The Surprising Origins Explained About Why Is It Called A Sweatshirt

A sweatshirt is named for its original purpose, which was to absorb the wearer’s sweat during physical activities. It evolved from athletic wear designed to keep athletes comfortable. Materials commonly used in sweatshirts include heavy cotton for warmth and durability, wool for its natural water resistance, lightweight polyester for quick-drying properties, and luxurious cashmere for exceptional softness.

Key Takeaway

  • Origins in Activewear:Sweatshirts originated as activewear for exercise and sports.
  • Absorption of Sweat: The name reflects its primary function—absorbing sweat during physical activities.
  • Fleece Fabric Usage: Typically made from fleece fabric for warmth and comfort.
  • Evolution in Fashion: Over time, sweatshirts transitioned from athletic wear to a fashion staple.
  • Hooded Variations:Hooded sweatshirts, or hoodies, became popular for added warmth and style.
  • Casual Comfort: Renowned for their casual and comfortable appeal in everyday wear.
  • Logo and Graphics:Often adorned with logos or graphics, contributing to their aesthetic appeal
  • Streetwear InfluenceEmbraced by streetwear culture, making it a versatile wardrobe item.
  • Cultural Symbolism:Represents a blend of functionality, comfort, and cultural significance.

Have you ever wondered why it’s called a sweatshirt? Sweatshirts have become a wardrobe staple for people of all ages and walks of life. They are comfortable, versatile, and often serve as a fashion statement. But the origin of the name might surprise you.

The term “sweatshirt” first appeared in print in an American publication in the early 1900s. Initially, these garments were designed to absorb the wearer’s sweat, making them practical for workouts and sports events.


Crafted from soft, breathable materials like cotton, sweatshirts quickly gained popularity due to their ability to wick away moisture effectively.

Over time, sweatshirts have evolved from their athletic origins to become a popular casual clothing item for people from all walks of life. Although they may have started as functional sports attire, today’s sweatshirts serve a practical purpose and make a style statement.

Historical Context

In the early 20th century, Benjamin Russell, an American businessman, recognized the need for a more comfortable and practical garment for athletes and laborers. At that time, typical athletic wear consisted of uncomfortable, heavy materials, which made it difficult for the wearer to perform tasks efficiently and stay calm.

Russell’s innovative solution was the invention of the sweatshirt. As the founder of the Russell Manufacturing Company, he designed and produced the first sweatshirts made from a superior cotton blend that was soft, light, and highly absorbent.

The sweatshirt’s primary purpose was to absorb the wearer’s sweat, making it significantly more comfortable than the heavy, restrictive garments of the time. The term “sweatshirt” first appeared in print in an American publication in the early 1900s.

The popularity of the sweatshirt began to spread across the United States, and it eventually made its way to other countries as well. Even prestigious institutions such as Oxford University adopted the sweatshirt as part of their casual attire.

Today, sweatshirts have become a staple in wardrobes worldwide due to their comfort, versatility, and iconic status.

Evolution And Influence

The term “sweatshirt” has its origins in the evolution of athletic and casual wear. The name is derived from the primary use and functionality of the garment. Here’s a brief overview of the evolution and influence behind why it’s called a “sweatshirt”:

How Did The Sports Tie-In Evolve?

Sweatshirts started as functional clothing athletes wore for training sessions and sports teams. They provided warmth, comfort, and a way to keep dry during workouts.

Over time, the evolution of these practical garments included a connection to sports culture, with many fans wearing them to show support for their favorite teams. Sweatshirts have become a symbol of athleticism and resilience.

RELATED: How To Style And Maintain The Unique Texture Of Slub Cotton Garments?

How Did Sweatshirts Become A Fashion Statement?

As the popularity of sweatshirts grew, their reach extended beyond the realm of sports. They transitioned into everyday casual wear, embraced by fashion icons and celebrities. The sweatshirt became a canvas for self-expression and artistic designs, transforming it into a versatile fashion statement.

