95 years of the sweatshirt

Women’s Favourite Sweatshirt from Mantis World (M77)

According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, the first use of the word sweatshirt appeared in 1925, while the hooded sweatshirt first materialised in the 1930s. Here the experts explain why as a nation we love the sweatshirt and hoodie so much.

As the sweatshirt approaches its 100th birthday, Kirsty Macdonald, brand manager at Mantis World says that very much like the slightly older T shirt, it has become a firm favourite both in wardrobe terms and for garment decorators.

“We know that the style has evolved from sporting beginnings to collegiate varsity wear to becoming the (oversized) garment of choice for skaters and boarders,” she adds. “It’s a perfect mix of functionality and cool; it is easy to throw it on, great to print and embellish and one of those every day, must-have garments that bypasses the murky world of fast, throwaway fashion.”

Director of The Outdoors Company, Mark Dix, shares his point of view on the evolution of the sweatshirt: “In terms of the premium brands we supply, there has certainly been a shift from the knitted style of sweatshirt popularised in the 1930s to the sportswear-style hooded crew neck, half or full-zipped sweatshirts available to the market today.”

Although known predominantly as an outerwear supplier, The Outdoors Company, has seen premium jacket brands move into the world of sweatshirts and hoodies in recent years.

These sentiments are echoed by PenCarrie’s business development manager, Sarah Evans. “The sweatshirt has survived decades of fashion trends and remains a staple product that’s expanded into a wider market such as workwear, promotional and athleisure.”

Growth in popularity

With the growth in popularity of the sweatshirt in recent years has come the arrival of a wider range of men’s and ladies options.

“The raglan sleeve provides a more casual look thanks to the freedom of movement popular in fashion and athleisure markets. The drop shoulder style sweatshirt provides a more formal, tailored look better suited for workwear and office wear. With the demand for well-fitting women’s sweatshirts increasing, one size fits all are not all that’s on offer,” explains Sarah.

But how the sweatshirt next evolves as it approaches its 100th birthday is something that remains to be seen. Sarah suggests that in 2020 we will see more tear-out labels in sweatshirts. “Sweatshirts are becoming more popular in fashion, particularly oversized sweatshirts and hoodies. Customers can choose a style a style to suit their business with a choice of a classic fit, tailored style or by tapping into the oversized trend to offer something retail focused.”

Speaking of being retail focused, Kirsty adds: “We’re now seeing old skool designs reinvented, retro logos and graphics on the front of sweats in every retailer or etailer, a myriad of fits, lengths and colours from the high street up to designer catwalks. And very much like the T shirt, there is no sign or reason that the popularity of the sweat should wane any time soon.”

Mark says: “We’ve certainly seen the humble sportswear-style sweatshirt and hoodie evolve to cater for a smarter, more formal, professional corporate client over recent years.  Take for example The Better Sweater from Patagonia – offered in a variety of full zip, quarter zip and hoodie forms – made from 100% postconsumer content, it will be available this autumn/ winter. The sweater-knit face of these garments provides all the warmth of a traditional fleece-lined sweater with a professional, more corporate outward look.”

Fashion stakes

Mantis World, along with many other printwear brands, is leading the way in the fashion stakes. Instead of fundamentally changing the sweatshirt moving forward as we head into 2020, Kirsty says it’s a simple case of evolving it to keep the garment relevant. She says that for Mantis World this means looking at what and how it is made, to ensure that both are ethically and ecologically sound and cause minimal damage to the planet or the people involved in the manufacturing process.

Kirsty adds: “All of our sweats and hoodies are now being made using organic cotton rather than the world-unfriendly non-organic which is grown using potentially harmful and toxic pesticides. The world of sweatshirts is extensive, but it’s great to know that some of that world isn’t harming the bigger world.”

Stayed tuned as 2020 approaches to see what the printwear market has in store for the much-loved sweatshirt.

Top tip

Mark Dix, director at The Outdoors Company, provides some top sweatshirt decorating knowhow.

“Whether you choose to embroider or vinyl print will depend on the fabric. While it is possible to vinyl print on a more traditional cotton, jersey-type garment, embroidery can often look neater, more effective and sustain a professional appearance for longer, enduring wash after wash. But if the sweater or hoodie has a knit face, embroidery is definitely advisable to ensure clean decoration. My top tip is to mirror the decoration-type used by the brand. No-one knows how the fabric of their garments behaves under various conditions than they do.”

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