The hoodie. Has any one garment come further over the course of the last two decades? From being villainised by the press in the early 2000s to peppering the front row of fashion week in the mid-to-late 2010s, this simple sweater has gone from moody-teenager mainstay to haute-couture hero in less time than most of you reading this have been alive.
Helped along by the mainstream adoption of sportswear, the rise of athleisure and the cross-pollination of high fashion and streetwear, what was once uniform for muggers and teen misfits is now fair game at most offices.
If you don’t own at least one by this point, you’re a bit late to the party. Still, with the hoodie’s ever-growing popularity and mainstream acceptance, it’s never too late to get involved. Here we take a closer look at the brands doing it best and delve deeper into modern menswear’s unlikeliest classic.
The Modern-Day Hoodie
Today’s hoodie is still definitely a casual garment. It’s not in any way formal and, unlike a sweatshirt, is hard to even dress up under a sports jacket. But there are degrees: at one end there’s the sloppy, slightly outsized faded and printed hoodie that’s fine for slumbering on the sofa or popping to the pub on a Sunday. At the other end there is the dark, trim-fitting, plain hoodie, which is sleek and presentable.
This doesn’t mean you should start to wear a hoodie over a dress shirt or with dress pants (think, rather, dark wash jeans or chinos). But it does mean that there’s scope for the hoodie to at least step towards respectability.
As with so many things, the more attention that is paid to quality – the best hoodies come in a heavyweight, all-cotton fabric, with reverse weave and loop-wheel manufacturer all helping to raise standards – the greater the potential the garment has for smartness. But that’s not really what the hoodie is about. If the onesie is, to be frank, something no man should be seen dead or alive wearing, the hoodie is the next best thing for feeling wrapped up. It’s the security blanket of the menswear world and should be treasured as such.
The Best Hoodie Brands For Men
Want to add this versatile essential to your casual arsenal? Below you will find the labels worth considering when it comes to high-quality hoodies, each revered for different reasons.
The Original: Champion Reverse Weave
Where better to start than with the inventor of the style? Heritage sportswear brand Champion has been manufacturing official kits for the American national teams and professional sports clubs for generations, so they know a thing or two about producing hoodies that look good and perform. Its patented reverse weave cotton is also hardwearing and helps reduce shrinkage, so you can rest assured your hoodie will look good for many years to come.
British Quality: Sunspel
British brand Sunspel are renowned for their premium take on wardrobe basics, and its range of sweats lives up to this reputation. Their hoodies are crafted from high-quality loopback cotton to ensure longevity and breathability, and come in a range of neutral, block-colour designs that will match everything in your existing wardrobe.
Sports Luxe: Reigning Champ
A by-product of the rise of sports luxe and athleisure, Canadian brand Reigning Champ specialises in premium athletic wear. Crafted from high-quality materials that they design and develop in-house, with an emphasis on rugged construction and unrivalled comfort, this is sophisticated sportswear that’s designed to be worn both inside and out of the gym.
Street Cred: Stussy
Streetwear has become big business over recent years with everyone from the high street to luxury designers plundering skate culture for design inspiration. So if you want to get in on the trend in an authentic way, look to one of the original purveyors and advocates of the scene: Stussy. Created by its eponymous founder Shaun in 1980, expect hardwearing hoodies that can stand up to daily wear and come with a healthy dose of street cred.
Designer Desirability: Gucci
There’s no hotter designer label on the planet right now than Gucci. Under the creative direction of Alessandro Michele, the luxury Italian brand’s new 1970s-inspired aesthetic appeals to everyone from fashion insiders to hip-hop stars to Hollywood A-listers. It was also the brand that reignited the current logo trend, so if you’re going to splurge a month’s rent on a hoodie, it might as well garner envious glances.
Skate Icon: Carhartt WIP
Skatewear isn’t for everyone, particularly if you’re a man of a certain age. Still, when it’s as simple and tastefully executed as Carhartt WIP, we can all get in on the action. The heritage American workwear label’s urban-friendly European counterpart makes some of the best hoodies going, and at prices that won’t leave you out of pocket. The best part? That classic Carhartt build quality that means you’ll be still be reaching for it in 20 years’ time.
You might know it for its unfortunate football-hooligan connotations or it’s tendency to be worn head to toe by Drake. Die-hard fans of Stone Island, however, know it’s really all about the innovative fabrics and groundbreaking dyeing techniques. Granted, loopback jersey cotton isn’t that innovative, but we’d be lying if we said we weren’t suckers for it when it’s been beautifully garment dyed. And that’s the case with all of the Italian luxury brand’s hoodies.
Cult Status: CDG Play
Rei Kawakubo’s Comme Des Garcons has earned a cult following thanks to it’s weird and wonderful, avant-garde aesthetic and unpredictable runway shows. The trouble is, its flamboyant garments probably wouldn’t go over too well at your local watering hole. Thankfully, in the label’s more streetwear-leaning PLAY subsidiary, there’s a wearable solution. The hoodie is a staple piece in the brand’s collections of high-end wardrobe essentials, with the signature bug-eyed heart logo coming as standard.
