A short history of the sweatshirt

When it comes to timeless fashion, the humble sweatshirt is a garment that will never lose its appeal.

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A staple part of any winter capsule wardrobe, the sweatshirt is a garment that has evolved, changed and reinvented itself over the years, but where did the sweatshirt begin?

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The first sweatshirt

The first sweatshirt was invented by Benjamin Russell – a football player – in 1926. The purpose was to create a warm and comfortable garment to wear during sports practice. Tired of the itchy wool jerseys that were in fashion at the time, Russell opted for softer, cooler cotton fabrics that were easy to move in, and the sweatshirt was born. In its original guise, it was defined as a collarless long-sleeved pullover made from soft, stretchy fabric; today, it has evolved thanks to brands such as Lyle & Scott sweatshirts.

Exercise experts

The beauty of cotton as a material is that it helps to regulate your temperature, keeping you cool and also absorbing sweat during exercise. Sweatpants soon became the next addition to the sweatshirt, creating the original co-ord or what was known at the time as a jogging suit. They possessed everything an athlete needed to stay warm and be able to move freely during exercise and it is, therefore, unsurprising that they became commonplace garments on football fields, athletics teams and within group sports settings at colleges during the 20th century.

Advertising and team spirit

It was within university institutions that the concept of printing badges, motifs and campus names onto sweatshirts to induce school pride and team spirit was born; in turn, this created endless potential for advertisers to use the medium of T-shirt and sweatshirt printing to get their brands out there. This was particularly successful during the 1970s when the ‘slogan’ tee craze achieved global popularity. Major brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch and Lyle & Scott sweatshirts were not only effortlessly cool but also practical for everyday wear.

Social groups

As the century drew to a close, other social groups adopted the sweatshirt, each bringing with it their own brand of cool. For surfers, the moisture-wicking warm material made it an ideal garment for coming out of the water and popular surfer brands such as Quicksilver were born.

Skateboarders brought street appeal to the oversized effortless nature of the sweatshirt and wore it with catchy slogans or garish designs.

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