Bold prints, innovative fabrics, and unique patterns gave the once-simple garment a fresh and stylish look.

What Is The Youth Culture And Pop Influence Of Sweatshirts?

Sweatshirts have become an integral part of youth culture and pop trends. They appeal to students for their ease, comfort, and affordability. This casual attire became deeply embedded in hip-hop, further reinforcing its impact on youth culture.

The sweatshirt’s association with comfort and self-expression resonated with young generations, allowing them to express themselves through fashion.

Can You Recall Publicity And Controversy Surrounding Sweatshirts?

Despite their widespread appeal, sweatshirts have also been at the center of controversy. The tragic 2012 case of Trayvon Martin, a teenager wearing a hoodie who was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, sparked a nationwide debate on racial profiling and the role of clothing in society.

Sweatshirts symbolized both unity and outrage, as people across the country donned hoodies to stand in solidarity with Trayvon and confront stereotypes.


Anatomy Of A Sweatshirt

The anatomy of a sweatshirt refers to its different components and features. While variations exist in terms of styles and designs, a typical sweatshirt consists of several key elements. Here’s a breakdown of the anatomy of a sweatshirt:

Why Is It Called A Sweatshirt?

A sweatshirt, a popular type of clothing often worn by athletes or people who do physical labor, derives its name from its initial purpose: to absorb the wearer’s sweat. Sweatshirts are typically made of heavy fabric like cotton or wool, which features a collarless, long-sleeved design that provides comfort and utility.

What Is The Overall Design?

The overall design of a sweatshirt generally includes the following:

  • Material: Usually made from cotton, wool, or a blend of the two.
  • Sleeves: Long sleeves for added warmth and coverage.
  • Neck: A collarless, crew neck style that is easy to pull on and off.
  • Waist and cuffs: Elastic bands at the waist and cuffs to ensure a snug fit and help retain heat.

What Are The Unique Features?

The unique features of sweatshirts often vary, but some common ones include:

  • Hood: Many sweatshirts come with a hood, converting the garment into what is commonly referred to as a “hoodie.” The hood offers additional protection and warmth for the head.
  • Drawstring: A drawstring may be included, allowing you to adjust the hood’s fit.
  • Graphics and prints: Sweatshirts often showcase elaborate graphics or prints, adding a touch of personality and style to the garment.
  • Cardigan and zipper options: Some sweatshirt designs may feature a zipper or borrow elements from the cardigan style, providing an alternative to the traditional pullover design.

Material And Care

The material and care instructions for a sweatshirt can vary depending on its construction and design. Common materials for sweatshirts include cotton, polyester, fleece, and blends of these fabrics. Here’s a general overview of materials and care tips for sweatshirts:

Which Materials Are Used In Sweatshirts?

Sweatshirts are typically made from comfortable and absorbent materials that cater to people participating in athletic activities or physical labor. The most common material used for sweatshirts is cotton. Heavy cotton provides warmth and durability, making it a popular choice for sweatshirt manufacturing.

However, other materials like wool, polyester, cashmere, and synthetic fibers can also create sweatshirts. Each material offers unique properties and benefits:

  • Cotton: Soft, breathable, and absorbent
  • Wool: Warm, naturally water-resistant, and durable
  • Polyester: Lightweight, quick-drying, and wrinkle-resistant
  • Cashmere: Luxurious, exceptionally soft, and warm
  • Synthetic fibers: Diverse, offering varying levels of durability, stretch, and breathability

How Should You Care For Your Sweatshirt?

