Focus: Hoodie nation

Hooded tops have been banned by a shopping centre and branded yobwear by Tony Blair. So does wearing them make all these people hoodlums? Don't be daft, they tell Katy Guest
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Shadia, 15, and Nadia, 14, schoolgirls

Shadia, 15, and Nadia, 14, schoolgirls

"The people who wear them are just people, and the tops are just clothes. It doesn't mean anything. We don't find it intimidating. If we see a group of young boys wearing hooded tops we'd think they were just people - it's our age. Most of our friends wear them. We don't usually wear our hoods up. It just depends on whether it's raining." (Interviewed, like all the others here, on the Holloway Road in north London on Friday afternoon)

Rebecca, 21, student

"I work in a bar and we ban hoods and hats, too. It's only a problem when the hoods are up. It's fine if they take them down. We wouldn't actually tell somebody to leave or make them take it off."

Steve, 35, actor

"I bought this in Mambo, specifically because it has a hood and is fleece. If I came across a group of boys wearing hoodies I'd clip them round the ear and tell them to go home - bloody layabouts."

Wendy, 35, childminder

"I would be intimidated with the youngsters if there was a big group of them and their hoods were up. But this is just easy to wear when I'm out with the baby. Besides, it was cold and I was having a bad hair day."

Kwalilox, fairy (therefore ageless); Twinkel, fairy (ditto)

Kwalilox: "Nobody finds us intimidating! Only if they're allergic to colour. We make most of our clothes, but these hooded tops are from Camden. Mine is by Cyberdog."

Twinkel: "I used to live near Bluewater and it's a bit sketchy around that area, so I can see why they're doing it. But pink hooded tops and baseball caps, now that would be a good look. We're colour therapists and pink is from the heart."

Steve, 35, shoe repairer

"Of course I wear the hood up, I live in Hackney! You have to wear the disguise they wear so you don't get mugged. My top is Woo Tang Clan - all the wannabe gangsters wear them."

Sam, 24, sales assistant

"I have a lot of hooded tops because I'm into sport. But you have to consider people's feelings. If I thought I was intimidating somebody, I might remove my hooded top altogether."

Jeff, 53, stallholder

"I see all these kids with their hoods up, completely covered, and I think, 'They're only doing that for one reason'. I wear mine for warmth, but I never wear the hood up."

Poppy the Pucci Pooch

The Pucci Cuddles Hoodie is available in pink, red and navy, as well as in "hip hop" and "college" versions. "I just love the new Cuddles hooded top," Poppy tells fans on her website.

Helen, 36, and Louis, seven months

"Sometimes it can be intimidating to come across a group of young lads all wearing baseball caps and their hoods up. I've got an older son who is 19, and I'm always telling him, 'Put your hood down'. It looks bad when there are lots of them all together, standing in the street. I do wear my hood up if it's cold or raining. That's what it's there for! Louis likes wearing it. It's nice and warm and snuggly."

'What do you think you are doing, sir?'

By Tom Anderson

There were no menacing youths roaming the Bluewater shopping centre on Thursday afternoon. Those who wore hooded tops wore them down, as ordered by the management. Until I arrived. There were hoodies for sale in the Bluewater shops, and baseball caps, which are also banned. Dressed in both I began to pace the mile-long walkway. After five minutes I was discreetly tailed by a man in a grey blazer who spoke into a walkie-talkie. Then two policewomen approached. "What do you think you are doing?" asked one.

"Shopping," I said. She scrutinised me closely, exchanged a glance with her colleague and after a short pause Kent police's finest carried on with their beat. A youth outside the Virgin Megastore, with his hooded top worn down, was outraged by the ban. "Just because you wear a hood it doesn't make you a mugger. If a Bluewater security guard tried to stop me, I'd tell him to get a life."

That was when my collar (or hood) was felt by a security guard called Tony. He asked what I was doing. I admitted that I was a journalist. He declined to give his surname. "We're in the front line here."

The man in the grey blazer joined us. Colin Caulfield was the security manager. "Look," he said, "this is not about individuals. We sometimes have gangs of youths around here, and they've all got their faces covered up. We've done the research and our guests are intimidated by them."