Uppity Dartford

16 May 2005

Dartford Mall Bans Hoodies and Baseball Caps

The Bluewater Mall in Dartford, Kent, England has brought new meaning to the term "fashion police." The management of the place recently decided that groups of young people dressed in hooded sweatshirts, known as "hoodies," and baseball caps are a menacing presence in their retail mecca. Henceforth, the local rent-a-cops will forcibly eject anyone who wears such. Even Labour Leader John Prescott is supporting this ban. But the problem isn't the clothes; its the way the UK looks at its youth.

The hoodie is part of gang culture in the US and elsewhere, and thanks to MTV and rap, kids who have never been near a gang are dressing the part. The reason the hoodie works for juvenile (and adult) delinquents, is the way it hides the face -- making a positive ID difficult. At the same time, Britain's weather makes the hoodie a very wise fashion move. It's warm without being cumbersome, it keeps the drizzle off the hair, and should the sun make an appearance, it isn't so hard to remove and stow.

Now, the point the mall management makes is worth considering. Half a dozen teenagers wearing this gear can seem threatening to the folks who form the backbone of bourgeois Britain who shop there. At the same time, it is hard to believe that it's the clothes. Twenty five years ago, green mohawks and black biker jackets served the same purpose -- annoying the old folks. It isn't the clothes, though, it's the teenagers. Which is rather silly when one really thinks about it.

Yes, teenagers can be destructive, and some youthful criminals will spend most of their adult lives in trouble with the law. By the same token, the overwhelming majority aren't violent, don't want to cause trouble, and a handful of 18-year-olds right now are defending Basra in the name of the British Prime Minister. And besides, if one really wants to make judgments about violence, crime and clothes, banning pinstripes and lab-coats makes more sense. Enron wasn't plundered by kids in hoodies, and it wasn't black teens in baseball caps who napalmed Vietnam -- old men in suits cause much more damage to the world. And since the hoodies come from places like the Gap, which has space at the mall, it gets even sillier -- Bluewaters' motto could be "Buy our stuff and get kicked out of our mall."

But above all else, the mall is in Dartford, Kent, for heaven's sake. Bounded by the Thames to the north and the Greenbelt to the south, this isn't Kent in the way Dover or Canterbury are -- it's an unfashionable satellite of London that Kent got stuck with. Bluewater, itself, is built on an abandoned chalk quarry, industrial slag. Frankly, shame on the kids for hanging out there when public transportation could take them to Camden Market, Kensington High Street or the King's Road.

Copyright 2005 by The Kensington Review, J. Myhre, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent.
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