To maintain the quality and longevity of your sweatshirt, it is crucial to follow proper care instructions. Here’s how you can care for your sweatshirt, depending on the material:

  • Cotton and heavy cotton: Machine wash in cold water with similar colors. Tumble dry on low heat or hang to dry to prevent shrinkage. Use a warm iron if needed.
  • Wool: Hand wash or select the gentle cycle on your washing machine with cold water and a mild detergent. Lay flat to dry to maintain the shape of the garment. Avoid wringing or twisting the fabric.
  • Polyester: Machine wash in cold water and tumble dry on low heat. Use a cool iron if necessary. Avoid fabric softeners, as they can reduce the effectiveness of moisture-wicking properties.
  • Cashmere: Wash your hands in cold water using a mild detergent. Gently squeeze out the excess water and lay the garment flat to dry. Avoid direct sunlight or high heat, which can damage the fibers.
  • Synthetic fibers: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions, as care may vary depending on the specific type of synthetic fiber used.

Styling A Sweatshirt

Styling a sweatshirt can be a versatile and comfortable endeavor, whether you’re going for a casual look or trying to incorporate it into a more polished ensemble. Here are various styling ideas for sweatshirts:

How Can You Style A Sweatshirt For A Casual Look?

A sweatshirt is a versatile and comfortable piece of clothing that can be styled in various ways for both men and women. For a casual style, try pairing your sweatshirt with jeans. Opt for any wash or style of jeans, and complete the outfit with footwear like canvas sneakers or ankle boots.

You can also wear a pullover or hoodie sweatshirt with leggings, a skirt, or shorts for a relaxed and comfortable look. Sweatshirts can also quickly adapt to children’s wardrobes, offering an all-rounder piece for casual wear.

How Can You Rock An Athletic Style With A Sweatshirt?

For those who prefer an athletic style, consider wearing a sweatshirt as part of your athletic wear. For adults and children, hoodies and pullover sweatshirts are ideal for exercise sessions or layering with your sports gear.

Men can wear a sweatshirt with track pants or shorts, while women can wear leggings or yoga pants. Feel free to mix and match colors and patterns, making your sweatshirt a genuinely global phenomenon in fitness attire.


How Can You Master Layering With Sweatshirts?

A sweatshirt is undoubtedly a wardrobe essential, and one of its most significant advantages is the ability to mix and match layers creatively. Here are some layering options for you to try:

  • Under a Jacket: Wear your favorite sweatshirt under a denim, bomber, or leather jacket for added warmth and style.
  • Over a Button-Up Shirt: Layer your sweatshirt over a button-up shirt, letting the collar peek out for a polished yet laid-back look.
  • Accessorise: Accentuate your sweatshirt outfit by adding accessories like scarves, hats, or statement jewelry to enhance your style.

RELATED: Mastering The Inverted Sewing Technique For Stitch Upside Down

Sweatshirt Versus Other Tops

Sweatshirts, along with other tops, vary in terms of style, material, and intended use. Let’s compare sweatshirts to some other types of tops to highlight their distinctions:

Sweatshirt Versus Hoodie

When comparing a sweatshirt and a hoodie, the main difference lies in the presence of a hood. Both are made from thick, usually cotton, and serve as casual and comfortable wear. However, a hoodie is simply a sweatshirt with an added hood.

While wearing a sweatshirt, you may miss the extra warmth a hood provides, but a hoodie offers that extra coverage for your head and neck in more excellent conditions.

Sweatshirt Versus Pullover

A pullover is a general term for any collarless shirt or sweater you pull over your head to wear. Thus, a sweatshirt can be considered a type of pullover. However, not all pullovers are sweatshirts.

Pullovers can be made from various materials, from lightweight fabrics to thicker, more insulated ones. So, when choosing between a sweatshirt and a pullover, consider the specific material and design to suit your needs.

Sweatshirt Versus Sweater

You’ll notice different materials and styles compared to sweatshirts or sweaters. While a sweatshirt is generally made from thick cotton fabric, a sweater is knitted or crocheted from wool, cashmere, or synthetic fibers.

Sweaters can be more formal, providing warmth and style, whereas sweatshirts lean towards casual, athletic, or loungewear. Regarding versatility, choose a sweater for a more polished look, while a sweatshirt suits casual, laid-back settings.

