A Brief Exploration of the Evolution of the Hoodie

Hoodie

Do you want to work out in wool, practice your tennis swing wearing a scarf, or watch the sunrise on a windy beach with a ball cap that keeps flying off your head?

Alabama Football 1892
Wool athletic wear didn’t smell nice and took forever to dry when washed. What’s a footballer to do?

These were common occurrences at the start of the 20th Century. Still, thanks to two American pioneers and a surprisingly progressive view on cross-dressing, we have all been blessed with the sweatshirt and hoodie sweatshirt – hoodie – to make outdoor living much more livable.

First, stop at the University of Alabama. A young footballer for the Crimson Tide just so happens to be the son of a clothing manufacturer. At the time, Bennie’s father, Benjamin Russell, made material in his factory in undergarments for women and children.

Now, athletic gear of the day – this was the early 1920s – was typical of wool. Russells proposed a modification of a ladies’ union-suit top from the thick cotton the factory produced. They first created loose, collarless pullovers for the Tide without concern for the material origins of women’s undergarments. Within a decade, Russell had created a new factory division to manufacture “sweatshirts.”

Benjamin Russell Invents the Champion Sweatshirt Hoodies

1931 Hoodies
Benjamin Russell invented the sweatshirt at the behest of his athlete son, which quickly became a necessary article of athletic clothing.

Russell was not alone in sweatshirts, but Champion took them further. A division of the Knickerbocker Knitting Company called Champion Products got into the game, making a breakthrough that made it easy for school letters to be printed on the fabric. It is Champion that claims the manufacture of the first hooded sweatshirts.

Russell was not alone in sweatshirts, but Champion took them further. A division of the Knickerbocker Knitting Company called Champion Products got into the game, making a breakthrough that made it easy for school letters to be printed on the fabric. It is Champion that claims the manufacture of the first hooded sweatshirts.

The Great Escape
Steve McQueen

In upstate New York, factory and lumber workers had adopted the sweatshirt to keep warm during the workday. And the sweatshirt had made its way onto the sidelines as good gear for coaches and staff. Champion added a simple hood to the sweatshirt design to provide that extra warmth and convenience, and the hoodie was born.

Rocky Balboa and his famous Hoodie

First sweeping through high school and college track teams and football programs and later catching the attention of Hollywood, the music industry, and skateboard culture, the hooded sweatshirt has undoubtedly captured the attention of American culture since its invention. It has been transformed from a dynamic workhorse to a popular, at times maligned, yet ubiquitous and valuable garment.

rocky balboa hoodie
Rocky runs up the Art Museum steps.

Other Famous Hoodie-Wearing People

  • Mark Zuckerberg
  • Trevon Martin
  • Eminem

The First Hoodie Supplier in Seattle is Northwest Custom Apparel

Northwest Custom Apparel is the oldest and first supplier of custom-printed hoodies in Seattle and Tacoma. Since 1977 their custom hoodies have been seen on celebrities, pro athletes, and politicians throughout Washington State. You may see Bill Gates wearing a custom hoodie on the Microsoft Campus.