There’s arguably no piece of clothing that carries as much history as the hooded sweatshirt. In the century since Champion birthed the style, it’s been a symbol of athletic excellence, of hip-hop anti-authoritarianism, of cultural exclusion and, since brands like Vetements decided to bite streetwear’s style, of a pricey way to thumb your nose at the fashion establishment.
The original took the traditional jersey sweatshirt and added a hood and front pockets, to protect labourers’ heads and hands when they were working in subzero conditions. Athletes soon cottoned on to the benefits and it stayed as sporting apparel until the 1970s, when Rocky pushed it mainstream and a nascent rap scene adopted sports stars’ markers – trainers, hoodies, being the best and letting everyone know – to align itself with society’s most potent symbols of swaggering masculinity.
It’s since become a piece of clothing defined by context. Covering the head of a Black Lives Matter protester it’s two-fingers to police, a statement about stereotyping and social perception. On your dad, it means he’s about to start gardening. But that polarity, complex as it is, means you can make of the hoodie what you want. With chinos and trainers, you look like you run a tech start-up; under a bomber jacket, a grime label; with a suit, you read GQ too much.
“The most important thing is fit,” says Emma Shore, designer at music platform-cum-streetwear label Boiler Room. “If the body is too billowy then you look like a weekend dad.” And you can’t layer it without ending up like the Michelin Man. “Look for raglan sleeves,” – which have a seam that descends diagonally from the collar to your armpit, rather than where your shoulder meets your arm – “and not too much elastic in the hem. That way it hangs, rather than bunching.”
You also need to pick the right fabric. Athletes appreciated the hoodie’s jersey construction, because the cotton traps air but also absorbs sweat, to balance your temperature from warm-up to flat out.
Even if you’re wearing yours to flex in the street, not the gym, the same characteristics will help tackle changeable weather. “Loopback cotton is the best option in spring,” says Shore. “It’s less fleecy than brushed cotton, so feels less oppressive if you’re layering it under a jacket. But the air pockets still trap heat, so you can wear it as a top layer when it warms up.”
It’s also less likely to shrink in the wash. Because nothing pushes your outfit into dad territory like wearing a hoodie that looks like it’s been with you since university.
10 Of The Best Hoodies
Champion Overhead Runner Jacket
Not all hoodies come in cotton. Though the OG brand has changed things up since the 1930s, the hood and pockets remain, here done up in shower-ready polyester. Champion are still the first stop in functional, fashion-forward sportswear.
Available at ASOS, priced £105.
Vetements Black Oversized Logo Hoodie
Technically, Kanye-favourite Vetements only makes womenswear. But its hoodies are so oversized they dwarf men’s physiques too. Just make sure to flash the label.
Available at Ssense, priced £475.
Palace Reverse Waffle Zip Hood
British skate brand Palace sparks Supreme-rivalling queues before every drop. Which is why you’ll want to flash this hoodie’s logo backprint, so everyone knows you’ve copped.
Available at Palace, priced £135.
Boiler Room Logo Hoodie
After five years throwing the kind of parties you wish you could get into, Boiler Room has now branched out into apparel that everyone else will wish they’d copped. Which we think is even better than snagging a spot on the guestlist.
Available from Boiler Room, priced £60.
Public School Loopback Cotton Jersey Hoodie
New York label du jour Public School also loves to play with proportion. And its elongated hoodie boasts a slim fit and dropped hem that make it ideal for layering.
Available at Mr Porter, priced £360.
Yardsale Ash Grey Hoodie
Skate brand Yardsale started with 1980s-inspired decks, then graduated to 1980s-inspired graphic tees, sweats and hoodies. But that doesn’t mean you need to wear yours with high-waisted denim.
Available at Yardsale, priced £59.95.
J.Crew Italian Cashmere Hoodie
Remember how joggers went luxe? Well, your top half’s been given the same treatment. A slim-fit, cashmere hoodie goes anywhere you you’d wear a cardigan. Just don’t wear it to the gym.
Available at J.Crew, priced £248.
H&M Hooded Jersey Top
The hood says you’re heading to the gym. But the button-up collar means you might stop off at your local on the way home.
Available at H&M, priced £14.99.
Casely-Hayford Black Elongated Hoodie
Father-and-son duo Joe and Charlie Casely-Hayford approach streetwear like tailoring. So a calf-length hoodie that should be impossible to move in becomes a killer layering piece one step from a cape.
Available at Casely-Hayford, priced £265.
Pretty Green Wallace Hoodie
If you’ve been hitting the gym, this hoodie’s pattern-blocking up high will emphasise your bench press. If you’ve not, the zip will cover up those extra pints.
Available at Pretty Green, priced £85.