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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 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.

Spend some time in Arden Fair on a cool day and you're bound to witness a parade of hoodies. In a three-minute span Saturday night, about a dozen shoppers tucked into hoodies passed by the main escalators, although none had the hoods over their heads.

Or, go to the movies – actor Jesse Eisenberg wears a hoodie, toting a shotgun in box-office-topping "Zombieland." Watch football – New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick always wears a hoodie while toting a clipboard. Peruse current pictures at people.com – Mel Gibson (classic gray), Bradley Cooper (red) and Scarlett Johansson (gray) pop up in hoodies, she with her head covered.

Anthony Giovanini, 25, a Sacramento record store employee, sported a kelly green hoodie at the mall Saturday night. He said he wears a hoodie about 65 percent of the time in cooler months, and does wear the hood up when he's cold.

"I think security needs to take proper precautions and we as shoppers should appreciate that," he said. "But pretty much everyone wears a hoodie nowadays."

The mall's dress code also now curtails sagging pants, requiring they cover underwear or skin.

Malls join other public places trying to curb certain aspects of patrons' appearance.

Baggy clothes and sportswear, for example, aren't allowed at The Park Downtown because the business' clientele "don't like that kind of look," said Mason Wong, owner of the popular nightspot. They can't wear baseball caps. They must wear "polishable" shoes.

If patrons show up in clothing that violates the dress code, they can change and then go to the front of the line upon their return. Wong's MIX Downtown has a similar dress code.

Wong said maintaining a dress code and not appearing snobby is tough.

"It's a real fine line and a real difficult line to walk," he said.

The dress code dilemma spills into the workplace as companies balance decorum and shifts in popular fashion. At Vision Service Plan's headquarters in Rancho Cordova, "business casual" attire (jeans and sneakers) was added to the company's traditional business dress code several years ago as a way to increase employee satisfaction, said Patrick McNeil, corporate public relations director.

Employees enjoy a bit of freedom, but are asked to dress appropriately for the jobs they perform.

While older industries seem to maintain more-formal dress codes, most workplace dress codes have relaxed significantly, said Kit Yarrow, professor of consumer psychology at Golden Gate University and co-author of "GenBuY."

"Casual Friday basically took over the whole week," she said. "Workplace studies have found that when employees feel relaxed and comfortable, they are more creative."

Standards of dress have declined in recent generations, said Robert Thompson, a popular culture and television professor at Syracuse University. Suits, ties and hats were a must for men as recently as the 1950s, and it was taboo for a woman to leave the house without wearing a girdle.

"I was born in 1959, and when we went to church on Sundays, my parents (dressed my brother and me in) little suits, ties and hats," he said. "Now, you walk into an American church and everyone is in jeans. Nobody thinks twice about it."

At Arden Fair mall, Reed said response to the rule change has been "overwhelmingly positive."

Former shoppers have called, Reed said, saying they will return. However, some patrons are angry and perceive the maneuver as a racial issue, he added.

That's not the intention, Reed said. The rule applies to everyone, although security staff is allowed discretion in enforcement. An 8-year-old with a hood up, for example, might not be asked to pull it down. A grown woman probably would.

"There's no agenda here – I just want to keep my patrons safe and their experience pleasurable," he said.

Galina Tokmakov, 22, clad in a hoodie, was shopping for lamps at the mall Saturday night. She understood the reasoning behind the rule, but thought imposing it on everyone was "ridiculous."

"What if people have their reasons for wearing the hood?" Tokmakov said. "What if they're cold? Bad hair day?"


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