The Hoodie: from Lax to LuxeSeptember 29, 2016
Today, it is synonymous with comfort, yet is found on every blogger’s style radar. It is worn both as an essential staple, and as an edgy high fashion statement piece. It is a piece of apparel that can be found in anyone’s wardrobe, and can be bought from any brand, at any budget. The appeal of the hooded sweatshirt, or more commonly known as the ‘hoodie’, is a modern-day enigma: how is it that something which started off as a sportswear staple now graces the runways of international power fashion houses, coveted by labels including Alexander Wang, KENZO, and Chanel.
The hoodie as we know it today was first invented in America around the 1920s by sportswear brands Russell Athletics and Champion Products, designed using cotton jersey to alleviate discomfort and sweating for football players. Over the next 40 years, it became appropriated in pop culture and cinema, most notably in the film Rocky in 1976, where it began to be associated with grit, hard work, and an underdog persona.
This translated from film to street. Around this time, urban cultures such as the b-boys, turntablists, youth gangs, and graffiti artists in New York adopted the hoodie as a fundamental element in hip-hop, which was then a defiant and revolutionary anti-establishment movement. The apparel was also picked up by skaters, hence the hoodie became greatly associated with a laissez-faire, laid-back attitude.
Slowly, this undercurrent began to surface into common fashion consciousness, when in 1980, designer Norma Kamali combined high-end design with the piece, creating her ‘Sweatshirt Collection’ which brought a ready-to-wear, stylish edge to the hoodie. This slowly phased out the delinquent stereotype linked to the hoodie, making it more consumable by the everyday person and became more accepted as a mainstream fashion trend.
Today, the hoodie can also be found on the runways of the biggest fashion labels in the world. The surge of the ‘athleisure’ trend in the 2010’s cemented it as a staple in every fashionista’s wardrobe, adored by influencers such as Pharrell, Rihanna, and the king of sweats, Kanye West.
In essence, the hoodie’s drastic transformation from undercurrent to mainstream demonstrates the power of a fashion trend, and not many other items of clothing can boast such widespread popularity. Perhaps, it is better to understand the appeal of the hoodie for its simplicity. It forms to the wearer like a mirror. It is the point where opposites merge — a place of both rebellion and conformity, comfort and flair — representing the highest and the humblest of fashion culture, and all shades in between.