RELATED: How To Crochet A Bobble Stitch For Crafting Free Pattern

Sweatshirt Versus T-Shirt

In contrast to a sweatshirt, a t-shirt is typically a collarless, short-sleeved shirt made from a lighter fabric such as cotton or a cotton blend. A t-shirt is designed for warmer weather, offering less insulation than a sweatshirt.

While both garments are versatile and casual, a t-shirt suits everyday wear, layering, or dressing up with accessories. On the other hand, a sweatshirt provides warmth and comfort during cooler days or relaxed moments at home.


Understanding the terminology associated with sweatshirts can help you navigate the world of casual and athletic wear. Here are some key terms related to sweatshirts:

Why Is The Term “Sweatshirt” Used?

The term “sweatshirt” was coined primarily due to its purpose and design. It was initially designed for athletes and people involved in physical labor, as its primary function was keeping them warm and absorbing sweat.

The name “sweatshirt” combines the words “sweat” and “shirt,” highlighting both its functionality and the fact that it’s a type of upper garment.

In dictionaries, the term “sweatshirt” is defined by Merriam-Webster as “a loose, collarless pullover or jacket, usually of heavy cotton jersey.” This emphasizes the garment’s casual and functional nature and further cements its association with physical activity.


How Do International Variations Differ?

Within various English-speaking countries, the terminology for “sweatshirt” remains relatively consistent. However, slight variations exist between British, American, and South African English.

Language VariationTerm
British EnglishSweatshirt
American EnglishSweatshirt
South African EnglishSweatshirt

While “sweatshirt” is commonly used across these language variations, regional slang or terminology may refer to specific styles or sweatshirts. Nonetheless, the primary function of keeping warm and its association with physical activity remains consistent across languages and cultures.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Purpose Of A Sweatshirt?

A sweatshirt is designed to keep you warm and comfortable, especially during physical activities or cooler weather. Initially intended for athletes, its primary function is to absorb sweat, hence the name “sweatshirt.”

Nowadays, people wear sweatshirts for various occasions beyond the gym, thanks to their cosy interiors and versatile style.

What Makes A Sweatshirt Different From A Sweater?

A sweatshirt is generally made from thick, casual materials like cotton or fleece, while sweaters tend to be made from more formal, finer fabrics, such as wool or cashmere. Sweatshirts are typically pullovers or hooded, while sweaters come in various styles, including cardigans, v-necks, or turtlenecks.

Who Is Credited With Inventing Sweatshirts?

Benjamin Russell Jr., a football player, is credited with inventing the sweatshirt in 1926. He devised an all-cotton practice football jersey to solve the itchy wool jerseys players used to wear. He intended to provide a more comfortable and excellent alternative.

What Is The Significance Of The Triangle On Sweatshirts?

The triangle on sweatshirts, usually found on the front near the neckline, is a design feature that serves a practical purpose. This triangle, often referred to as a “gusset,” helps to maintain the shape of the sweatshirt and provides reinforcement and durability in high-stress areas, such as the neckline and shoulders.

What Are The Main Types Of Sweatshirts?

There are several typical sweatshirts, including pullover sweatshirts, hoodie sweatshirts, and zip-up sweatshirts. Pullover sweatshirts are simple and are worn by pulling them over your head, while hoodie sweatshirts feature a hood to keep your head and neck warm.

Zip-up sweatshirts have a full-length zipper and can be worn open or closed, providing added versatility.

How Has The Sweatshirt Evolved?

Since its invention in 1926, the sweatshirt has evolved from a practical athletic garment to an essential wardrobe staple. Over time, various styles and designs have emerged, including graphic prints, embroidery, and fashionable cuts.

Today, sweatshirts are worn by people of all ages and backgrounds for both casual and sports-related activities. Their popularity can be attributed to their comfort, versatility, and adaptability to different fashion trends.

Jenny Williams