacket" as some call it.  I keep one of these at the office, one at home, and one up north for the cool evenings (even during summer).  It's comfortable, warm, and like a zip-front, it is easy to wear and remove.

None of what I have listed above is a style grand-slam, but it will be a good start.  Since this isn't a catty-male style forum, I can be realistic about this.

I would suggest voicing your concern (be cool about it), ask for occasional compromise in the matter, and provide an alternative for him... preferably one that he has approved.  Remember though, if it is not similar in use to the "hoodie" (easy-on/easy-off, opening front, versatile, comfortable, and warm), it will not likely catch on.  He wears it because he likes it, and while some people (myself included) think that this garment often looks horrible on adults, the majority of the population finds them applicable to nearly any setting and situation.  You need to accept it in moderation, but don't settle for it completely.  If you push a guy too much, he will latch on to it out of pride and you'll have to move on in one way or another, with or without him.


  1. The Champion 80/20 reverse weave sweatshirt (plus or minus a hood) used to be the ultimate cold-weather sportswear on college campuses. Very hard to find, especially now that Barnes and Noble has taken over the operation of many campus bookstores. Unfortunately, I don't think this is what the reader was referring to.

    The "good taste in Japanese denim" business has me concerned as well.

  2. For the next two weeks, a grey hooded sweatshirt is appropriate attire throughout the New England region (even New Haven), for any occasion. After that, all bets are off.

  3. Consider Duffle coat if he likes hoodies, to me it looks better than any sweatshirt.

  4. My tactic in handling my husband's sartorial gaffes, has been to buy him an appropriate (in my opinion) substitute for the offending garment. I have given him nicer garments for his birthday or Christmas. If he really doesn't like the new item, we will shop together for a replacement. After many years, he trusts my sense of style, which is pretty classic.
    I have gone so far as to "lose" the offending garment. I don't actually lose it or throw it away, I just hide it.

  5. Consider the heavy cardigan/knit jacket, it is a more mature alternative to the sweatshirt.

  6. Anon 03:21, I'm no fan of denim in general, but Japanese denim, made in Japan, is some of the highest quality denim in the world. That may not be saying much for those such as myself who do not wear denim often, but for those that are denim aficionados, Japanese denim is highly coveted. If this was a knock against Japan, I'm not likely to take kindly to it.

    If you merely meant that the focus on "good denim" had you concerned, I'm not sure I follow, but as someone who doesn't wear denim, I'd be interested in hearing your reasoning.

    1. Kionon, please don't take offense. I have no doubt Japanese denim is of high quality. It is also very expensive to my knowledge ($300+ for a pair of jeans?) and seems to be more in the realm of of the Brooklyn hipster/ fashionista. This blog, to my reading, appears to espouse a more traditionalist/ classic aesthetic. I looked at the original statement "good taste in Japanese denim" as being akin to saying "good taste in Prada." I guess my real point was that the changes she wants to make may be more drastic than she realizes.

  7. Perhaps a nice tweed jacket, such as a Harris tweed or ones found at J Press would be considered. I haven't worn a hooded sweatshirt since I played sports on the fields of Saint Grottlesex, which is a place (school athletic facilities that is) where I believe they belong. A sturdy and comfortable tweed jacket is so much more versatile, and appropriae to all ages of wearers, I believe. Oh, and a thick knitted cardigan sweater with a shawl collar is rather swell, too, if one wants a less stuffy look than I propose. Reggie

  8. As the current owner of a bright blue, incredibly hairy angora hoodie from the Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche line that resembles a skinned Cooki Monster, I shall have to forego actual commentary here

    All best,



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