Ruling on hoodies points up dress code dilemma for mall

What did the hoodie ever do to deserve this?

It used to be just a sweat shirt, a comfortable piece of clothing to throw on over a T-shirt and broken-in jeans.

Now it's controversial couture.

While not banned outright at Sacramento's Arden Fair mall, beginning Nov. 1 officials there will restrict patrons from wearing the hoods up and covering their faces, because of a fear of criminal activity.

Dress codes aren't new to malls, but with casual wear now common wear, hoodie hoopla draws attention because it spotlights a piece of clothing originally intended to provide comfort.

As fashion and its uses change, so do dress codes.

Dress codes emerge in response to fashion and sometimes innovate fashion, as people find new ways to dress, said Susan Kaiser, professor of textiles, clothing and women and gender studies at the University of California, Davis.

"(The hoodie) has to do with an identity that is sort of threatening," she said. "Cultural anxiety is still the underlying issue. We search a quick fix with uniforms and dress codes, but it's what it symbolizes that's the problem."

Part of the problem with the hoodie is that it's no longer just a sweat shirt. It's associated with gangs and crime. Even the word "hoodie" - a term that became part of the vernacular around 1992, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary - carries a connotation of "being from the hood" or hoodlum, Kaiser said.

But it's also associated with general, casual wear. Steve Reed, Arden Fair mall's security and guest-services manager, noted that because the hoodie is so universally worn, the policy won't target anyone unfairly.

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