While sweatshirts (or hoodies) and sweaters serve basically the same utilitarian function—to keep us warm—they are quite different in their construction and style. A sweatshirt or casual pullover is usually manufactured from cotton or a cotton/poly blend with an outer facing smooth knit and a brushed fleecy inside, often called “sweatshirt material.” A sweater, on the other hand, is a more traditional garment, often knitted from wool or other natural fibers. Sweatshirts are almost always casual, while a sweater can be dressed up for many occasions.
Russell Athletic claims credit for the invention of the sweatshirt as an alternative to the wool jerseys worn by football players, which could be itchy. So, in the 1920s, they introduced an all-cotton jersey, which was quickly adopted by teams across the nation. Champion, known at first as Knickerbocker Knitting Company, innovated on the design in the 1930s by adding a hood to the traditional crewneck design, and the “hoodie” was born. While the first sweatshirts were considered athletic wear, the style soon crept its way into fashion, and has since become a mainstay in the American wardrobe, and a cultural icon.
Sweatshirts and pullovers started out pretty basic—a long sleeve crewneck style that was pulled on over the head. Today, there are many variations on the original design. We see hooded, zip front, half-zip, sleeveless, short sleeve, front pocket, side pocket, collared, tunic, cropped, and embellished sweatshirts.
Don’t let the basic nature of the sweatshirt fool you into thinking it’s just for sports. Look for embellished or patterned sweatshirts, or style it up with an unexpected shoe and designer handbag. You only need look to celebrity style to know that a hoodie or pullover can make a major fashion statement.