Mark Zuckerberg's Hoodie

It is June 2, 2010 and Mark Zuckerberg is sweating. He’s wearing his hoodie—he’s always wearing his hoodie—and he’s on stage and either the lights or the questions are too hot. His hosts are asking him about the privacy overreaches of Facebook. He’s uncomfortable. He’s mopping his brow. He apologizes. It’s very warm.

“Do you want to take off the hoodie?” asks Kara Swisher.

“I never take off the hoodie.”

Walt and Kara and Mark

The first hoodies, they say, were manufactured by Champion Products in the 1930s. They were designed for athletes and labourers. It was the result of a technological advancement; Champion had developed ways to sew thicker underwear material. Before that, they’d mostly made knitwear. The first hoodies were sold to cold-storage warehouse workers and tree surgeons working in the hinterlands. Then they were sold to school athletes, sitting on the sidelines in inclement weather.

It is February 26, 2012 and George Zimmerman is on the phone with 911.

ZIMMERMAN: Hey we’ve had some break-ins in my neighborhood, and there’s a real suspicious guy, uh, [near] Retreat View Circle, um, the best address I can give you is 111 Retreat View Circle. This guy looks like he’s up to no good, or he’s on drugs or something. It’s raining and he’s just walking around, looking about.

DISPATCHER: OK, and this guy is he white, black, or Hispanic?

ZIMMERMAN: He looks black.

DISPATCHER: Did you see what he was wearing?

ZIMMERMAN: Yeah. A dark hoodie, like a grey hoodie…


Is there a style of garment more iconically late 20th/early 21st century than the hoodie? Worn by CEOs and street kids. Worn by teens who wanna look like cats and rappers who wanna look hard. Worn by punks and skaters and breakdancers and taggers and Occupy protesters and college kids and sports fans. Worn by Rocky Balboa and the Wu-Tang and Ted Kazynski and Paris Hilton and Trayvon Martin and Mark Zuckerberg.

“I never take off the hoodie,” Zuckerberg is saying.

“I know you don’t—what’s with that?” says Swisher, “There’s a group of women in the audience that wish you would.”

“No,” he says, then chuckles nervously.


There’s sporadic clapping from the audience.

“Whoa,” Zuckerberg says.

Walt Mossberg steps in.

“Alright,” he says.

“Alright,” says Swisher, “That’s OK.”

Mossberg moves on. “Can you explain what this instant personalization thing was and why you did it and what’s the value to your users?”

“Maybe I should take off the hoodie.”

The hoodie’s countercultural associations came later. In the 1970s, hoodies made their way into hip hop and skater culture. They kept breakdancers warm while they waited their turn to hit the floor. They served another purpose. Hoods are cheap instant anonymizers. They protected graffiti artists and skateboarders as they trespassed to perform their art. They protected muggers as they performed their art too.

It is December 25th, 2012 and the Zuckerberg family is gathered around the kitchen island. They’re playing with the new Facebook Poke app and everyone has exaggerated expressions of joy. Mark is in the background, watching over them, smiling. He’s wearing his hoodie.

A Zuckerberg Family Christmas

We know about this humanizing family moment because Mark’s sister Randi posted it to Facebook. She didn’t mean for it to become public but it did anyway. This was either because she didn’t understand her privacy settings or because Callie Schweitzer didn’t. Schweitzer reposted the photo to Twitter and Zuckerberg decided to air her privacy concerns publicly. 

ZUCKERBERG: @cschweitz not sure where you got this photo. I posted it to friends only on FB. You reposting it to Twitter is way uncool.

SCHWEITZER: @randizuckerberg I’m just your subscriber and this was top of my newsfeed. Genuinely sorry but it came up in my feed and seemed public.

ZUCKERBERG: @cschweitz I think you saw it b/c you’re friends w/my sister (tagged.) Thx for apology. I’m just sensitive to private photos becoming “news”

Later, Randi Zuckerberg posted advice on how to behave. “Digital etiquette: always ask permission before posting a friend’s photo publicly. It’s not about privacy settings, it’s about human decency.”

In time, the hoodie circled back around to high school. Fashion houses like Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger helped reintroduce the hoodie to the mainstream and completed its transformation into utterly messy signifier.

It’s that messiness—the fact that a hoodie is at once a mainstream garment and the clothing of counterculture—that results in the NBA banning their players from wearing the things while selling them to their fans.

Heat Neighborhood Watch Basketball

It is March 23, 2012 and Geraldo Rivera is having opinions on television. He’s decided that it’s an appropriate time to conduct a sartorial analysis of a tragedy.

RIVERA: …people look at you and they—what do they think? What’s the instant identification, what’s the instant association?

STEVE DOOCY (co-host): Uh-oh.

RIVERA: It’s those crime scene surveillance tapes. Every time you see someone sticking up a 7–11, the kid is wearing a hoodie. Every time you see a mugging on a surveillance camera or they get the old lady in the alcove, it’s a kid wearing a hoodie. You have to recognize that this whole stylizing yourself as a gangsta—you’re gonna be a gangsta wannabe? Well, people are going to perceive you as a menace. That’s what happens…

The hoodie is the clothing of uprisings, whether it’s planned events like Black Bloc actions or spontaneous self organization like the UK riots. People pour into the street and so do the police. People try to protect themselves with hoods and masks, while the police produce countless hours of surveillance footage.

