Author: Ben Tuthill
This time of year sucks. It always does. I don’t know if I just get strained from being around the same people for too long, or if I’m stressed out about work, or if the 4:30 sunsets make me anticipate the Seasonal Affective Disorder that hasn’t kicked in yet but I know is just around the corner.
I get tired and lazy. I stop finding pleasure in the things I used to enjoy. Every minor decision fills me up with existential doom. I’m a white middleclass English major; you know how it is.
The first thing to go is the will to get dressed in the morning. I’ll wake up shivering and think about how much I hate every article of clothing I own. I think about the money I could have spent on something useful, and the friendships I could have made if I didn’t feel uncomfortable spending time with people who wear boot-cut jeans. I’ll experience a moment of complete despair, and then I’ll shake my head, resign myself to failure and put on my Hanes black hooded sweatshirt.
I bought my Hanes black hooded sweatshirt at the end of the summer before my freshman year. It isn’t the first black hooded sweatshirt I’ve owned. In 8th grade, everyone had a black hooded sweatshirt. We all got them from the back of the men’s section at the Midway Target. They cost $12.99 on sale.
The girls with too much makeup wore them over their Hollister t-shirts. The sad kids with purple hair wore them covered in Operation Ivy patches. The kids that went through puberty faster than everyone else wore them three sizes too big while they smoked weed in the bathroom and vandalized toilet paper dispensers. All of my future white middleclass English major friends wore them. I did too.
My ma made me throw mine away after four years of high school and a cross-country road trip shredded it beyond all recognition. I got a new one for the start of college. It still costs $12.99. I wore it every day of freshman year. I forced myself to move on at the beginning of sophomore year and promised myself that I would never wear it again.
I stand by that promise for most of the year, but every November I find myself giving up and pulling it back out.
The Hanes black hooded sweatshirt is an absolutely terrible product. It’s made in Honduras in what I’m sure are appalling work conditions. It’s paper-thin and provides almost no warmth. It loses its already non-existent shape after the first wash. The hem floats halfway up your back and puffs out making you look overweight or deformed, depending on how you hold yourself.
After about a month of use it starts to conform to your body and personality. It’s like raw denim for cheap people. The front of mine is stretched down to near 3/4 length from years of stuffing my hands in my pockets. It’s tearing in all of the places where I hold tension. It knows every inch of me. Of my upper body, at least.
How many stupid things have I done in that sweatshirt? I went through a phase where I thought I’d be a better writer if I smoked cigarettes, and sometimes I can still smell the scent of the pack of Camels I bought in Silver Lake on the sleeves. I used to have an aggressive oral fixation, and the mangled cuffs and drawstrings are a constant reminder of the disgusting habits I used to keep. There’s Hot Cheetoes powder residue on the inside of the zipper and tea stains all down the front. There’s a toothpaste splotch halfway down the left side that I’ve gotten really attached to over the years. The cheap black dye can’t cover that up. It’s faded to more of a greenish-grey by now, anyway.
This is by far the worst piece of clothing I own, and it’s the one I’ve treated the worst. But when it gets to be this time of year, it’s the only thing I want to wear. I hate it, but when I put it on I feel connected to something beyond myself. When Jay-Z says “this is black hoodie rap,” I know what he means. Do you know how often white middle class English majors can actually relate to Jay-Z lyrics? Not very often.
I feel grounded in that sweatshirt. I think of all the other people grounded there and I feel a sense of universal connectedness through personal roots and history. Or something. I don’t know. I just feel right.
Some day, not too long from now, my black hooded sweatshirt is going to be too torn up to wear anymore. The rip in the sleeve will make it to a seam and my mother or some other responsible woman in my life will take matters into her own hands and throw it away. I’ll have to buy a new one.
Because of my ethics I won’t feel comfortable buying it from Target, and because of the traditionalist values I’ve forced upon myself I won’t feel comfortable getting it in black. I’ll get some well-stitched, made-in-USA, Shetland wool knit in navy. I’ll get engaged in it, buy my first house in it, retire in it, die in it. It’ll be beaten and scarred, but it will hold up through all of that and be covered in memories of a life well lived.
But I don’t want that right now. I want my black hooded sweatshirt, and for the little bit of time I have left of it I’m going to wear it for all the $12.99 it’s worth. That $12.99 keeps me in check. That $12.99 is where I came from. I’m not some put-together asshole who knows how to tuck in his shirt. At least not yet. I don’t want anything but you, black hooded sweatshirt. All those other sweaters can go to Hell.
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