About 1925 the word sweatshirt emerged to describe the clothing worn by athletes while warming up, before sporting events or cooling down afterwards. The earliest sweatshirts were utilitarian gray pullovers, manufactured by the Feinbloom brothers who founded the Knickerbocker Knitting Company in the USA in 1919, to knit substantial sweaters.
The company is now known as Champion Products and has had a long history of innovation in casual wear. It pioneered a heavy-duty cotton fabric, later patented as reverse-weave, and used to manufacture sweatshirts for athletes (rather than fashion).
‘Champion’ sweatshirts were only the earliest of several industry innovations including the first cotton football jerseys, the first hooded sweatshirts (originally worn on the sidelines during games), the first reversible T-shirts (for the American Navy during World War II), the first breathable mesh shirts and shorts, the first lined nylon-shell jackets, and the first comfortable, supportive jogging bra for women. This sports bra, which evolved into the Jogbra, was originally designed by two women joggers who sewed men’s athletic supporters together to wear while running! It went on sale in 1977 and has been a bestseller ever since.
The craze for sporting university names on sweats started in the1960s and is still going strong around the world, but by the 1970s the T-shirt slogan craze had began to show up on sweatshirts too – now a version of the sweatshirt without a bottom band or cuffs is the clothing of choice for skateboarders too. Sweatshirt girls photograph by genvessel, used under a creative commons attribution licence