In 1926 Benjamin Russell Jr., a quarterback for the Alabama Crimson Tide Football team, was tired of the constant chafing and itching caused by their wool football uniforms. Russell Jr. worked with his father, who owned a manufacturing company, to come up with a better option. At the time, Russell Manufacturing Company made garments for women’s and children’s knit shirts and undergarments.
Knowing the durability and comfort of cotton they created a new practice jersey that was a modification of a ladies’ union suit top from thick cotton that was produced throughout the factory. These loose, collarless pullovers – produced from women’s undergarments to be used as men’s football jerseys – would go on to become an iconic sweatshirt. Russell went on to create a new division of his factory, focusing solely on the production of sweatshirts in the Russell Athletic mills in 1930. Eventually, Russell Athletic mills became Russell Athletic co.
The sweatshirt’s potential as a portable advertising tool was discovered in the 1960s when U.S. universities began printing their names on the medium. For students and parents alike, university names on sweatshirts became the preferred casual attire for exhibiting school pride. The sweatshirt, along with the T-shirt, provided a cheap and effective way of disseminating information on a mass scale. The T-shirt slogan fad of the seventies inevitably translated to sweatshirts. Recognizing the relative simplicity of customization and the power of clever graphics combined with catchphrases, sweatshirts became a vehicle for personal expression for both the designer and the person wearing them.
Sweatshirts are arguably a type of sweater, but made of a fabric and cut similar to sweatpants. A sweatshirt worn with sweatpants forms a sweatsuit a kind of exercise clothing designed to raise the core body temperature and cause perspiration in order to lose body weight before a weigh in for a weight divided sport. It is fashioned out of a thick, usually cotton jersey material. Sweatshirts are also almost exclusively casual attire and not dressy as some other sweaters may be. Sweatshirts may or may not have a hood, and may or may not have a zipper. A sweatshirt with a hood is now usually referred to as a hoodie, although more formal media still use the term “hooded sweatshirt”.