The Big School Leaver Hoody Debate

2011-11-04 06:08 PMComment

Love them or hate them, school leaver hoodies are a ubiquitous sight at any UK university, particularly during freshers’ week. So why are they so popular? And is it acceptable to still wear them after the first term of university? Maudie Powell-Tuck tackles the sartorial student debate…

Tequila or furniture? No contest

Along with freshers’ flu, the first few weeks of university brings another pestilence: an influx of school leaver hoodies. They are everywhere. You can't walk through a university town centre without being confronted with the offending garment: a lurid hoody with something like 'James “Jimbo” Hunter 11' printed on the back.

 

School leaver hoodies are bulk purchased from saccharine websites such as 'Forever Memories', featuring photos of hoodied students, backs turned to the camera, sitting sorrowfully on tree trunks or taking one last country walk with their friends. As if that's what you really do when you leave school: perch, reminiscing, on fallen tree trunks, rather than getting horribly drunk and urinating on your teacher's car. A vomit-stained school leaver hoody – now that's a more accurate picture.

 

Fully kitted out…

It’s not just hoodies. A quick browse through websites specialising in school leaver goods unearths a hidden world of treasure: school leaver “tracky b's”, distressed leavers t-shirts

 

(which got me rather excited thinking of an anguished, tear-stained t-shirt with the slogan “This is the END of your childhood” emblazoned on the front) and commemorative tie pins. You can even take your first sip of tea at university from a school leaver mug; watching sorrowfully as a drip of tea spills over the rim, trickling down a list of your ex-classmates like a big fat brown tear. Why the need to buy such items?

 

Purchasing the hooded horror can be justified in the last days of school. But students continue to wear them long after the sour smell of freshers' week has left the university corridors, well into their second and third year, even if, by then, they've lost touch with 97% of the people whose names are squished into the shape of a number on their back.

 

University comfort blankets…

No-one ever looks good in a school leaver hoody; most of them are heinously unflattering, cheap cotton sacks. So why else would you wear them? Perhaps they are a transitional garment; easing the passage into university and a more independent life. They are comfort blankets of nostalgia, with a sense of identity and belonging printed onto the cheap cotton fabric. But it seems an odd choice of clothing to wear to university; an allegiance to an old tribe whilst you’re desperately trying to ingratiate yourself with a new one. Like supporting a new football team, but wearing the football strip of your old team to the match.

 

Perhaps it’s a middle class thing? Universities, such as Durham, Cambridge, Exeter and Edinburgh, who attract the more well-to-do student, are awash with these hoodies. Perhaps they’re an acceptable middle class version of the matching t-shirts worn on holidays abroad? You know, the ones with classy slogans such as “Gonna do a crappa in Ayia Napa.” This hoody version though, replete with the obligatory unfunny nickname printed on the back: “Higgsy”, is much worse. Give us a crappa in Ayia Napa any day.

 

Simply a piece of clothing…

“Hogwash,” you shout, “they’re simply an item of clothing, nothing more and nothing less.” Yes, perhaps I’m reading too much into it. It's a convenient and comfortable item of clothing. If you've shelled out a tenner for the thing, you're damn well going to wear it, particularly as all the other items in your wardrobe have started to smell and you still haven't worked out how to use the washing machine yet. Hoodies are easy, you sling them on over a t-shirt and jeans and voila: an outfit. But isn't it a bit strange, months and months after the end of school, to still be wearing the thing.

 

Ok, a compromise: a school leaver hoody is fine to sport for the first term, and, if you still haven't settled in, acceptable for the second. Then, after the long summer holiday, it's time to put the offending hoody away. Remove it from temptation; disengage yourself from it like a mother peeling away a beloved blankie from the clutches of an overgrown child. Tuck it away in a special box, nestled in with your first tooth and 100m swimming certificate, to be brought out to show the grandchildren. And, as you struggle to remember the faces behind the names on the back of your hoody, they can titter over the ill-advised nickname printed on the back: “the LAD.”

Image courtesy of Jennifercw, 'School Leaver'



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