Getting schooled: A brief history of the hoodie
The Handbook / Style / The hoodie: Everything you didn't (but need to) know about your favourite fashion staple

The hoodie: Everything you didn't (but need to) know about your favourite fashion staple

Getting schooled: A brief history of the hoodie

Words— Philip Mak

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


If you’re alive in the Western Hemisphere right now, chances are you own a hoodie. Bold statement? Yes. Are we (or Kanye) wrong? No. Crash course for everyone else: hoodies are typically made from a cotton-jersey and the essential element is the hood — some have drawstrings, marsupial pouches, materials like leather and polyester, zippers or none of the above.


Hoodies are an effortless way to look cool and casual while staying comfortable — especially on those WTF am I going to wear? mornings. They are an everyday, wash-and-wear staple, worn by freelancers and CEOs alike.


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.



Hoodie history 101





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.





It was in the 1970s when the hoodie began its heyday. Hip-hop was taking off in the urban centres of the United States, while American universities began plastering their logos and crests on sweatshirts, and the 1976 film Rocky famously saw the titular working-class hero jogging up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in his iconic grey hooded jumper. Tl;dr hoodies connected the street to style.


In the 1980s, hip-hop artists were moving more into mainstream music — and hoodies came with them. The musicians were emulating the power and success of athletes, and their ostentatious style formed a sort of chicken-and-egg relationship with gang culture. By the 1990s, the hoodie had become a staple in wardrobes around the world, spanning college campuses and counter-cultural movements.


Following the turn of the century, for better or for worse, Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg defied corporate norms by making a hoodie, t-shirt and jeans his every day #OOTD. It was a fashion moment that turned into a movement. (Who wears a suit anymore?) Following in the (bare) footsteps of dot-com tycoons before him, he shifted workplaces and wardrobes towards simplicity, creativity and casualness.


Today, hoodies bridge hip-hop and high fashion. With the rise of streetwear, they have become fixtures on catwalks from Tokyo to New York to Paris, not to mention celebrities everywhere.



Who-die wore it better?





As we waxed nostalgic about earlier, the original hoodie celebrity endorsement came from Sylvester Stallone’s legendary turn as the titular boxer in Rocky. This was a perfect fit with the item’s working class and athletic heritage. For audiences everywhere, wearing a hoodie was a way to feel tough like their right-hooking hero in soft, practical, affordable piece of clothing.


Hoodie-wearing hip-hop artists like Run-DMC had platinum-selling albums in the 1980s, paving the way for their 1990s successors like Puff Daddy (or the artist sometimes known as Sean Combs, P.Diddy, Diddy, Puffy and Brother Love), Tupac Shakur and Fat Joe to sport the style. The look continues to this day, with rappers like A$AP Rocky, Kanye West and Drake both wearing —and designing— their own high-fashion versions.





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. For Mark Zuckerberg, it seemed like an homage to and hacker-esque update of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs’ iconic turtleneck and jeans look. The face of Facebook is rarely seen outside of a hoodie, t-shirt and jeans, though his reasoning is decidedly more pragmatic than aesthetic.





Zuckerberg said in 2014, “I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community … I’m in this really lucky position, where I get to wake up every day and help serve more than a billion people. And I feel like I’m not doing my job if I spend any of my energy on things that are silly or frivolous about my life.” Cool, Zuck. But with Zuckerberg's hoodie choice, much like Facebook itself, there's more going on under the hood (no pun intended). His hoodies may seem low end but the tech founder allegedly balls out on $2000 Italian cashmere knitwear




And it’s not just men hero-ing the hoodie. Female artists from Beyoncé to Rihanna to Ariana Grande are frequently spotted in their favourite hooded sweatshirts, as are models Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner. Hoodies have become the ultimate symbol of casual cool. Since you definitely own one, let us help your own it in your next outfit.


How to style your hoodie



Winter winner


There are so many different ways you can wear your hoodie. In Frank and Oak’s hometown of Montreal, it’s cold for half the year. Hoodies are our favourite layer player and we like to wear ours under a heavy overcoat and over some blue jeans and boots.


OOO: Outstanding Office Outfits


While a hoodie has become commonplace in the modern office, it wouldn't hurt to dress it up. Guys — try slipping yours under a suit jacket and over a pair of coloured trousers and brown loafers for a look that’s stylishly professional without being pretentious. Gals — go street-style chic with a hoodie over a pair of wide-legged pants and white sneakers, and transition easily from spreadsheets to spirits.




Weekend warrior


Running errands but don’t want to look like you ran out of outfit ideas? Hit the town in your favourite hoodie with a statement coat over a white button down, sweatpants and your biggest boots. Need to dress it up later in the day? A skinny pair of jeans and you're good to go.  


Summertime radness


During the summer, we sport hoodies over shorts and sandals on chilly beach or park nights. While we may wear options made out of wool or fleece in the winter, we break out more breathable cotton editions during the summer.




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