What Are You Wearing? | Miscellany | Chicago Reader

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What Are You Wearing?

Army of One


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Terry Sweeten estimates that his daily uniform weighs between 25 and 30 pounds. His accessories include a nightstick he fashioned from the leg of a table and a chain in case he finds himself surrounded by enemies: "I can swing it around and say, 'Get back off me, give me ten feet,'" he says. He also wears three belt buckles, one in the shape of a butterfly. "I'm like Muhammad Ali. 'I float like a butterfly, sting like a bee,'" he rhymes. "When it comes to any army, they can't mess with me."

Sweeten, who grew up in Englewood with a father in the army, usually spends his days around Uptown and Edgewater on "neighborhood patrol." He says he's been dressing in some form of his present uniform for several years and that the toy gun he carries on his hip has attracted unwanted attention from police on only two occasions: "The police know me, and I know them." His religious faith is reflected in the pendants on his chain necklace--Noah's ark, Jesus with a crown of thorns, and a boy praying on his knees. "Then I got this Tinker Bell," Sweeten says, holding out a fairy pendant. "She represents sex." But his uniform is as practical as it is symbolic. "I'm very poor," he says, "and it always looks presentable."

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Tori Marlan.

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