Hoodies. A folk devil. Whether you hug one or think that the kangaroo pouch pocket is concealing a big old Rambo inside, a pullover hooded sweatshirt means contrasting things to a lot of different people.
Banned in some quarters of our fair to middling island, the attitudes towards this humble garment differ across the World and thankfully, opinions have begun to swing in favour of our hooded sweatshirt friend. Its history is as fitting as you’d expect for an item of clothing that is fully utilitarian in it modern day reach. Created in the 1930s by Champion, originally known as The Knickerbocker Knitting Company, to defend labourers against the freezing cold warehouses in New York, it’s interesting to think that a garment most commonly associated with being sportswear started life as a form of workwear.
Hoodies later went on to be adopted by students at Ivy League universities as the colleges names were proudly strewn across the front, hence starting the Worlds predisposition to bold labels to assert a status over others. These early students adapted their simple college sweats by stitching a piece of contrasting coloured cotton around the neck line to form a hood and a pouch at the front to make a pocket, adapting a sweatshirt into a home grown hoodie.
Academia couldn’t hold on to the hoodie forever though, as a new folk hero by the name of Rocky Balboa ran through the streets of Philadelphia, reclaiming the much travelled sweat for the working classes.
This connotation didn’t always help the hoodie, as the middle class media began to demonise the wearers as thugs and petty criminals, thus resulting in city wide bans of anything remotely sportswear related. Prats like David Cameron and his governments backing of such schemes carried on for years, and an entire generation grew up with classist and frankly, damaging viewpoints of anyone working class in a hoodie.
In more recent times, the hoodie has had another overhaul, as its versatility has been recognised and celebrated, mere years after being so chastised and almost canonised in the process. Maybe through association of tech billionaires from Silicon Valley to Silicon Roundabout, or maybe just because the hoodies casual nature helps loosen up any outfits stiffness, but the hoodie is showing no signs of going anywhere anytime soon.
A favourite of men and women of all ages recently has been to use the hoodie as a layering tool. Long used by US construction workers since its initial inception and in the cold north of cities like Detroit and Boston, brands like Carhartt have become staples as work attire with the hoodie perched snugly beneath canvas and plaid jackets as lumberjacks and dockhands alike know the power of a hood pulled tightly over the ears.
The 2000s saw the layering go up a tier, as smarter coats topped off the hoodie, for example the look underneath a camel coloured coat is a go-to in cities from Toronto to Tokyo, and as premium hoodies are now made in merino wool and cashmere, the look doesn’t need to feel sloppy or relaxed.
With my tendency to pair a hoodie under an overcoat in my continual quest of classy comfort, I often find myself looking more like a present day Jedi which, I can’t say I mind too much. As the originators, it’s nice to see Champion still make a mean hoodie which is true to the original, whilst adaptations over the decades have improved the design. Their reverse weave cotton bad boys are hardwearing and due to their patented material, reduce shrinkage which, as hoodies tend to be abused quite a bit, is a win win. As I mentioned earlier, Carhartt WIP Chase Hoodie is cosy and available in a vast array of colours to suit all pursuits. And for a streetwear zip jacket alternative to the pullover, look no further than Crama, who do a couple of great pieces that feature back designs that let everyone know Crama has your back. For the higher end specimen whilst keeping true to the original sportswear vibes, Sunspel offer some great versions, but Edwin’s Made In Japan raglan sleeve hoodies are as close to contentment in a 100% cotton as you can get.
Written by #StylistSteve whose men’s styling, London based personal shopping and consultancy advice can be sought by following @StylistSteve on Instagram