A new law is seeking to ban wearing a hoodie in public places. Senate Bill 13 would work in conjunction with a law that bans hoodie wearing during crimes and could land violators in Oklahoma a $500 fine. The original law was aimed at combating the Ku Klux Klan but the amendment would potentially affect all hoodie lovers.
The amendment to the bill was authored by Senator Don Barrington who suggests the goal of these changes is to protect individuals from being robbed. He said similar language has been applicable in Oklahoma statutes for years and similar laws exist in other places as well. He added:
Senate Bill 13 is being proposed to make public places and businesses safer by ensuring that people cannot hide their identities for the cause of harassment or crime. Oklahoma businesses want state leaders to be responsive to their safety concerns, and this is one way we can provide protection.
Attorney James Siderias said it has always been a crime to wear a hood or any kind of disguise during the act of criminal offense according to 21 OS 1301. This has been instituted since the 1920s. Siderias understands the bill’s intent but believes it is a bit farfetched. It violates the rights of an individual to decide what they want to wear as long as their item of choice does not violate moral values and public decency. It could be very problematic. He added:
I think the legislature is just trying to make Oklahoma a little bit safer, and in doing so, I think they just over-reached a little bit.
While the intent may be understood many feel this is a clear violation of their rights and hinders their freedom. Banning normal hoodies by the government takes away the freedom of expression one would normally posses. The proposal does allow exceptions for religious garments, Halloween celebrations, parades, protection from weather and other circumstances.
One hoodie user, Eduar Carreon, said he has worn hoodies since he was a child. Another user, Tracy Wehegan, said someone might have a hoodie on for personal reasons such as losing their hair because of cancer or just having a bad hair day. She added, “You just never know.” Others have stated that this will cause more tension within the community because it can turn into a reason for police to mess with people.
It seems the hoodie gained its fame with the killing of Trayvon Martin, but its history reaches back long before this tragic occurrence. The original inspiration came from monks in Europe. It was not always associated with crime, race or even rap. Upon its first introduction in the United States the hoodie was primarily worn by laborers who worked in freezing temperatures.
Prior to Martin, hoodies have maintained a mostly positive image. Hip Hop artists help them transfer into mainstream fashion and become signifiers of pride. Schools and other associations used hoodies to showcase their mascot and school name across the front. People wore them with pride as fashion symbols but not for criminal activity.
Back in the 1970s they were associated mostly with criminal intent and were worn as a cloak to isolate themselves as well as lend a sinister appeal. They worked well to intimidate others and more importantly to create a shroud of anonymity. Wearing a hoodie meant you were keeping a low profile, and perhaps up to something illegal. This type of behavior is what fueled Oklahoma law makers’ concern with hoodie users.
The brisk Oklahoma weather might have many sporting hoodies outside in hopes of fighting the cold, but soon this might be more expensive than it is worth and could result in a $500 fine. The proposed law may come with good intentions but hoodie lovers feel it violates their rights and limits their freedom of dress.
by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Main image by Todd Lindberg – Flickr License
Featured image by d h-j – Flickr License