Monks wearing “hooded” garments
1930s/1940s: sweatshirt innovationsBefore the hoodie evolved to the form we know and wear today, sweatshirts were the usual sports and outdoor workwear. The US brand Champion pioneered the production of sweatshirts after developing a process that allowed the use of thicker materials such as French Terry cotton. Then, in 1930, Champion sewed the first hood onto a sweatshirt to keep workers in upstate New York warm, thus also pioneering the hoodie. In the years that followed, Champion and Russell Athletic also supplied the US and English military with sports kits including hoodies for training exercises and leisure wear.
The Hoodie in action in London, Piccadilly Circus
1960s: hoodie as collegiate fashionStarting in the 1960s, universities started to print their names and logos on hoodies in the 60s and 70s. This phenomenon is still widespread today for both sweatshirts and hoodies: especially in the USA but also all over the world. This was an important part of the hoodie’s history, helping to popularise the hoodie to an international audience.
1968: members of the New York Jets © Dan Farrell / Getty Images
1970s: the rise of the hoodieAs New York hip-hop culture became more and more popular globally, the hoodie also became increasingly popular. Initially, graffiti artists, in particular, wore the hood to hide their identity from the police while illegally tagging public buildings or the New York subway. It is said that even today some sprayers still choose their hoodies according to the size of their hood. Since the hoodie was also often worn by petty criminals for similar reasons in the early 1970s, it had (and to some extent still has) a somewhat negative connotation.
Silvester Stallone “Rocky” wearing a hoodie during a training session
1990s: hoodies become commercialAfter hip-hop gained not only cultural but also economic success, the hoodie was finally included in sportswear collections of major fashion houses such as Ralph Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger. The rather negative connotation of being close to crime (and graffiti) rapidly became a positive, cool and urban association. However, the slightly negative connotations still continued at least until the early 2000s. One example is the “Hoodie Ban” from 2005 when the Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent (UK) banned its visitors from wearing hoodies (paradoxically, the shopping centre itself continued to sell hoodies the whole time). Notably, in the course of the ban, the term “hoodie” was officially used; previously, the hoodie was mainly referred to in official discourse and statements as a “hooded sweatshirt”.
2012: Trayvon Martin and the ‘million hoodie march’For all the wrong reasons, the media attention again focused on the hoodie in 2012, when Trayvon Benjamin Martin was killed by George Zimmerman at the age of 17 years by a firearm. On the evening of February 26, the teenager of African-American descent was on his own on his way back to his father’s fiancée’s house in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman, a member of the community watch, saw Martin and reported him to the police as a suspect. A few moments later, an argument broke out and Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in the chest.
Graffiti art in memory of Trayvon Martin
Scene from the ‘million hoodie march’ in New York City