The Hoodie Evolution
Few garments have outlasted as many fashion trends as the hoodie. However, the hoodie's meaning and status have completely transformed and been re-invented over time. Nowadays, a hoodie can be found on almost everybody, no matter where you go in the world.
From punk and hip-hop, to skater culture, the hoodie has a history of being adopted by youth-driven communities that were previously relegated to the fringes, acquainting it with an iconoclastic, sometimes criminal, undertone. Although, mainstream fashion has now embraced it as a practical piece of clothing, it has never lost its edge.
The hoodie, cosier than a blanket and infinitely versatile, has earned a place in men's and women's wardrobes worldwide. Today, we look back at its history and how it became an instant classic. From humble beginnings to days of rebellion and controversy, and how one single film helped the statement piece become an instant classic!
12th Century: The First Hooded Garment
Hooded garments can be traced back to Medieval Europe or even earlier... Monks wore tunics with hoods (called "cowls"), while outdoor workers wore capes with hoods (called "chaperon"). The short cape (or "capa") is thought to have been brought to England during the Norman Conquest in the 12th century, as it was popular in Normandy.
The sole purpose of the hood on their robes was to protect against harsh weather conditions, and the garments had to be as simple as possible for monks and workers to carry out their daily basic tasks. Fun fact: The term "hood" is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word "höd," which shares the same root as the word "hat."
1930’s – 1950’s: An Athlete Invention – A Champion Is Born
In the 1930s, American clothing manufacturers began experimenting with fabrics traditionally used in undergarment mills to create what we know now as the hoodie. Champion Athletic Apparel, now better known as ‘Champion’ were the first to create a sweatshirt material to keep athletes and labourers warm and protected from the elements. Over the course of the twentieth century, the design evolved into mass-market sportswear as they pioneered a new kind of “reverse-weave” cotton fabric that was thick, cosy, and most importantly… shrink proof, which meant it could be washed over and over.
They also decided to add a hood to their sweatshirts to keep factory workers in upstate New York warm. But the hoodie wasn't just for practical use! The hoodie found a natural home in the world of sports, with celebrity-status legends like Muhammed Ali frequently being photographed training in them.
But, when athletes began giving their sportswear to their girlfriends, the hoodie evolved from functional clothing to a personal statement. Along with polo shirts and letterman jackets, the trend spread throughout high schools in 1950s America - this marked the beginning of the use of sportswear as a fashion statement!
1960’s: The Varsity Years
In the 60s and 70s, universities began to print their names and logos on hoodies. This phenomenon is still prevalent today for hoodies, particularly in the US, but also globally. This was an important part of the hoodie's history, as it helped to popularise the hoodie among a worldwide consumer base.
1970’s: The Hoodie Becomes ICONIC!
Hip-hop culture emerged in New York in the 70s, inspiring rap music, graffiti, and break dancing. At the time, wearing a hoodie meant keeping a low profile, and those with a cobra hood were worn to intimidate others. The hoodie allowed for unrestricted movement during the dance routines while also concealing the graffiti artists' identities on the street.
Skaters in California also rejected mainstream culture, and with many skate parks closing, skaters maintained their lifestyle in any way they could, legal or illegal. To fuel the rebellion, the local music shifted to hard core punk, and hoodies became a cultural staple.
But then Rocky, a 1976 cult underdog sports film, cemented the hoodie's iconic status and symbolism. The film is set in Philadelphia and tells the story of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), an amateur boxer who gets a shot at the world heavyweight championship. The hoodie became a symbol of his hard knocks work ethic, re-establishing the hoodie's connection to its working-class roots and reinforcing its look into mainstream society, especially after the film's Oscar success.
1990’s – 2000’s: The Hoodie Becomes Mainstream
By the 1990s, the hoodie had established itself as both a trend and an iconic staple. The term "hoodie" was coined during this time period, influenced by hip hop's mainstreaming and the massive rise of urban fashion. The hoodie had quickly become a cultural symbol by this point.
Because of their global success, major fashion houses began to include hoodies in their sportswear collections, and all of the negative connotations of hoodies began to fade, and they were instead viewed in a cool, positive light. This trend remained until the early 2000s. Until 2005, where Bluewater Shopping Centre in Kent famously banned shoppers wearing hoodies, as they associated it with criminality (ironically, they remained on sale within their stores…).
However, in July 2006, David Cameron gave a speech in which he suggested that the hoodie was worn for defensive rather than offensive purposes. This was later famously mocked and called the "hug a hoodie" speech. This is just one of many examples of how, more than any other iconic clothing style, the hoodie has evoked such strong social, economic, and political ideas and sentiments.
2012: The “Million-Hoodie” March
In 2012, when Trayvon Benjamin Martin was killed by George Zimmerman with a firearm at the age of 17, the media once again focused on the hoodie.
Trayvon Benjamin Martin, of African-American descent, was on his own on his way back to his father's fiancée's house in Florida on February 26. Zimmerman, a community watch member, saw Martin and reported him to police as a suspect. Soon after, an argument erupted, and Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in the chest.
Rallies and protests were held across the country in the aftermath of Martin's death, sparking a massive national debate about racist profiling.
The "Million Hoodie March," inspired by Trayvon's clothing style, was one of the larger rallies held on March 21 in Manhattan's Union Square. People wore hoodies to support Martin and to protest the profiling of non-white teenagers wearing hoodies.
2022: Legacy’s Rest Day Collection
The hoodie has become one of the world's most popular fashion items, and it is one of Legacy's best-selling items. It is no longer viewed as a means of intimidating others, as it was in the early 1960s and 70s - but instead has taken on and carved out its own path. Lounge wear, particularly jogger combinations like our ‘Rest Day’ collection, have exploded on the market, with hoodies at the forefront. Our new styles, fits, cuts, and colours are contemporary and on-trend. Because of the premium eco friendly fabric we use and the timeless style, they will be wardrobe staples for years to come.