A History of Hoodies: A Decade-by-Decade Look

Did you know that the hoodie, which is now a staple in most Americans’ closets, was designed with athletes and manual laborers in mind? While the hoodie has been around for only 80 years or so, it has made a lasting impression on American culture.  From its conception, and throughout the decades that followed, people have worn hoodies for every reason from simply trying to stay warm to demonstrating a political standing.

While hoodies may give a nostalgic feeling for our high school or undergrad years, it has made its way to the fashion forefront. Now, sweatshirts deliver the same utilitarian effect for our wardrobe as denim does. Adults, teens, and kids all wear sweatshirts. Hoodies are dressed up, dressed down, and boast everything from your favorite sports team to your newest street-style brand. It’s safe to say the hoodie is here to stay.


Champion Products, which started as the Knickerbocker Knitting Company, is credited with producing the first sweatshirt in 1919. However, it wasn’t until the 1930s until the sweatshirt was ready for the general market. In 1934, the hood was added to better help laborers and athletes protect themselves from the elements.

The sweatshirt was the answer to solving the issue of uncomfortable wool jerseys for football players, and employees who worked in cold conditions needed more warmth other than their long underwear. Soon, the hoodie made its way into mainstream fashion, when presumably high school and university athletes gave their girlfriends their hoodies to wear. Steadily throughout the next couple of decades, sweatshirts became a popular clothing option for teens and young adults.


In the mid-Seventies, the hoodie had its first major transformation, and this was also the time the hoodie became a cultural symbol. New York City in around 1974 – 1976 was a huge source for emerging street cultures. Graffiti and hip hop artists and DJs came onto the scene, and all brought hoodies into the mainstream.

Another sub-culture group that changed the way hoodies were worn and looked at was the skateboarding world. This was at a time when skateboarding was reinvented, and the sport became much more than just rolling along sidewalks. With its new moves came a certain attitude and style.

Another culturally significant impact the hoodie had on America came with the 1976 release of the now-classic film, Rocky. Sylvester Stallone’s classic gray hoodie became a symbol for hard work.


The hoodie found its place in high fashion during the eighties when Norma Kamali created her Sweatshirt Collection. This was revolutionary for the fashion industry, and it shifted fashionistas’ perceptions of everyday fabrics and garments in high-end designs.


By the 2000s, the hoodie had its place in American culture. It was clear this article of clothing was going nowhere. By this point, it was just as much of a wardrobe staple, whether in high fashion, skate culture, high school, adults’ closets, and everywhere in between. The sweatshirt reached universal appeal and it still remains a popular pick for the colder weather.

But, with the year 2012, the hoodie took on a new political meaning. It’s worth noting the significance of the hoodie that has made recent news in the country.

This was the year that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wore hoodies on Wall Street and in the months leading up to the company’s initial public offering or IPO. This certainly made a statement among investors, and his statement was loud and clear.

It’s worth noting the significance of the hoodie that has made recent news in the country. The tragic shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin in 2012 has since sparked a nationwide debate about the hooded sweatshirt. Million Hoodie Marches took place in cities across the nation. NBA players and the entire Miami Heat team took tweeted photos of themselves wearing hoodies. Musicians such as Wyclef Jean wore a symbolic hoodie when speaking about Martin in an interview. The Red Hot Chili Peppers wore hoodies with the words “Ode to Trayvon, Stand What Ground” on their back at their Florida concert that year. The hoodie has sparked many debates since and has proven to act as a symbol of cultural significance. 

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