Celebrating the imminent re-introduction of our hoodies in Grey Melange on April 7th, we give our account of the history of the hoodie, spotlighting the diverse heritage of hooded garments. From its oldest known origins, the hoodie’s history can be traced back through the medieval huik or hooded cloak to the phenomenon of sports and workwear. The varying associations of hooded clothing can be found from its roots in a range of transcultural influences, from social status to modesty to immorality, showing a complex exchange process in which groups continually adopt and re-adopt cultural and social elements from each other. Today you can see the hoodie on almost everybody, regardless of where they are.
Monks wearing hooded capes
The origins of the hooded garments can be traced to the earliest known Assyrian text from the 13th century BCE. Over 3,000 years ago, traditions of covering the head already existed in the religions of that time. These cultural expressions were shared throughout the Assyrian Empire, which stretched from the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean and Medieval Europe.
While hooded garments originated before the common era, the hooded sweatshirt or “hoodie” that we know today was invented in the 1930s by Knickerbocker Knitting Company, which eventually became the brand 'Champion'. The University of Michigan noticed the durability and functionality of Knickerbocker’s undergarments in 1934 and invited the company to create the first hooded sweatshirt for their sports teams. These sweatshirts were also sold to cold-storage warehouse laborers and tree surgeons to protect themselves from the elements.
Later, as hip-hop culture began to brew in New York’s underground music scene in the '70s, the hoodie became the uniform of MCs, graffiti artists, and b-boys. The hoodie represented discretion, dignity, and defiance. Youths who were particularly marginalized from society donned a hoodie to feel safe and cocooned.
Eventually, movies like Rocky aided in the hoodie’s rise from a subcultural representation to general popularity in the mid-70s, associating it with discipline, humility, and self-determination. For the first time, the hoodie was transcending its utilitarian roots and becoming politicized because of this double standard.
The Nineties saw the emergence of especially hard-edged gangsta rap, and groups like Wu-Tang Clan and Cypress Hill had a pared-down dress code to go along with their gritty attitudes. The cover of the classic 1993 album Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) is a particularly grim depiction of the hoodie.
Propelled by the rising popularity of hip hop music, the hoodie found its way into fashion with designers like Giorgio Armani, Tommy Hilfiger, and Ralph Lauren adopting its urban look - all the while maintaining its symbolic relevance in the topics of racism, youth disenfranchisement and police brutality, particularly in the United States.
It’s worth noting the significance of the hoodie in 2012 when 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was tragically fatally shot in Florida. To support the family, the Million Hoodie March took place in cities across America; NBA players and musicians such as Wyclef Jean wore hoodies to contribute to the campaign and make clear that it’s just a practical piece of clothing that is easily thrown on for anything from our modern office uniform, to lazy Sunday brunches or late-night corner-shop errands.
Although the hoodie had a humble beginning, it has since sparked conversations, debates, and discussions. It is ubiquitous, a great, popular example of modern design, but, when its wearer moves through the world, the city, the digital sphere, its story becomes unique.
Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa wearing an iconic grey hoodie on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art
The first blueprint of the hoodie was created in 1934. The term ‘hoodie’ wasn’t used widely until the 90s; hoodies at the time were simply a sweatshirt with hoods sewn on. Today, we see more distinguishable characteristics that make them stand out.
The earlier iterations of the hoodie were made from cotton jersey on sinker weave machines to produce a heavier and denser fabric to protect athletes from harsh winter weather. Made from a 396g/sqm fabric that was constructed horizontally, as opposed to vertically, to prevent shrinkage and for a seamless finish around the shoulder seams. Today, you’ll mostly find hoodies made with lighter loop-knitted jerseys, which helps to give a softer hand feel but also keeps costs down.
The fit of the hoodie has also changed over the years. In the early 30s, hoodies were purposefully designed with dropped shoulder seams so football players could wear them over shoulder pads. Today most hoodies and sweatshirts are stripped from their utilitarian roots and designed with a straight fit so they can fit perfectly when jackets and coats are layered over.
Evidently, the key feature of the hoodie is the hood with knotted drawcord and metal grommets designed to fit perfectly for any wearer’s head, to block out the cold wherever it's trying to get in. There’s no need to carry a jacket or an umbrella. It’s all there on your back.
The final details of the fastenings, trims, and pouches add an extra touch to this practical gear. Some variations are finished with zip-up fastenings down the center. Marsupial-like pouches or side pockets were also sewn on the front to keep your hands warm. Fine-ribbed trims are framed around the cuffs and hem, to ensure the garment sits tight and does not flap around the hips and wrists while moving.
Muhammad Ali in London, Piccadilly Circus, 1966
At ASKET we have gone out of our way to put our new spin to create the perfect Hoodie, with just the right amount of comfort and wash-and-wear functionality.
Our Hoodie is cut from our custom-developed 390g/sqm 100% organic cotton – the heavyweight makes it extra durable and warm. It features tactile loops on the reverse to reduce pilling and provide a softer feel on the skin. Before packaging, we have pre-washed the garments to minimize shrinkage from washing and prevent any colors from bleeding.
The hoods are generously sized and double layered, neatly finished with herringbone taping and adjustable drawstrings. Our Hoodies come in zip-up and pullover styles in four different colorways and fifteen different sizes. We purposely left out the notable pouch pocket to remove any unnecessary volume on our straight-fit hoodie but still leave two side pockets for our zip-up style. To keep the warmth for cooler days, we finished with comfortable ribbed trims around the cuffs and hem.
The Hoodie, as with all ASKET products, is designed to stand the test of time, so you can wear season after season.
All our garments are co-developed with our customers. With our permanent collection we’re able to take in feedback, listen and continue to develop, evaluate and improve our garments over time, instead of constantly re-inventing the wheel.