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The 3,000-year history of the hoodie

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The 3,000-year history of the hoodie

Kanye said it best when he said: "sweatshirts are fucking important."

In these divisive times, hoodies have become a powerful unifier across cultures and social classes. Why? Because few pieces are as fun and functional, and we can all appreciate that, right? Keep reading to see how your favourite mainstay made it into mainstream fashion.

Few garments have created such controversy as the hoodie. From its association with youth driven communities, iconic sports players and the runways of Paris, the hooded sweatshirt is one of our most iconic menswear wardrobe staples.

It’s design has barely changed over the last 80 years. The blank canvas has appealed over the generations, as different walks of life adopted the hoodie as a symbol for music, innovation and rebellion.

According to design curator Paola Antonelli, the hoodie’s history stretches back over 3,000 years to the ancient Greeks and Romans. Yes, your fave sweatshirt’s ancestors were invented before democracy itself. Hoodies would once again have a moment with Medieval monks. Think: piousness... but make it fashion.

By the 17th century, women had started to wear hoods to hide when they went to meet with their lovers. While they helped these ladies avoid scandal, they were also seen as scary. Hoodies had woven themselves into the fabric of society’s associations with death, attached to both the Grim Reaper and executioners.

More chill and less chilling, the modern-day hoodie was invented in the 1930s by Knickerbocker Knitting Company, which became the brand Champion. It was developed to help warehouse labourers in upstate New York stay warm during the frigid winters. From there, it was adopted by workmen and athletes everywhere.


1930s: Invention

In the 1930s American clothing manufactures began experimenting with fabrics traditionally used in undergarment mills to create what we now know as the hoodie. The apparel company now known as Champion Athletic Apparel produced a sweat shirt material to keep athletes and laborers warm and protected from the elements. The design evolved into sportswear for the mass market over the course of the 20th century.

The hoodie made a transition from practical clothing to a personal statement when athletes started to give their sports attire to their girlfriends to wear. The trend emerged throughout high schools in 50’s America, along with polo shirts & letterman jackets. This started the early adoption of using sportswear as a fashion statement.


1970s: Rebellion

In the 70s, hip-hop culture emerged in the Bronx, inspiring rap music, graffiti and break dancing. Wearing a hoodie at this time meant you were keeping a low profile, and with a design like a cobra hood it was worn to intimidate others. The hoody allowed unrestricted movement for the dance routines and concealed the identities for graffiti artists on the street.

In California, skaters rejected the mainstream culture, and with the closure of many skates parks skaters maintained their lifestyle however they could, legal or not. To feed the rebellion, music in the area gravitated towards hard core punk and hoodies became a staple of the culture.

In 1976, the release of “Rocky” added another layer of symbolism to the hoodie. The grey marl silhouette became a symbol of his hard knocks, work ethic, and reestablished the hoodie’s connection to its working class roots, reaffirming its look into today’s mainstream society.

Rocky, 1976.


1980s: Empowerment

In the 80’s, the hoodie became part of a look associated with street style. Its mass adoption began with the parallel popularity of hip-hop from the US, where rappers modelled themselves after athletes in a bid to emulate strength and status.

Wu Tang Clan 


1990s: Mainstream

By the ‘90s, the hoodie’s duality as both trend and iconic staple was well established. It was during this era when the term “hoodie” became part of American vocabulary, filtered by hip hop’s rise into the mainstream and the huge rise of urban fashion.

The 90’s saw the growth of hard edged gangsta rap, and groups like Wu Tang Clan and Cypress Hill had a pared down a dress code to suit their hard rhythms. By this time the hoodie had quickly become cultural symbol.

Method Man


2000: Uniform

Rapper Eminem brought the hooded aesthetic over to his largely suburban,

Caucasian audience. His grey hoodie was basically a supporting actor in his semi-biopic, 8 Mile.

2012 was a reminder that whether positive or negative, the hoodie can always be used to make a statement. Mark Zuckerberg caused a stir wearing a hoodie to meet Wall Street investors, which was ultimately seen as a power move. Whether or not this was an intentional tactic, we conclude it convincingly established an identity for Zuckerberg as a non- conformist rather than created a casual fashion statement.

Eminem, 8Mile



Essential to every fall wardrobe, a good hoodie acts as both an integral layering piece and a statement in its own right. Not only is the streetwear staple super cozy and functional in these chillier times, but guiding thoughts continue to come through with hoodies to embrace your mood.

Pick your own hoodie from KPODONOU collection here.