All clothing serves the same basic functions: keeping us warm, shielding us from the sun, and protecting our modesty.
Looking at it objectively, no one t-shirt should hold any more value than another, nor should any item of clothing. If it fits and it’s clean, it should be fine, right?
But, humans aren’t so objective. Sometimes, we’ll pick one shirt over another because we like the design more. Other times, we’ll pick our clothes based on what’s popular. Still there are times when we’ll cling onto an article of clothing purely out of sentimental value.
We all have our preferred outfits and, for Christine Burke’s teenage son, that outfit is a teal green hoodie. It’s become such a strong presence in Burke’s life that she felt the need to write a love letter to it on Grown and Flown.
When Christine Burke and her son went clothes shopping for middle school, they ended up buying nothing but hoodies.
When Burke’s son was heading into middle school, he hesitantly asked his mother if she would take him wardrobe shopping. Burke obliged, excited by “the prospect of seeing him in something other than the athletic shorts and graphic tees he wore year round.”
As they shopped, Burke daydreamed about the kinds of clothes her son would wear. Would he want new jeans? Khaki pants? Perhaps a nice button-down shirt?
No. He wanted hoodies and that was it. He picked out the three hoodies he liked the most and then decided that the shopping trip was over. They never even set foot in the jeans department.
“But, shouldn’t we buy some jeans? Or cargo pants? Or, how about a nice three-piece suit?” Burke asked her son.
“Mah, this is what all the kids wear,” he replied. “I’m set.”
From then on, the boy was always wearing his teal hoodie. Burke didn’t understand his attachment at first.
From then on, Burke’s son was always wearing a hoodie, although there was one particular hoodie that he valued the most.
“The teal green Nike sweatshirt became my third child,” Burke wrote.
Burke’s son would wear the same hoodie regardless of the occasion. Whether it was a blistering hot summer day or a family get-together over at grandma’s place, he was donning that same hoodie.
At first, Burke didn’t understand this. She wondered why her son wanted to wear the same clothes every day instead of expressing himself with different outfits. She knew that other boys his age were wearing hoodies too, but was that the only reason?
After thinking about it for a bit, Burke realized that this situation was not completely unfamiliar to her. This was just the first time she saw it from a parent’s perspective.
In looking back on both her son’s past and her own, Burke realized why he loved his hoodie so much.
Burke thought back to the jean jacket she wore when she was a teenager in the 1980s. She remembered how wearing it made her feel good about herself and how she held on to it until its seams started to fray.
Burke still has a lot of nostalgia for that jacket and keeps a similar adult-sized one in her closet to wear on cold nights. She realized that perhaps the teal hoodie was fulfilling a similar role in her son’s life.
After all, this wasn’t the first time he had grown attached to an inanimate object. When he was a little kid, he owned a stuffed caterpillar named Pow Pow, one that he would always snuggle to help him fall asleep.
Burke totally gets it now and is happy for the role that the hoodie is serving in his life. She even admits that she’ll miss it when it’s gone (though she won’t miss the odor). The final words of her letter are surprisingly sweet:
“Teal Nike hoodie, take good care of my boy. When he’s a new driver, help him to make good choices on the road … When he’s in a basement where kids are drinking, keep him confident as he shakes his head and turns down alcohol before he’s old enough. And, on that day when he meets the girl who makes him feel loved, keep his heart warm as he drives home with her perfume on your sleeves.
Take care of our boy, teal Nike sweatshirt. I’m counting on you.”