I recently moved from Pyrmont to Parramatta. For Sydney-siders you’d know that the only similarities between the suburbs end with their respective first letters. Pyrmont is more patisseries than panel beaters, more suits and less track suits, more cafes than kebab shops.
One night during the first week we moved out west we were sitting in a local “café” and as I watched the world go by outside its large windows, I began to feel very uneasy about my new town. You know the saying “I wouldn’t like to meet him in a dark alley”? Well, that went for everyone who walked past. All of them were dark-alley people! Holy crap, where have we moved to?!
The week we moved however was the first really cold week of winter, the same week when most Australians over-react to the cold and dress inappropriately warm. (It’s a part of the same cultural make-up that kills the driving skills of many Aussies the moment it starts raining.) The take-home message from this experience is that either Parramatta is full of seedy criminals who are ready to mug you and your grandmother for enough money to buy a pack of roll your-own cigarettes or, secondly, everyone looks like a criminal in winter.
I think that in winter people are more likely to choose comfort over style. This makes the choice of a blue woollen beanie (the staple of many a criminal), black tracksuit pants, a heavy jacket and white sneakers the ultimate winter comfort-outfit. Sadly being cold doesn’t make you invisible and a description of these same clothes is likely to make an appearance on Australia’s most wanted.
Winter appearance and other vital social challenges were floating in the back of my mind this week when I was travelling in regional Queensland. The radio told me that the biggest news topic of the week was that of the clothing choice of the criminally pre-disposed: the humble hoodie and the attempt to ban people from wearing it whilst inside shops and banks. The news reports made it sound like the hoodie itself was going to be banned, which of course is ridiculous. The hoodie is both functional and can be very fashionable, which as I have already discussed solves a very real winter challenge. On further investigation the call to ban hoodies was actually just to put wearing the hoodie on the same level as wearing your motorbike helmet into a bank (which of course indicates that a person may actually be insane.) Why on Earth would you want to keep your helmet on in a bank? There are so many reasons to take it off; it’s heavy, you can’t see where you are going or hear what anyone is saying and no one can make out your muffled requests. You could ask to deposit a cheque and end up with an overdraft just because you are too lazy to take off your crash hat.
Speaking of situation-appropriate clothing, how far from a pushbike do you need to be before lycra shorts transform from the attire of an athlete to just being hypercolour man-tights? Those tighty-pants that announce: “hello there and if you’d be so kind to please look at my groin area immediately.” It’s the same conundrum that faces those who choose to wear Speedo’s. Let’s lay aside any prejudice we may hold against those who smuggle the budgie and just look at the facts. If you’re on the actual sand of the beach, fine, carry on. If you’re on the grass above the beach you are going to get at least a couple of weary glances. You might, at a push, get away with the fish and chip shop directly opposite the beach if accompanied by a towel over the shoulder. But any further than this and you are just a crazy guy in his underpants.
This type of thinking must now be applied to the hoodie if Queensland radio news is to be heeded. Next time you are in a retail outlet, service station or bank just remember that in winter everyone looks a bit more like a criminal.