The Sweatshirt

It's easy to think that the sweatshirt has been around forever. It sure hasn't. Here's a brief history lesson – and a quick styling tip – on this timeless wardrobe essential.

Alexander City, Alabama, 1926: Benjamin Russell Jr., is a college American football player and son to the head of Russell Manufacturing Co. In those days there were no such things as shoulder, knee or thigh pads, and the only thing protecting the players were woollen sweaters and perhaps a padded leather helmet. 

Benjamin Russell Jr. complains to his father – the clothing manufacturer – about the discomfort of training in heavy woollen uniforms and proposes he should make a sweater in cotton jersey. Said and done – the sweatshirt was born.

Russell’s sweatshirts sold out straight away and the company expanded and opened Russell Athletic to supply the sweaters to all of America. This label is still a major player in sports apparel but quickly received big competition in the sweatshirt making business.

The iconic garment became popular because of its comfort and not because it was part of army apparel or because celebrities wore it in movies. Although a lot – if not all – of the latter at some point have been seen wearing one. Some famous examples are Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, John Travolta in Grease and Robert Redford in Little Fauss and Big Halsy. 

The sweatshirt can be worn whenever to whatever. It’s perfect for relaxed occasions like going to the gym or taking a weekend walk, but is just as good to wear to work if you have a shirt underneath. Key to pulling the sweatshirt off is to keep it simple. 

H&M Life stylist Columbine Smille chose to keep it really simple and combined a grey melange sweatshirt with a pair of semi-distressed black jeans. It doesn’t need to be harder than that. 

“The sweatshirt is so easy to wear! You can wear it together with almost anything, but the safest card is to combine it with jeans. The jeans and sweatshirt combo never goes out of style”, says Columbine. 


Photographer Tobias Lundkvist’s favourite items are the classics: a black t-shirt and Chuck Taylors. Stylist Columbine Smille’s favourite item is the perfect black silk dress. Our model and super hunk is Sacha M'Baye. Hair by Mette Thorsgaard and makeup by Josefin Scherdin. 

Classic sweatshirts on Robert Redford in Little Fauss and Big Halsy, John Travolta in Grease, Richard Dreyfuss in Goodbye Girl, Eddie Murphy, Anthony Perkins, Paul Newman filming Rachel Rachel, Harry Styles on stage and Steve McQueen in The Great Escape, Getty Images/All Over Press.