How Sweatshirts Became High Fashion's Hottest Trend

How Sweatshirts Became High Fashion's Hottest Trend

Sweatshirts and hoodies have long been associated with casual and comfortable athletic wear. The classic pullover sweatshirt emerged in the 1920s as athletic gear for football and boxing. Hoodies, defined by the hooded design, became popular in the 1930s. For decades, sweatshirts and hoodies were viewed as basic, casual attire. However, in recent years, high-end fashion brands have increasingly embraced custom and luxury versions of sweatshirts and hoodies. These comfortable staples are now elevated with premium materials, stylish detailing, and exclusivity. The rise of high-fashion custom sweatshirt represents an exciting blend of comfort and luxury. This trend shows how classic casual wear transforms into a new status symbol.

History and Background

Sweatshirts and hoodies emerged as athletic and casual wear in the early to mid-20th century. Champion popularized sweatshirts in the 1930s as workout attire made from thick cotton to absorb sweat during exercise. Hoodies originated around the same time and were designed to keep athletes warm with the addition of a hood.

For decades, sweatshirts and hoodies were viewed as basic casualwear rather than high fashion items. In the 1970s, hoodies began to be adopted by skateboarders and hip-hop groups as streetwear. Over the next few decades, sweatshirts and hoodies became closely associated with youth subcultures and urban street style. However, high fashion continued to view them as merely casual sportswear rather than luxury items. This perception of sweatshirts and hoodies as lowbrow casualwear not meant for the runway persisted for most of the 20th century.

Rise of Athleisure

The rise of athleisure in the 2010s paved the way for sweatshirts and hoodies to enter high fashion. This trend blended athletic and leisure wear, with people embracing comfortable styles that could transition from workouts to everyday wear.

Athleisure grew massively in popularity during the 2010s, led by brands like Lululemon, Outdoor Voices, and Athleta. This helped change perceptions that performance fabrics and athletic silhouettes were only for the gym. The versatile comfort and ease of athleisure made it a mainstream fashion trend.

As athleisure boomed, it opened the door for other comfortable casualwear like sweatshirts and hoodies to be seen as fashionable. With leisure and comfort becoming more desirable in fashion, sweatshirts and hoodies were primed for a high-fashion makeover. Their coziness and casual feel aligned well with athleisure's relaxed, multifunctional dressing elevation.

The rise of athleisure in the 2010s paved the way for accepting sweatshirts and hoodies as luxury fashion. With comfort in vogue, these casual staples were able to shake off their reputation as merely functional sportswear. The blending of athletic and leisure wear that defined athleisure helped create space for sweatshirts and hoodies to claim their position as coveted high-fashion items.

Customization and Exclusivity

The rise of custom sweatshirts and hoodies in high-end fashion is partly driven by the ability to offer exclusive, customized pieces. Whereas sweatshirts were once mass-produced for practical purposes, designers now offer bespoke fabrication and finishing to cater to luxury buyers.

For a premium price point, brands can construct sweatshirts and hoodies using rare, high-quality materials like cashmere or alpaca wool. Customers may select customized textures and fabrics like loopback, fleece, or terry cloth. Silhouettes can be tailored with oversized fits, dropped shoulders, and other luxe styling.

Hardware and embellishments further elevate basics. Designers add leather or metal zippers, horn or mother-of-pearl toggles, and hand embroidery for artisanal detailing. Customers can choose personalized embroidery, patches, graphics, or appliques to make pieces truly one-of-a-kind.

While sweatshirts originated as athleticwear, brands have successfully repositioned them as luxury fashion. The overall casual, comfortable aesthetic remains, but premium materials and customization techniques allow designers to charge higher prices. Exclusive custom hoodies and sweatshirts merge streetwear roots with upscale sensibilities.

Use by High Fashion Brands

High fashion brands have embraced the hoodie and sweatshirt as a canvas for luxury design and outrageous price tags. Brands like Balenciaga, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton now offer sweatshirts ranging from $500 to over $1000.

Balenciaga's oversized hoodies with the house's name emblazoned across the chest have become extremely popular. Simple black hoodies from Balenciaga retail for around $750.

Gucci offers hoodies and sweatshirts covered in the brand's monogram logo pattern, with some including mink fur trims and jewel embellishments. Prices for Gucci's luxury sweatshirts start at $1200.

Perhaps the most notorious example is the 2017 Louis Vuitton-Supreme collaboration hoodie, which retailed for over $1000 and now resells for around $6000. This collaboration brought together Louis Vuitton's luxury heritage with the New York streetwear brand Supreme.

Virgil Abloh, the founder of the streetwear label Off-White, became artistic director of Louis Vuitton's menswear in 2018. His collections for Louis Vuitton have included graffiti-style hoodies fetching over $1000. Abloh's collaborations with brands like Nike and IKEA demonstrate high fashion's embrace of streetwear and basics like the hoodie.

High fashion houses have transformed the humble hoodie into a status symbol with staggering price tags by offering elevated basics with luxury fabrics and exclusive branding. The popularity of these luxury sweatshirts demonstrates the newfound mass appeal of casual streetwear styles.

Rise of Streetwear Luxury

Over the past decade, streetwear has become a major influence in the luxury fashion world. As younger demographics like Millennials and Gen Z gain more purchasing power, high-end brands have tapped into streetwear's roots of exclusivity and hype through limited edition "drops."

Luxury houses such as Louis Vuitton, Dior, and Balenciaga have embraced the casual aesthetic of streetwear while still maintaining their high fashion DNA. Many have partnered with significant streetwear brands like Supreme and Off-White to capture younger audiences. These collaborations often sell out instantly, playing into the scarcity and status symbols that streetwear is known for.

The popularity of sneakers has also fueled streetwear's rise, as luxury brands produce high-end versions of sneakers with premium materials and exclusive details. Owning the latest coveted sneakers has become a status symbol among younger demographics. Even high fashion runways now integrate sneakers as part of their collection.

Additionally, the prominence of celebrities and influencers has led to the popularity of luxury streetwear. Rappers, athletes, and media personalities have created global hype for rare streetwear pieces. Their endorsement has essentially bridged streetwear with high fashion. As a result, luxury brands are aware of tapping into limited-edition streetwear as consumers seek exclusivity and social status symbols.