Why The Hoodie Remains A National Wardrobe Staple (And Where To Shop The Best Right Now)

By Dan Ahwa
The humble hoodie is a seasonal favourite reinterpeted in various ways.

A wardrobe item that crosses genders, class and politics, the hoodie continues to offer the kind of comfort and warmth required for cool days like these.

Few clothing items can be considered quintessentially New Zealand, like black stubby shorts or the image of a plaid “Swanni” synonymous with our agricultural

When former Prime Minister Christopher Hipkins was stopped by media for an interview while exercising in Napier wearing an off-duty uniform of Dirty Dog sunglasses and a black Abercrombie & Fitch hoodie last year, it reaffirmed the sales pitch from his camp that he was indeed a man of the people.

The hooded jumper has remained a staple in our nation’s preference for understated dressing, and this past weekend I too reached for my favourite hoodie as the arrival of autumnal weather made its mark. The hoodie’s reputation as a wardrobe item that comforts and protects saw an uptake in sales (along with track pants) during one of humanity’s most uncertain periods — the pandemic.

Cushy, enveloping, soft - hoodies have inspired a multitude of designers to continue delivering their take on a wardrobe staple, with a concerted effort to redefine its shape. Some of the several designer hoodie options out there, for example, have played with proportion, boxy in the torso and made from much heavier cotton jersey, not unlike the feeling of having a weighted blanket on top of you.

Actor Vinnie Bennett wearing a hoodie for volume nine of Viva Magazine, 2022. Photo / Mara Sommer
Actor Vinnie Bennett wearing a hoodie for volume nine of Viva Magazine, 2022. Photo / Mara Sommer

It’s a wardrobe item that comes with complex baggage, too. In 2012, when 17-year-old African American teenager Trayvon Martin was fatally shot, the victim of racial profiling was, at the time of his murder, wearing a hoodie while out buying a pack of Skittles.

The garment’s symbolism opened up discourse around racist stereotypes, and how hoodies unfairly painted an image into the nation’s psyche of being associated with crime.

Close to home, a similar sentiment is viewed when gangs like Black Power are seen wearing a uniform of black jeans, and black hoodies featuring their gang patches and insignia. These visual cues of identity and belonging are now under the scrutiny of our Government, which aims to push through a proposed ban on gang patches and insignia. Despite the policy’s potential breach of the Bill of Rights, I don’t think it will stop anyone from wearing (at the very least) a black hoodie.

In 2008 during Youth Week, efforts were made to reframe the garment’s bad reputation with the first “Hoodie Day’” an initiative aimed at ensuring people got to know young people before forming opinions on how they were dressed, especially when wearing a hoodie. It’s the type of wardrobe item that has been accessible to younger generations for years, offering something of a sartorial salve for awkward teens needing an easy wardrobe item they can feel comfortable wearing while physically shrouding their faces in anonymity.

Fashion influencer Tina Haase styles a grey hoodie with a winter coat, jeans and oversized bag in Berlin. Photo / Getty Images
Fashion influencer Tina Haase styles a grey hoodie with a winter coat, jeans and oversized bag in Berlin. Photo / Getty Images

Part of a hoodie’s appeal is how it traverses economic backgrounds. It’s not unusual these days to see millionaire tech bros like Mark Zuckerberg wearing one off-duty. The garment has also been explored by brands at all levels of the fashion hierarchy.

Cult brands like Kanye West’s Yeezy line and our very own version, Entire Studios (which is now stocked at Selfridges), have played on the kind of minimalist, dystopian design values that make their respective aesthetics distinct, with a considerable effort in redefining their staple collection of hoodies.

Elsewhere at the recent autumn/winter collections, designers delivered collections that ticked boxes for retailers; it’s no secret that items like hoodies are viewed as easy moneymakers, entry-level garments for those wanting to invest in their first luxury purchase.

An avant-garde interpretation of the hoodie at Balenciaga’s polarising pre-fall 2024 show last December.
An avant-garde interpretation of the hoodie at Balenciaga’s polarising pre-fall 2024 show last December.

We saw avant-garde iterations at Demna Gvasalia’s pre-fall collection for Balenciaga as models paraded down a palm-tree-lined street in LA wearing the kind of casual gym/street hybrid clothes synonymous with the city’s famously relaxed dress code (hooded sweatshirts and Juicy Couture tracksuits are a mainstay for the likes of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian); while designer Jun Takahashi’s moody collection for Undercover saw the inclusion of hoodies with mesmerising artwork inspired by broody landscapes.

