The Epic Origin Story of the Hoodie

Much like the heroes who fill our beloved comic book pages, even something as seemingly timeless as a hoodie has an origin story. Our clothing, whether we think about it or not, had to start somewhere.

While hoodie-style clothing obviously appears in art and literature well before the twentieth century (think the Grim Reaper) it wasn’t until the 1930’s that the original Champion hoodie first hit the market. The team over at SHOWStudio took some time to analyze the way the hoodie has evolved over the decades. Throughout the 40’s and 50’s, hoodies were originally created for performance, functionality, and warmth. No one at the time even fathomed they might one day become a fashion statement as well. Well into the 60’s you could flip through catalogues and see hoodies advertised for “sitting on the bench.” It was such an innocuous piece of clothing, nobody even thought to patent the design and varieties of the hoodie style were seen everywhere (oh to have a time machine!).

As the hoodie evolved from being something to wear on the sidelines, to being contracted by the military for personal training, it finally began to hit its stride in the late 70’s and 80’s when it started to become associated with lawbreaking. The hoodie was seen as almost a blank canvas, ready for anyone’s rebellious personality and a wide variety of subcultures and audiences started to take notice of the power of this understated piece of clothing.

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One group who saw potential in the hoodie and took full advantage of the “blank canvas” idea, was Hollywood. By placing these plain hoodies on stars, their characters and stories were allowed to burst from the screen. From Dustin Hoffman wearing a hooded sweatshirt in the 1976 film Marathon Man, to the triumphant fist-pump from Rocky Balboa atop those stairs in Philadelphia, to Elliott peddling his extraterrestrial friend furiously while wearing a bright red zip up . . . the hoodie can be seen all over the cinematic landscape of the 70’s and 80’s.

Another media landscape where the hoodie has had an undeniable impact, is the world of hip hop.  You started to see the hoodie, primarily Champion hoodies with their iconic small “C” etched on the front, as a staple brand for hip hop culture in the 1990’s. They could be seen on album covers like for Gorilla Biscuit and in classic hip hop films like the 1992 film, Juice, where Tupac can be seen wearing a hoodie throughout. To this day the hoodie is intertwined with the world of hip hop, though it took Champion quite a long time to catch up and start acknowledging it. Recently Champion released a “Super Hood” design that was promoted by people like Ghostface Killer and 50 Cent. It would seem Champion has finally realized the depth in which hip hop embraced the power of this blank-slate article of clothing. Something so simple can be incredibly empowering.

Much in this same light, we here at Yesler are excited to carve out our own space in the world by creating our very own traditional, technical hoodie. As we reflect on the epic history of this piece of clothing we want to see how we can make it our own — what we can do with this blank canvas.  It’s our way of helping you lift up your hood, silence outside noise, and truly be at peace in the place where you’re standing.