Clothing and fashion do not always make a lot of sense. For example, no one has yet been able to successfully justify the T-shirt dress. That notwithstanding, people have a lot of unanswered questions when it comes to certain articles of clothing. For example, are sweatshirts and hoodies the same thing? The answer depends on who you ask.
One thing we do know for sure is that the sweatshirt predates the hoodie. However, it’s not by much; there are only a few years difference between the two. As for classifying them in terms of the type of clothing they are, there is a lot of room for interpretation.
The Original Sweatshirt
The creation of the original sweatshirt is often credited to the Russell Manufacturing Company in the 1920s. Russell Manufacturing would eventually go on to be renamed the Russell Athletic Company. Regardless, the company owner’s son, Benjamin Russell Jr., was an Alabama Crimson Tide football player who found his wool jersey quite uncomfortable. He worked with his father to come up with what would eventually morph into the modern sweatshirt.
Key to the sweatshirt’s comfort is the soft cotton material from which it is made. Between the cotton and a very tight weave, you get a material that is easy on the skin. Cotton also absorbs perspiration quite well. Hence, the name ‘sweatshirt’. It was the ideal article of clothing for athletes who needed a combination of warmth, protection, and durability.
Seatshirts in the 60s
Sweatshirts remained largely the domain of athletes through the Great Depression, World War II, and the 1950s postwar era. By the 1960s, they had become popular as urban streetwear. They eventually became daily wear for both urban dwellers and suburbanites alike.
As for the hoodie, it existed back then as well. It just wasn’t called the hoodie. It was called a hooded sweatshirt. The hoodie was still a pullover garment made of soft cotton and loosely fitting. But unlike a typical crewneck sweatshirt worn by an athlete, the hoodie also had an added feature: a front pocket.
By the 1970s, sweatshirts and hoodies had evolved to the point of offering the zipper option. Consumers could still buy the pullover sweatshirts they loved, but models with front zippers were also available. That may have created the dividing line between sweatshirt and hoodie.
Pullover or Zipper
Plurawl is a New York-based clothing brand targeting the LatinX audience. If you go on their website, you will notice that all their LatinX sweatshirts are pullover garments. But they are not the only ones. Most clothing brands that sell sweatshirts only classify their pullover garments as such.
On the other hand, hoodies can be made as either pullovers or zipper garments. There is probably nothing more to it than a style preference, but have you ever seen a non-hooded sweatshirt with a zipper?
Perhaps what designates a garment as a true hoodie is the combination of the hood and zipper in a single garment. Without the hood, a sweatshirt definitely can be a hoodie. But without the zipper, is the hoodie just a hooded sweatshirt? Do you need both to have a genuine hoodie?
It Doesn’t Really Matter
Fortunately, it doesn’t really matter what word you use. What matters is that you get the piece of clothing you’re after. Whether you prefer hoods, zippers, or neither, you have plenty of choices in sweatshirts, hooded sweatshirts, and hoodies. As for the original Russell sweatshirt, it was a pullover garment intended to replace uncomfortable wool jerseys. The father and son Russell team definitely hit a home run with their original sweatshirt.