Two Iowa natives pioneer Humanize my Hoodie campaign

What began as a hashtag to destigmatize hoodies has grown into a global movement, including an appearance at New York Fashion Week and nationwide ally workshops.



Andre Wright (left) and Jason Sole (right).

This piece was originally published in the fall 2020 edition of NURU, a publication by the Unity Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists at the University of Iowa. This work is available to The Daily Iowan through a content sharing partnership between NABJ and the DI. To learn more about NABJ’s NURU, email co-editors Nichole Shaw and Grant Glover.

When dynamic duo Andre Wright and Jason Sole first met up on the basketball courts in Waterloo, Iowa, back in 1994, they had no idea that their teamwork would ignite radical change both on and off the court. The two went their separate ways over the years; Wright pursued his fashion aspirations through designing and launching his own brands, while formerly incarcerated Sole used his voice and experience to transform the world of academia. A few years down the line, the two rekindled their friendship, after Sole created a Facebook post, birthing the #Humanizemyhoodie hashtag.

The hashtag was created to pay homage to teenager Trayvon Martin, who was fatally killed in his hoodie.  As a tribute to Martin, Sole, now a college professor at Hamline University pledged to wear a hoodie to class every day for a semester. By doing so, Sole hoped for faculty, staff, and students to see the garment in direct contrast to what many others viewed as a threat. Through Wright’s passion for design and fashion and Sole’s aspirations for racial activism, the two birthed what we know today to be the Humanize My Hoodie campaign.

What started as a hashtag, transformed into a design and is now considered a global movement, and Humanize My Hoodie (HMH) has continued to spark change since its conception on Sept. 9. The timeline from Sole’s Facebook post to the first production of hoodies was less than two weeks, creators explained. The hoodies were a hit as family, friends, and supporters buoyed the brand. Both Wright and Sole stayed true to their roots and central purpose—even when their project gained national traction.

After a year of hoodie sales, both Wright and Sole decided it was time to take it up-a-notch by creating national ally workshops. These workshops provide a comprehensive course on the Humanize My Hoodie campaign’s approach to preventing racist attacks on Black people, Indigenous people, and other people of color. These workshops allude to all individuals, however, they are pertinent to professionals in a wide array of backgrounds, such as public health, mental health, juvenile justice, criminal justice, education, higher education, foster care and more. Workshop facilitators educate by using historical analysis, case law, theory and application opportunities, lectures, transformative assignments and self-care breaks to maximize learning potential.

Jason Sole (left) and Andre Wright (right). (Contributed)

The two did not stop here, as emphasizing the virtuosity and art behind the brand was also important to them. Originally, the photos HMH had taken were strictly for marketing purposes. However, Wright and Sole saw fit that they turn them into an art exhibit. Their first art show was in the Saint Paul Public Library in Minneapolis. Eventually, the two strategically combined the art exhibits and ally training to showcase all the work HMH was doing in a central location. As time went on, and the impact of HMH continued to grow, the team decided to take its movement to New York Fashion Week in September 2019.

“We had a number of supporters coming from Minnesota and Iowa,” Wright said. “It was the first time many of those people had ever been to a fashion show, New York City, or even been on an airplane.”

In true HMH fashion, the movement continued to grow by producing a book (HMH Book) and documentary (HMH Documentary) in December 2019.  The book release was perfectly timed for the Essence Summit that year in Atlanta, Georgia, Stole explained.  While there, the two made many connections, including with Jameel Spencer, former Rocawear Chief Marketing Officer, who extolled their writings. The two later traveled to Phoenix, where they held two sold-out screenings of their documentary and gained traction globally.

Using a multitude of different designs dating back to ancient Greece and Rome, HMH has expanded its work over the past three years through multiple art exhibitions, workshops, a novel, documentary, and New York Fashion Week. Through it all, Sole and Wright discovered how to create something bigger than the two of them.