Whenever there’s a series/movies/ad/article related to cybersecurity, more often than not, the attacker (inappropriately called a "hacker") will be depicted as a black/dark coloured-sweater hooded person, usually male, with their face hidden by the hood’s shadow or a mask.

Example: A stereotypical hooded hacker

What is the first appearance of that cliché (because it is one) in fiction?

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    I'm not sure this is actually a trope. The reason the figure is disguised is usually to hide the information from the audience.
    – Paulie_D
    Nov 13, 2023 at 15:20
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    From my point of view, it’s 100% a trope: hiding the information is fine, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, it’s through a hooded sweater. Not a cowboy hat. Not a construction yard helmet. Not a cap. It’s always a hooded sweater (always black/dark coloured, too). To the point that in the IT sector, people actually joke about, avoid or embrace wearing such clothing because of that trope.
    – breversa
    Nov 13, 2023 at 15:31
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    What movie or TV show is the example image taken from? Can you cite any other examples, at least by name (images not all necessary)? Do you know the oldest example that you personally are aware of? I suspect there’s a larger hoodie=bad guy trope that is related here. Nov 14, 2023 at 12:56
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    @ToddWilcox : this image is free online AFAIK and seems not to be from a show
    – OldPadawan
    Nov 14, 2023 at 14:04
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    My guess would be that the trope just generally comes from hooded/veiled figures in literature, with fantasy & mystery (Gothic, Crime, Espionage) often being the genres that use it. The hooded "hacker" is *probably just the sci-fi version of this. The idea would be to create mystery, suspense, and/or to donate something potentially nefarious...But where it's first seen, not sure. I feel like the 90's is where we begin to see techies, hackers, and cyber punks on screen, but maybe there is something earlier? Nov 14, 2023 at 16:01

1 Answer 1


It all went down (south?) from cyberpunk look1 to facebook look2.

I believe that the cliché of the youngster anonymized by his hoodie is just because it's easy to picture the "underworld" (unknown to many many people) with someone you can't see. It's mysterious, and therefore, scary. The trope basically says that hackers (in movies, often the bad guys, grey or black hat, crackers...) are online "gangsters", mostly teenagers. They hide behind a screen with a pseudo, and internet is their anonymity. You know they're here, but can't see them. Like in your picture, you don't see the person, but you know there's someone hidden. Only the hoodie (or a mask like V)can get that result.

But it came from the style computer guys/hackers were wearing, and stopped where the image would be perfect for the intended goal (cool/unknown/scary : pick one or many). They could have used the cyberpunk cliché too (as people would probably see them as outsiders or even outlaws, like bikers sometimes). But, at that time (when internet and cybersecurity became a topic and concern), it was too late for that, because fashion had evolved, and it was hoodie and sweater time. In 1983 War Games, Matthew Broderick wears a sweater(1) with a hood, it might have been the first, and he influenced a lot of people.

In the eighties, first hackers were mostly young folks wearing casual clothes of their time. Not fashion victims, just kids with regular clothes. Some of them, specialists, working in big companies, probably wore some "business clothes" in their office, but cybersecurity often being one thing ahead of its time, it was the "kids" casual wear that prevailed, because they were the ones eagerly using and playing with this new technology.

  1. From CNN - Why do hackers always wear hoodies? Behind the stereotype:

In the '80s and early '90s, hackers looked more like cyberpunks, according to Marc Rogers, cybersecurity expert and technical advisor on the show "Mr. Robot." A feature called "R.U. a Cyberpunk?" in a 1993 edition of Mondo 2000 magazine showed them wearing heavy boots, leather jackets and fingerless gloves.

But around the time the 1995 film Hackers came out, the stereotype began to shift, and it showed hackers as young, skateboarding rule-breakers.

"That cyberpunk is actually not a bad portrayal of a hacker. But media stepped in with Hackers, and overwrote it," said Rogers, who is head of information security and IT at Cloudflare. "That image faded out, and the skateboarding hoodie kid faded in."

"Leather jackets, spikes, boots, all of that kind of stuff is [still] pretty normal," he said. "The people who started showing up with dyed hair and skateboards were post-Hackers. They're the kind of the people who saw the film, they decided they want to be a hacker, so they took the image from the film. And it's owned that whole genre."

  1. From The Atlantic - Why Mark Zuckerberg Needs His Hoodie

Mark Zuckerberg has committed a big business-fashion faux-pas, say the very fashionable suits of Wall Street, who are chastising the nerd-turned-billionaire for wearing his hoodie on day one of his big IPO road-show.

The hoodie, they argue, shows his immaturity and lack of seriousness. It's disrespectful! Zuckerberg's defenders have countered back with a resounding "who cares." This is an IPO roadshow, not the Oscars, one techie named Wess Miller tweeted. But actually we think this hoodie matters very much. We doubt Zuckerberg can succeed without it. To remove it would symbolically kill him and since he is Facebook both financially (he has set himself up to own a majority stake) and spiritually (his hacker way and connecting the world philosophy drives the company forward) a Zuckerberg- and hoodie-less Facebook would lack all that "growth potential" investors want to know more about.

Zuckerberg didn't get where he is today by trading in his signature look for something that looks more CEO friendly. He built the Facebook magic wearing a hoodie -- at least according to The Social Network. At the very least he did it in a place where hoodies are fashion-appropriate. Since then he has worn the hoodie. And also since then, Facebook has grown and he's made lots of money.

War Games - Matthew Broderick wearing a sweater with a hood

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  • 2
    "Does Matthew Broderick wear the hood while hacking, at least at some point?": not that I remember, no. But wearing it seemed a good starting point to me.
    – OldPadawan
    Nov 14, 2023 at 16:30
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    I agree, and I think your answer is a good starting point, but the 'hoodedness' of it all is nowhere to be found.
    – Joachim
    Nov 14, 2023 at 16:33
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    I confess I’ve never watched Wargames nor Hackers, but that Matthew Broderick fellow wearing a hoodie (even with the hood down) does indeed appear like a good starting point, as it correlates "computers" with "hoodie". Need a mysterious/scary computer person in your fiction work? Just have someone wear a hoodie, raise the hood over the head and voilà! your character is immediately identifiable. :-)
    – breversa
    Nov 15, 2023 at 13:04
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    @breversa - you do need to watch War Games. It's very [very, very] dated now, but it did introduce a lot of 'what computers do' for the totally uninitiated, and gave us the "hacker's backdoor" vs "only I can get in" trope that hung on in pop/movie culture for a long time [through Jurassic Park & onwards]. It's also actually a really good movie. ET meets Mr Robot, in trope if not theme.
    – Tetsujin
    Nov 16, 2023 at 19:20
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    @Tetsujin & OldPadawan : thanks to your replies and recommendations, I finally watched WarGames for the first time last night. 😉 The last part in NORAD may indeed well be the origin of the hoodied hacker, although not yet the hooded hacker. 🙂
    – breversa
    Nov 19, 2023 at 9:16

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