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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Wednesday, April 16, 2014

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In Arts & Entertainment

It's a Hoodie Nation, ya know.

Hoodie project adds zip to blogger mom's life


It seems that the hoodless sweatshirt barely exists these days. In fact, for many people, the popularization of the "hoodie" has sent the plain ol' crew neck sweatshirt to the bottom drawer or into the bin in the basement, reserved for future painting projects or exercising at home.

Even though the hoodie is perhaps at its height of popularity, the garment was inspired by the robes worn by monks in Medieval Europe. In the United States, the hooded sweatshirt was first produced in the '30s by Champion for workers enduring cold climates.

The term "hoodie" was invented in the '90s (Old Navy? the Gap?) but the clothing item became a fashion statement in the '70s when hip hop culture started to materialize in New York City and the hood symbolized the need for anonymity for criminal activity. The "Rocky" film furthered the popularity of the zip-up-sweatshirt-with-hood look and other groups, like skaters, surfers and punk rockers (these groups often overlap), started embracing the hoodie as well.

Today, the hoodie is as popular as ever, from American Apparel's $50 version to big box knock-off hoodies for half the price. Armani and Ralph Lauren have a line of hoodies, too, and there are many brands that make infant hoodies.

Milwaukee mom and blogger Donna "Freakin'" Reed decided to take the hoodie hoopla to a higher place with her new project, "Hoodie Nation: The United States of Hoodies Photo Project -- Hoodies for the Homeless."

Through her blog and her social media outlets, Reed is asking for people from all over the country to send her a new hoodie. She hopes to get at least one hoodie from each the 50 states, and then plans to create a cloth sculpture on her front lawn of the map of the United States made from hoodies. She will then photograph the sculpture and donate all of the hoodies to local homeless shelters.

"The whole thing started as a bit of a ridiculous joke, but then it began to grow legs," she says.

Reed will donate two hours of time to a local food pantry for each hoodie she collects. Ironically, she was downsized from a food pantry a couple of years ago.

People who donate hoodies might want to keep in mind their state when picking out a hoodie to send. For example, if someone from Rhode Island is sending one, they might send a very small-sized one since Rhode Island is such a small state. She will donate any hoodies she does not use for the project to charity as well.

"If people can't send a hoodie or think I'm ridiculous they can help in general by donating food items or time to their local pantries," she says.

Reed is a stay-at-home mom and has a blog, "Dirty Kitchen Floor: Pages of a Dubiously Pissed off Housewife." She says she never expected to be a housewife, but she wound up one after losing her job after having a son who was diagnosed with hydrocephalus at 10 weeks old. She says frank, honest and sometimes crass writing about being a mom has gotten her through rough times and projects like Hoodie Nation spice up the poopy-diaper-dishpan-hands lifestyle.

"I wasn't meant to be a housewife. I had intended on sticking with my job and beginning a master's program as soon as possible, but obviously the universe had different plans for me," she says.


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