Philly Man Angers New Yorkers With No-Hoodies Signs

Joe Stark says he's sold thousands of them.


Ah, the hoodie.What was once just a sweatshirt with a hood is now a lightning rod of racial unpleasantries thanks to the 2012 shooting of a hoodied Trayvon Martin in Florida. Who can forget Geraldo Rivera going on Fox News to implore the “black and Latino youths” of the world to STOP WEARING HOODIES? Hoodies were just as responsible for Martin’s death as was the shooter, George Zimmerman, Rivera argued. He was forced to apologize soon thereafter.

But you’ll get no apologies from Philadelphia’s Joe Stark, who is on a mission to put one of his no-hoodies signs in every store in every major city on the East Coast.


That’s the text on the thousands of signs that Stark says he has already distributed, selling most of them for $10 each. He drives from his home in Mount Airy to other neighborhoods in Philadelphia and to Baltimore and New York City, going door-to-door to bodegas, pizzerias and delis with his signs in hand.

Stark, who is 56, started in Philadelphia about a year ago and says he’s never heard one complaint. But when he recently brought the signs to Harlem in New York City, things were a bit different. Many residents found the signs offensive, as reported by earlier this week.

One such resident is filmmaker Andrew Padilla, a native of East Harlem who gives tours of the barrio. Padilla first saw the signs a couple of weeks ago as he was returning from a local meeting with organizers from Ferguson.

“I left that meeting, and it put things like Trayvon in my head,” Padilla remembers. “And then I saw the sign that said no hoodies. It’s so insensitive and counter-productive, but unfortunately it makes perfect sense given the narrative we’ve seen around people of color.”

Padilla says that after he tweeted a photo of one of the signs in question, he heard from people in other neighborhoods in New York saying that they had seen the signs as well.

“Think about the message that this sends to hardworking, honest people who, on a slightly cold fall day, choose to wear a hoodie,” he says. “Let’s get rid of Brooks Brothers suits, because there’s a disproportionate number of people who commit financial crimes wearing Brooks Brothers suits, people who rocked our economic system to its core. It’s mind boggling.”

But Stark, who is black, doesn’t understand what all the fuss is about.

“Listen, a lot of stores are getting robbed and people are getting hurt,” he points out. “And a lot of these guys are wearing hoodies. It’s not a racial thing. I’m black! It’s like when you go into your mother’s house, you take your hat off. And so we’re asking you that when you go into a store, you don’t wear a hoodie. It’s that simple.”

Stark says he has no plans to back down, but he may make some changes.

“I’m gonna tweak the sign a bit,” he says. “We’re going to put the word ‘please’ in. I don’t think that is necessary, but…”

(Photo courtesy Andrew Padilla.)

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