Because of its ubiquitous nature, everyone from mass retailers to luxury brands offer up their interpretations of what a hoodie should look like.

Much like a T-shirt or a tote bag, the pattern for a hoodie is easy enough to produce en masse and is the reason why some of your favourite musicians will almost always include a version in their line-up of shoppable merch.

From classic streetwear staples to designer hoodies making their presence felt at the recent Fashion Week circuit, the appeal of the hoodie shows no sign of waning. The additional layer of a hood surrounding the neck acts as a built-in scarf of sorts, another layer that’s useful in the depth of winter’s chill.

Its ability to cross borders — gender, culture, class — is why the hoodie continues to be a consistent staple no matter what the changing fashions of the day are.

The challenge now is — which one?

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As an avid hoodie wearer, here are a few of my personal picks to shop right now (and why).

A printed hoodie

Hoodies with prints, sports graphics, logos, etc are a dime a dozen, but why not settle for an original piece of artwork? Made in New Zealand, this cushy number from the Pōneke-based brand is cut with deadstock cotton fleece and features a stylish contrasting cotton drawcord with an exclusive screen-printed illustration by Lily Paris West. Twenty-seven Names ‘The Sky’s the Limit’ hoodie $390.

A luxurious knit hoodie

This, of course, is an elevated take on the humble top, and local designer Juliette Hogan has managed to harness the feeling of wearing a hoodie into something special. Available in a range of beautifully muted tones for every gender — black, cream, grey and beige — the hood is fully lined for extra comfort and support, and is made from sustainable and traceable cashmere. If you could get away with wearing a hoodie to the office, throw this under a blazer or layered over a pair of smart trousers or a skirt. Juliette Hogan Lounge ‘Luxe’ hoodie $599.

A nondescript hoodie with weight

Available in an assortment of colours including green, black, white and grey, this 100 per cent organic cotton option is the perfect choice for anyone who likes the idea of a hoodie as a cocoon. There’s something deeply satisfying about the thick weight of this, as if harking back to the hooded cape worn by monks. The brand is slightly oversized in its styling, so I would consider buying one that’s true to your usual sizing. I’m a personal fan of the colour brown, so this would be my pick of the season. Entire Studios Heavy Hood hoodie $239.

A cropped hoodie

Slightly short in the body, this boxy option also comes in a surprising hit of lemon, a colour not always synonymous with a classic hoodie. This sorbet-hued option is a great way to incorporate colour into a casual weekend wardrobe. Country Road hoodie $179.

A hoodie with a zip

Sometimes an easy-to-remove jumper is the perfect solution for days when you require a versatile top-half, particularly when the weather is indecisive — which is often the case in autumn. This burgundy hue is perfect for the season and works particularly well with denim, an ideal throw-on for weekend sports or if you need something slightly more elevated for a Sunday roast at the pub. Comme des Garçons Play ‘Invader’ hoodie, $319, from Fabric.

A hoodie with an iconic print

We use the word iconic sparingly at Viva, but in this instance, it’s safe to say this memorable print from the New Zealand fashion stalwart falls within this category. Oversized and long in the body, this all-encompassing hoodie has a large hood that’s perfect for trips to the dairy when you don’t want to run into anyone. Featuring two front pockets and made from 100 per cent organic cotton, the front features an original Nom*D artwork that is now a mainstay of the brand. Nom*D ‘Monster’ hoodie $360.

More autumn fashion

Prepare for cooler days with a supportive wardrobe of essentials.

15 waistcoats and vests that are sleek, sleeveless and perfect for the season. Invest in these vests (or waistcoats) for when you feel inclined towards professional that doesn’t feel conventional.

Wardrobe 101: These New Zealand brands make nice clothes for short people. Where to shop when you need to pay attention to your hemlines.

The best loafers to shop right now, from sleek styles to chunky lug soles. Stomp into autumn with these loafers you’ll want to live in.

Why this year’s accessory of choice is still a pair of oversized headphones (and where you can buy them). Once the domain of DJs and gamers, large headphones are a physical embodiment of drowning out unnecessary noise in a complicated world.

Fresh coat: Stylish trenches to cosy up in (and wear forever). Keep warm with autumn’s loveliest trench coats.

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