The hoodie, as it has come to be known in popular culture, is arguably one of the most comfortable articles of clothing ever stitched together. Hoodies are ideal for those fall days when it’s not quite cold enough to don a full-on jacket. They are also great for when you want to snuggle under the covers and relax in the grandest of fashions. They are comfortable, cool, cozy, and casual all wrapped in one, and are worn and adored by adults and kids alike. The hoodie’s undeniably immense presence in society prompted us to take a deep dive into the history of just how it came to be.
The hoodie’s history goes way back, its earliest origins can be traced to monks who lived in medieval Europe between the 5th and 15th centuries. The hoodies of that day, however, looked nothing like those worn in modern times. The monks wore robes that had hood pieces attached at the top known as cowls.
It is thought that the cowls on those ancient monks’ tunics served little more than decorative or symbolic purpose, but in the 1600s that would change. It was during this time that outdoor laborers known as Chaperons began wearing garments with hood pieces in order to offer them some protection from harsh weather. Hoods being used for protection against the elements is a linear theme in this overall history of the hoodie.
NEW YORK WINTERS
Being that the hoodie is just a simple modification done to a sweatshirt, the hoodie could not exist in its modern iteration unless the sweatshirt itself existed. The credit for the creation of the very first sweatshirt goes to Russel Athletics. Russel Athletics first introduced the sweatshirt in the 1920s as a more comfortable (and breathable) alternative for athletes who wore wool jerseys when they played football.
About a decade later in the 1930s, the sportswear company Champion decided to add a hood to the sweatshirt. They marketed the modified product to tradesmen who worked in frigid temperatures. In particular, they sold their hoodies to warehouse workers in upstate New York who had to endure the region’s frigid winters. The laborers wore the garments under their jackets which ultimately served to help keep them better insulated from the bitter cold.
SAY THANKS TO SLY
For decades since the introduction of the hoodie in its modern form, they were worn by workers looking to keep warm or students looking for comfortable, loose-fitting clothing to wear for gym class. Hoodies were not perceived as fashionable or cool, that is until 1976. That was the year that Sylvester Stallone introduced the world to Rocky Balboa. That iconic scene during the movie when Rocky was training to face off against his rival Apollo Creed and running up and down the stairs wearing a hooded sweatshirt is what elevated the hoodie to the iconic status it enjoys today. Suddenly, the hoodie became symbolic of the underdog beating the odds.
COMFORTABLE BUT CONTROVERSIAL
Despite Rocky (1976) helping to take the hoodie to new heights, the hoodie also came to be associated with other things, too, not all of them good. The late ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s saw the rise of graffiti artists and hip-hop culture. The hoodie became the choice article of clothing for individuals who partook in those activities.
Unfortunately, public misconceptions about those individuals led the hoodie to become synonymous with negative connotations that arose out of ill-deserved stereotypes. Simply put, the public mistook individuals who sang hip-hop or drew graffiti for being criminals. In some cases, those stereotypes led to hoodies being outright banned in some sections of the world. For instance, the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent, England enforced an all-out prohibition of hoodies at its stores in 2005.
Additionally, many places in Australia still associate the hoodie with criminal activity and have been known to ask people to leave the premises for even walking into a certain district while wearing one. Sadder still, is that so many individuals have lost their lives over these unwarranted misconceptions. One of the most prominent cases of injustice involving a hoodie in the United States was the 2012 death of Trayvon Martin.
THE HOODIE TODAY
All of the purported pervasive negativity surrounding the hoodie, however, did not stop it from eventually becoming and staying as go-to casual fashion amongst a slew of age groups, particularly in the United States. In fact, the hoodie’s history of it being so embroiled with both controversy and praise is indicative of how much a part of popular culture the simple garment has evolved to become. University students proudly display their institutions on hoodies, companies like Nike and Adidas stamp their brand logos on hoodies, and even grandmas and grandpas proudly wear hoodies with art depicting their grandchildren. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, the hoodie’s immense societal presence proves that the comfortable articles of clothing are here to stay.