Molotov Hoodie

It is January 13, 2013 and Mark Zuckerberg is promising a revolution. He’s on stage, wearing his hoodie. He seems comfortable. His colleague Tom Stocky is trying to help a hypothetical girl find a date. He runs a query and gets a list of men who are friends of friends and single. It’s a veritable cornucopia of potential men. He narrows them down to people in San Francisco. Then down to people in San Francisco who are from India. His hypothetical woman is sure to be pleased.

If you search Wikipedia for ‘Facebook Revolution’, you get a disambiguation page. Do you mean the 2009–2010 Iranian election protests? Do you mean the 2011 overthrow of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak? Do you mean the 2011 overthrow of Tunisian President Zine el abidine Ben Ali? Do you mean the protests against the “Bloody Summer” of 2010 in Kashmir?

Facebook is a place away from the prying eyes of the state, where people can organize and spread the word and coordinate their plans and foment rebellion. It is also a place into which the prying eyes of the state can readily peer. They observe and collate and report. Faced with dissent, the security aparatus of any country recognizes no digital etiquette, no human decency. 

Here are some queries you can run with Facebook’s new Graph Search. “Family members of people who live in China and like Falun Gong”. “Islamic men interested in men who live in Tehran, Iran”. You can further narrow these down to “Places where they’ve worked”.

June 2, 2010, on the stage with Swisher and Mossberg, Mark Zuckerberg takes off his hoodie. And then a surprise. For the first time, we see what’s on the inside.

Facebook Zuckerberg Illuminati Hoodie

It’s the company’s mission, rendered as arcane symbol. Three bi-directional arrows divide a circle. “Making the world open and connected,” it reads around the ring. “Graph, Platform, Stream,” read the arrows, reminders of Facebook’s three pillars. More than one commentator makes a joke about the Illuminati. Underneath the plain black exterior, it’s been there the whole time. A private message for himself and his team members.

It is May, 2008 and officers from Operation Leopard in Laindon, UK are filming a twelve year old boy. He’s wearing a hoodie. They’ve stopped him on the street—his history of nuisance behaviour has marked him out for special attention by the police’s Forward Intelligence Teams.

Ordinarily, the FIT officers would be gathering evidence at foxhunts, protests, and football matches but this project brings in your face surveillance to the streets of areas suffering from high crime. The idea is that if known problem elements know they are being constantly watched, they will behave.

“It creates an environment where those responsible for antisocial behaviour have no room for manœuvre and nowhere to hide, where the tables are turned on offenders so that those who harass our communities are themselves harried and harassed,” says then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.

Though they allow journalists from the Guardian to tag along on patrol with their own recording gear, the FIT officers insist that they not be filmed, for fear of retribution. At protests and other events, activists have started filming the officers back, an experience that one describes as “unnerving”.

Police Spotter Card

When they aren’t harassing teenagers, the FITs furnish intelligence to their fellow officers. This includes spotter cards, which are gridded who’s-whos of persons of interest; neatly arranged photographs of radicals and criminals and people who have done whatever it is that grabs the security aparatus’ attention.

Facebook takes its name from an object of the analog world, simply a collection of names and faces, neatly arranged in grids to help new college students get to know one another. It’s an archaic thing now, a relic from a time when tagged photos of individuals were not ubiquitously available, indexed and searchable.

People who know they’re being watched change their behaviour. In a world awash in surveillance devices, hoodies are an element of fashion driven by an architectural condition. They are a response to the constant presence of cameras overhead. People who don’t want to be watched wear them. People who want to be the kind of people who don’t want to be watched wear them. People who want to look like the kind of people who don’t want to be watched wear them.

It is difficult to imagine a more suitable uniform for the notoriously private CEO of a company dedicated to expanding our ideas of what should be public.

June 2, 2010, Zuckerberg, hoodie removed, begins answering Mossberg’s question.

Walt, Kara, and Mark at D8 (screen grab)
Hoodies (modified Google image search)
A Zuckerberg Family Christmas (as leaked)
The Miami Heat in hoodies in honour of Trayvon Martin (as released)
Molotov hoodie (by antitezo)
The interior of Zuckerberg’s hoodie (screen grab)
A FIT spotter card (as leaked)

A clip of the hoodie incident at D8
All Things D’s complete video of Zuckerberg at D8
New York Times’ history of the hoodie
Rolling Stone’s history of the hoodie
Screenshots of Randi Zuckerberg’s exchange with Callie Schweitzer
How the Miami Heat’s Trayvon Martin tribute relates to the NBA’s dress code
Video and transcript of Geraldo Rivera’s remarks
Coverage of Facebook launching Graph Search
Wikipedia’s Facebook Revolution disambiguation page
A collection of disturbing Facebook Graph searches
The BBC on a 2005 crackdown on youths in hoodies
The Guardian tags along with a FIT
Wikipedia article on Forward Intelligence Teams
The Guardian reveals police spotter cards
Chris Petit considers the UK’s régime of CCTVs