Vintage Americana: The Real McCoys
These days, it’s probably fair to say that the Japanese do vintage Americana even better than the Americans. Nowhere is that more evident than in the masterful recreations of mid-century USA garb championed by Nippon label The Real McCoy’s. For 20 years, the brand has been reviving classic vintage pieces, so close to the originals you’d never know the difference, and heavyweight jersey hoodies are no exception.
Ivy League: Polo Ralph Lauren
Traditionally, there’s been nothing preppy about the hoodie, but if anyone could change that it was always going to be Polo Ralph Lauren. The New York brand was instrumental in bringing the hoodie to a new audience, turning a frowned-upon outsider into something that could legitimately be worn around an Ivy League campus. Expect classic fits, collegiate branding and reassuringly thick and heavy construction.
Up-And-Comer: Aime Leon Dore
Streetwear has always been pretty set in its ways – graphic tees, sneakers, predictable collabs – but every once in a while a brand comes along and shifts things up a gear. New York’s Aime Leon Dore is one such label. Spearheaded by scene tastemaker Teddy Santis, ALD’s seasonal collections are as likely to feature patchwork tailoring and penny loafers as tracksuits and beanies. Since the beginning, though, the humble hoodie has served as a staple piece, often rendered I sticking block colours and emblazoned with tastefully executed branding.
Limited Edition: Noah
When you take one former Supreme creative director, a dash of streetwear, a pinch of tailoring and a hefty dose of preppy East Coast style, you get something that looks a lot like Noah. Along with Aime Leon Dore, this New York label has been helping to redefine streetwear in the Big Apple. Hoodies are by no means all the brand does, but they are something it has always done very well. Whether, it’s a zip-through with some subtle embroidered branding or a classic big-logo option, Noah has it. Just make sure to get in their early as stock is limited and moves fast.
High-End: Brunello Cucinelli
Luxury casualwear may sound like an oxymoron but if you’re having trouble picturing it just take a look at the garments offered by Brunello Cucinelli. Didn’t think a hoodie could be lavish? Think again. These are everyday staples made with the same craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes into a tailor-made suit. If you’re tempted by a hoodie but tend to find yourself drawn to the finer things in life this premium Italian label may have exactly what you need.
Parisian Chic: AMI
Alexandre Mattiussi’s subtly stylish pieces have been supremely popular among style-savvy gents in Europe since his AMI label first sprang up in 2011. Today, they’re being strutted around globally by some of the world’s best-dressed men. The secret to the French brand’s success lies in its sleek, simple and clean-cut aesthetic, which is underpinned by a range of razor-sharp wardrobe basics. Naturally, that includes some pretty special hoodies. Expect slim fits, high quality and off beat (but tasteful) branding.
Sports Tech: Nike
At its core, the hoodie is a piece of sportswear, and there are few brands that know how to do that better than Nike. The Oregonian sportswear giant has been in the game since the 1960s and has been heavily involved in the hoodie’s rise to prominence. Style-wise, there’s everything from teched-out running options to classic jersey cotton, all with the same well-established sporting pedigree and at prices that leave plenty of room for manoeuvre.
The History of the Hoodie
Not for nothing has the hoodie had a long, illustrious history as the all-purpose garment of choice for subcultures as diverse as punk, hip-hop and skateboarding; meaning the hoodie has always managed to maintain a certain degree of edginess without necessarily the more recent criminal overtones. It’s a long history too. US company Champion, once more entertainingly known as the Knickerbocker Knitting Company, founded in 1919, was a pioneer in the development of the sweatshirt. Rival company Russell may have invented it in 1922, but Champion came up with the flocking process that allowed all manner of team logos and university names to be emblazoned over a sweatshirt’s front, thus driving its popularity.
It’s Champion too that claims the invention of the hoodie, in the early 1930s. To state the obvious, the hoodie offered the same benefits as the sweatshirt: the cosseting weight of heavy-gauge cotton, as well as the natural breathability, wicking and fast-drying qualities of the cloth; the durability; the improving with age – but added the head covering, an idea that had been beloved by monks for millennia, and which was commonplace in menswear going back to medieval times.
The hood protected athletes when they were on the sidelines or after their exertions – helping them cool down without doing so too rapidly. But this utility also saw the hoodie (a name that came to be widely used only much later) quickly become a go-to garment for many exposed to the elements but needing to move freely, like building site labourers, tree surgeons, anyone working in cold storage areas or, for that matter, break dancers.
Or graffiti artists – their efforts illegal and so warranting the anonymity. Or skateboarders – who also benefited from having their faces covered for the same reasons. Or muggers. No, wearing a hoodie to cover the face isn’t a new idea at all – at much the same time as hip-hop was first embracing the hoodie, during the mid 1970s, so too were “stick-up kids” at hip-hop gigs, ready to alleviate a few of the crowd of their gold chains. As the creepy cover of the Wu-Tang Clan’s ‘Enter the Wu-Tang Clan (36 Chambers)’ perhaps drives home, the hoodie has always had a touch of the outlaw to it.