Trayvon Martin (Courtesy of John Robinson)
When Fox talk show host Geraldo Rivera made the controversial comment in an interview on “Fox & Friends” that the hoodie Trayvon Martin wore was as much responsible for his death as George Zimmerman, he ignited a firestorm debate on whether fashion was indicative of a person’s stature.
Although his comment was indeed heavy-handed and racist, he is not entirely wrong.
The fact of the matter is, we do judge people by the way they dress. Maybe we are not as drastic as Zimmerman or Rivera, who believe wearing a hoodie and possessing dark skin colors are sufficient to identify a person as a “gangsta” and threat, but we still like to label and stereotype others by their clothes.
We live in a society where fashion is a determining factor in whether you get that all-important job or promotion, attract that guy or girl that you’ve been eyeing, and even receive good service at a restaurant. No matter how nonchalant you are about what you put on, others will try to decipher your personality based on your clothes nonetheless.
We all do it. Even when we are not conscious of it, we label those around us as rich or poor, emo or punk, and fashionable or obsolete based on what they wear everyday. Sayings like “you can tell a man by his shoes” and “you can tell a woman by her handbag” do have kernels of truth in them. We tend to be friendlier to tidy, well-dressed people while trying to avoid the less chic.
Therefore, the recent use of the hoodie as a symbol against racial profiling is rather hypocritical. At first glance, it may seem like we are combating racism, but what the hoodie really represents is the fight against discrimination based on dress. True, fashion prejudice is an unaddressed form of discrimination, but we have done nothing thus far to mend our ways.
It’s fine if you wear it to show support for Martin’s family or even for Zimmerman’s arrest, but please, drop the hoodie as a symbol of protest and defiance. We are all as guilty of stereotyping and profiling as Zimmerman and Rivera when it comes to judging others by the way they dress.